Round 5 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 31/07/20

Four rounds in to the curtailed 2020 Topklasse season and already the half-way mark is upon us. The fifth round kicks off early this weekend with Excelsior and Dosti’s match moved up to the Saturday, and by the end of Sunday’s matches we should have a clear idea of who is in the running for such honours as can be claimed in lieu of a title, and who is at risk of the consequence-free ignominy of finishing bottom of the pile.

BdJ: Both Dosti-United and, perhaps surprisingly, title-holders Excelsior ‘20 Schiedam are in the running for the wooden spoon, with neither having found a win yet this season. Excelsior have seen a few encouraging individual performances this season, with Rens van Troost and Niels Etman both seeming comfortable with the responsibility thrust on them in the absence of senior players, but the 2019 champions nonetheless look a shadow of the side that won the last two titles. That said, they should fancy their chances of taking two points off this hapless Dosti side, whose total of 117 against Punjab last week was the best they’ve managed all season. Their breaking three figures last week was in large part thanks to skipper Vinoo Tewarie’s 45 from the top of the order, itself the Amsterdammers’ best individual score thus far, but Tewarie will need some degree of support if his team are to register their first win come Saturday.
RL: The dependence of Excelsior’s batting on Lorenzo Ingram and an overseas colleague has been an issue for the Schiedammers in the past, and this year, with Tim Etman gone to Australia and no other overseas in the line-up, his modest yield of 64 runs in three innings has left a youthful batting side even more exposed. The absence of skipper Tom Heggelman for the past two weeks hasn’t helped, and neither has the fact that they’ve so far had to face three of the stronger sides in Punjab, VRA and Voorburg. But fellow-strugglers Dosti should be a much fairer test of what this transformed version of the defending champions has to offer. As for Dosti, while their effort against Punjab may, one hopes, have represented an up-turn in their fortunes, another batting collapse after a decent start must be entered on the other side of the balance sheet. How well Excelsior are able to cope with Touseef Ahmed may well turn out to be the key to this game, but at this stage you have to fancy them to take the points back south.

BdJ: Also looking for their first win will be VOC Rotterdam, who will take on VRA Amsterdam at the Amsterdamse Bos the next day. VOC looked a much-improved side in their narrow loss to ACC last week, and will be bolstered by the return of former Netherlands international Ahsan Malik, but have been hit hard by the injury to skipper Pieter Seelaar compounding their already substantial availability issues. VRA meanwhile will be closer to full strength with Quirijn Gunning and Leon Turmaine coming back into the side, though it remains to be seen how readily they will bounce back from their shellacking at the hands of HCC last round.
RL: There’s a massive difference between giving youth a chance and exposing an undercooked side to a humiliating defeat, and circumstances conspired to prove that fact at De Diepput last Sunday. That it was a contest of men against boys was not the fault of either VRA or skipper Peter Borren, but it is further evidence of what an abnormal season this is. A somewhat stiffened team will take on a VOC side which seems gradually to be recovering its mojo, and while the loss of Seelaar is a significant blow with both bat and ball, Corey Rutgers’ presence in the middle order is a steadying factor in a batting line-up which has struggled to set scores the attack can defend. That they almost did so last week was more testimony to ACC’s limitations than their own strengths, and VRA will have every incentive to demonstrate that last week’s debacle was an aberration.

BdJ: HCC themselves remain undefeated so far this season, and will be looking to consolidate when they take on local rivals HBS Craeyenhout at De Diepput. The Crows have given a creditable account of themselves this season in the circumstances, but have remained reliant on the mercurial Toby Visée for runs and will be a long shot for points taking on what looks a well-rounded HCC outfit. Hidde Overdijk and Reinier Bijloos made short work of VRA’s line-up last week, and with Damien Crowley proving a shrewd acquisition HCC look to have weathered the loss of their overseas better than most, all the more remarkable given the role Bryce Street played last season.
RL: From an HCC point of view, of course, their demolition of VRA was confirmation of the fact that they have a well-balanced side, with their experienced three-pronged seam attack of Overdijk, Bijloos and Olivier Klaus backed up by the spin of Clayton Floyd, and a batting line-up including Tonny Staal, Crowley and the steadily-maturing Boris Gorlee. HBS are not far short of being a decent side, but they were outclassed by a rampant Mudassar Bukhari last week and they may struggle against the Lions in an encounter with Aesopic dimensions. They are missing Sharn Gomes’s batting much more than HCC are missing Street, but their attack is normally one of the better units in the competition and is capable of giving the home side a severe test.

BdJ: HCC’s main rivals for the top spot are Punjab Rotterdam, who will welcome ACC to the Zomercomplex come Sunday. Having acquired another three Zulfiqars from their opponents over the winter, Punjab have an enviable depth to their batting and have looked relatively untroubled so far this season. ACC can nonetheless be pleased with the team they’ve managed to put together, and have surprised many by holding their own in the mid-table thus far and if Aryan Kumar is cleared fit to play he will doubtless have a point to prove against his erstwhile teammates.
RL: The meeting between a quartet of Zulfiqars and their former team-mates (and in some cases protégés) adds a good deal of spice to this one, and with Stef Myburgh and Teja Nidamanuru also in the Punjab outfit and evergreen skipper and arch docker-of-tails Suleiman Tariq currently the competition’s leading wicket-taker, the Rotterdammers have been untroubled in retaining their unbeaten record so far. They seem likely to be a class too strong for ACC, whose batting had to work hard to stagger over the line against VOC. But there’s plenty of potential there, and this is after all a season for letting potential flourish. It will need a couple of seriously mature performances here, though, if ACC are to have any chance against a team well on the way to becoming non-title favourites.

BdJ: The day’s final game is probably the toughest to call, with fourth-placed Voorburg CC taking on Sparta 1888 at Bermweg. The hosts will be on something of a high after skipper Mudassar Bukhari led them to a crushing win over HBS last week with a brutal, unbeaten 120, and with the addition of Lenert van Wyk they may feel comparatively confident of their batting even in the face of VCC’s formidable pace attack. Much will depend on how Voorburg’s talented but comparatively inexperienced batting line-up goes about their business; with a relatively long tail the tourists will hope skipper Bas de Leede can extend his enviable run of form.
RL: This could be a match to savour, although a similar remark last week put the kiss of death on the game at De Diepput. With players of the quality of De Leede, Viv Kingma and Ali Ahmed Qasim taking on the likes of Bukhari and Van Wyk, not to mention Philippe Boissevain on one side and Ali Raza, Max Hoornweg and Martijn Snoep on the other, this could turn out to be one hell of a scrap. You can’t expect Bukhari to be as dominant two weeks in a row and Sparta are far from being a consistent outfit, but the advent of an in-form Van Wyk adds solidity to their batting and is a great foil to the aggression of Raza and the captain. Voorburg’s four-man seam attack will need to strike early to put the pressure on, but at the Bermweg their bowling may be enough to tip the balance in their favour.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, VRA, HCC, Punjab, Sparta
Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, VRA, HCC, Punjab, Voorburg.

Round 4 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 23/07/20

There will be a maximum of two Topklasse sides with a perfect record after this Sunday’s fourth round matches, as the abbreviated competition begins to take shape. But several of this week’s fixtures are very tricky to read, and it looks like another absorbing day’s cricket.

RL: The match of the day is undoubtedly that between HCC and VRA Amsterdam at De Diepput. The home side will have been greatly encouraged by their victory over Voorburg last Sunday, but VRA have been untroubled in their three wins so far and everything looks set for a highly entertaining encounter on the Hagenaars’ pocket-sized ground. VRA are able to pursue their policy of rotating youth players in the knowledge that in Vikram Singh, Ben Cooper, Peter Borren and now the returning Eric Szwarczynski they have a richly-experienced batting line-up, while Quirijn Gunning’s form with the ball against Excelsior lent a real cutting edge to the attack. But HCC, too, have well-balanced side, augmented this year by the arrival of Musa Ahmad and Damien Crowley, and if there are some questions about the solidity of their batting they were answered in part last week by the good form of Boris Gorlee and Hidde Overdijk. One for the connoisseurs, this!

BdJ: The games’ top-table status may make it the one to watch this week, but VRA at least are unlikely to be fielding a full-strength line-up on the day. With this round falling on what was to be the cricket-free weekend and travel restrictions beginning to ease across the continent, pre-booked holidays are taking their toll across the league and VRA look likely to be particularly hard hit. Most notable expected absentees are the above-mentioned Szwarczynski and Gunning, and with a couple of the youngsters also granted the week off, expect some new (or old!) faces when the Amsterdammers take the field. The core of the batting line-up in Singh, Cooper and Borren at least willl ensure HCC won’t have the easiest time of it, and themselves will have to find a replacement opener for Musa Nadeem who is out with a suspected fractured jaw courtesy a bouncer from Singh in the nets earlier in the weak, but nonetheless they may just have reason to be glad of the way the schedule has shaken out.

RL: Also with three wins out of three, Punjab Rotterdam have what looks like a rather less challenging task, at home to struggling Dosti-United Amsterdam. Punjab have a strong case for being the best batting line-up in the competition, with Stef Myburgh joined by a quartet of Zulfiqars and Anil Nidamanuru, while Dosti have managed a total of just 195 runs in three completed innings; Punjab made more in beating VOC last Sunday, for the loss of four wickets. It seems that nothing can go right at the moment for the Amsterdammers, and it will be a real test of character for them to turn this season around. Touseef Ahmed remains a potential trump card, but there’s a limit to how much he can be expected to do on his own.

BdJ: Fair to say that Dosti will at least have little to lose when they arrive at het Zomercomplex, and one might argue that simple reversion to mean is reason enough to expect them to put three figures on the board at some point, but there’s little further reason to expect a turnaround when they go up against a near-full-strength Punjab who will be looking to cement their place at the top end of the table.

RL: Two sides with a strong youth component, Voorburg and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam meet at Westvliet in what could be another absorbing game. Excelsior’s limitations were ruthlessly exposed by VRA last Sunday, and one senses that it is more important than ever that Lorenzo Ingram comes off if Excelsior are to be competitive. Their batsmen will face the test of Voorburg’s seam quartet of Viv Kingma, Ali Ahmed Qasim, Bas de Leede and Stef Mulder this week, and while Voorburg’s batting crumbled against HCC they can be expected to perform better against the Excelsior attack. But a key aspect of this season is the opportunity it affords for the youngsters to prove their mettle, and there is plenty of youthful talent in both these sides.

BdJ: The title-holders’ will doubtless be displeased to find themselves at an unfamiliar end of the table three rounds in, but one wonders if they might be more determined to do something about it were their title under threat. The Schiedammers have looked comparatively unconcerned with their disappointing season, seemingly happy to give their youth a run-out at senior level. At times it’s looked like it might even pay dividends, Rens van Troost looking increasingly comfortable batting up the order and Niels Etman showing some promise, but they’ve yet to come close to a win. Despite last week’s defeat, several of VCC’s own home-grown contingent have had the benefit of greater experience at a higher level, and one suspects that may tell again come Sunday.

RL: Another outfit with plenty of youth is ACC, as seamer Mees van Vliet demonstrated last Sunday and batsman Shreyas Potdar the week before. They will take on a VOC Rotterdam side for whom national captain Pieter Seelaar showed renewed appetite for runs in the defeat by Punjab, and despite that loss the Rotterdammers looked a lot more competitive than they had in their first two games. Again on their own patch at Het Loopveld, ACC will be looking to repeat last week’s success against Sparta, a fine team effort by a side with half-a-dozen changes from last season. Bobby Hanif’s return gives the VOC attack a more stable look, but the batting is yet to cohere into a unit, and although they are capable of springing a surprise my guess is that ACC will have the better of this battle between two mid-table sides.

BdJ: VOC have been struggling with player availability throughout the season and it has been reflected in their results, so the news of Seelaar’s sidelining (due to a back injury rather than a city break) will come as a still heavier blow. It was Seelaar’s unbeaten 93 that proved the backbone (sorry) of their first half-decent score of the season, and his absence will further unsettle an already unstable line-up, as well as depriving them of ten overs of quality left arm spin. ACC meanwhile, despite extensive personnel changes, seem to have gelled into something resembling a steady if unshowy side. In a competition where few teams can say the same, the Amsterdammers may yet give a better account of themselves than many predicted.

RL: After their demolition of VOC Sparta 1888 were brought back to earth by ACC, and now return to the Bermweg to face a HBS Craeyenhout side which may have been put back on the rails by their comprehensive win over Dosti. Here we have two seam attacks well suited to the traditionally bowler-friendly conditions in Capelle, but equally both sides have explosive batsmen who can, if they come off, transform a game remarkably quickly. Sparta will be hoping that they can grab the wicket of Tobias Visée before he does too much damage, while HBS will know that they need to neutralise the threat posed by Mudassar Bukhari and Ali Raza. Whoever achieves that goal quicker will probably win, but on all-round strength it may be HBS who just about have the edge.

BdJ: Probably the toughest game to call this round, with both sides fortunes tending to hinge on the performance of rather mercurial match-winners. Among players returning this season, Mudassar Bukhari was unarguably the stand-out performer of 2019 (unless of course you happen to be on the KNCB Player of the Year panel, in which case it was apparently was entirely arguable). Bukhari hasn’t really come off so far this season, but remains a real threat with both bat and ball. Conversely Tobias Visée reminded everyone last week of why he is one of the few in the league to attract interest from T20 franchises abroad with a brutal 67 off 24, though as with Sparta the rest of the HBS line-up looks rather threadbare, especially when Tim Drummond is unavailable. All told it’s a match up that could produce a tight game or blow out wildly either way, which obviously isn’t much of a prediction, so for the sake of being sporting I’ll back Sparta this time.

Rod Lyall’s tips: VRA, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, Punjab, Voorburg, ACC, Sparta

Round 3 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 16/07/20

We’re still just two rounds into the 2020 Topklasse season, but with only seven games to go the early running carries rather more weight than it would under normal circumstances, and as we look ahead to round three the table is already starkly divided between winners and losers, with five teams undefeated and five yet to put a point on the board.

BdJ: At the top of the table by virtue of net run rate are Sparta 1888 courtesy their demolition of VOC last week, though their position remains somewhat precarious as a wash-out at Thurlede in the opening round means their lead is based only on that single game. They take on the still-winless ACC on Sunday away at Het Loopveld and will be looking to consolidate against an experimental Amsterdam side that’s missing the majority of their 2019 first XI. Nonetheless the Amsterdammers can be expected to put up stiffer resistance than did VOC last week, with the new opening pair of Burnett and McInerney having shown their quality in the first game, and Ramesh and Potdar demonstrating that the middle order is not entirely hollowed out when the new openers failed last week. Sparta remain favourites going into the game, but expect a closer contest than we saw on Sunday.

RL: Poor as VOC were last Sunday, the Sparta bowlers were seriously impressive on their own patch, getting good movement and never easing the pressure through the 24 overs of their opponents’ innings. Het Loopveld is another venue which is traditionally bowler-friendly, and they will go into this game with plenty of confidence; as m’learned colleague observes, however, ACC are likely to be less of a pushover than VOC, especially if Burnett and McInerney manage to avoid the fate that befell them at Voorburg. If 2020 is mostly a nursery for the future, it is the growing maturity of players like Sparta’s Max Hoornweg and ACC’s Shreyas Potdar which is the most significant feature of this season, and their fortunes will be followed closely on Sunday and beyond.

BdJ: Likewise a tougher game to call will be HCC’s match against Voorburg at Westvliet. Both sides are still undefeated thus far, though neither have looked exactly dominant either. VCC were given something of a scare by ACC last week, needing Philippe Boissevain to pull them back from the brink after a top order collapse threatened to squander the good work of Bas de Leede and Rigchardt Pieterse at the top of the order. HCC nonetheless look the more vulnerable of the two, after Dosti’s new acquisition Touseef Ahmed exposed the brittleness of their batting on Sunday. Facing arguably the best pace attack in the competition in Vivian Kingma, Ali Ahmed and the in-form Stef Mulder, HCC will need someone to step into Bryce Street’s sizeable shoes if they’re to take points home from Westvliet.

RL: This shapes to be one of the most competitive match-ups of the season, with both Voorburg and HCC looking like potential title candidates were there to be a title to be claimed. Both are more solid in the bowling than in the batting, but HCC have more experience in the latter dimension than their hosts, whose middle order is perhaps the youngest in the competition. Voorburg did extremely well to see off ACC in the absence of skipper Tom de Grooth last Sunday, but Bas de Leede, like his father before him, is a potential match-winner, while Ali Ahmed Qasim will fancy the prospect of taking on his former team-mates from De Diepput. The same applies in reverse to Clayton Floyd, who returns to Westvliet in the gold of HCC rather than the home side’s blue-and-red. And don’t underestimate the skills of Italian international Damien Crowley. A tough call, but I think HCC might shade it.

BdJ: The hapless VOC Rotterdam meanwhile face the unenviable prospect of a visit from fellow Rotterdammers Punjab CC, who saw off the title-holders to go two from two last week. Few would bet against them making that three from three on Sunday, with a batting line-up lent enviable depth by the arrival of three more Zulfiqars added to the persistent menace of Myburgh at the top of the order. If Punjab’s bowling has looked a little reliant on Mubashar Hussain and skipper Tariq, they will nonetheless back themselves to see off VOC’s hitherto flimsy line-up without too much trouble, barring a remarkable turnaround for Pieter Seelaar’s men.

RL: Punjab, too, are riding high after good wins against HBS Craeyenhout and Excelsior ’20, and unless VOC can raise their game considerably they should be untroubled in making it three out of three after their visit to the Hazelaarweg. The Bloodhounds may be helped by the rumoured return of Bobby Hanif and Ahsan Malik to the attack, but it’s the batting which has been truly awful, Pieter Seelaar and Jelte Schoonheim having so far managed two runs between them in their four innings. Should they recover their appetite for the game they have the ability to provide a real test for Punjab, although in a competition largely without overseas players Anil Nidamanuru may prove a trump card; his unbeaten innings last Sunday certainly put paid to Excelsior’s challenge.

BdJ: Meanwhile Dosti-United will be looking to break their duck when they head down to the Hague to take on the similarly winless HBS Craeyenhout. The arrival of Ahmed has added some teeth to the Dosti attack, and with Wahid Masood and Mahesh Hans both bowling creditably Dosti remain a threat with the ball, but the batting has been utterly abject so far. With just 105 runs on the board across two matches, Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need to show some application, even in the face of HBS’ second-string attack.

RL: With seamers Ferdi Vink, Wessel Coster and Navjit Singh and spinner Julian de Mey still in the HBS attack it’s perhaps a little more threatening than m’learned colleague gives it credit for, and they may have been unfortunate in having faced the batting strength of Punjab and VRA on their first two outings. Dosti are a very different prospect, at least on their form so far, and they have undoubtedly been set back by the absence of Anees Davids and the side-lining of Rahil Ahmed. Tobias Visée has yet to fire for HBS, and his battle with Touseef Ahmed could be a highlight of Sunday’s encounter.

BdJ: The day’s final fixture will see VRA travel down to Schiedam to take on title-holders Excelsior ‘20 who will be looking for their first win after a wash-out against Sparta and last week’s defeat at the hands of Punjab. Excelsior’s chief concern will be their continued reliance on Lorenzo Ingram for runs, the Jamaican’s half-century last week being the only significant score for the Schiedammers, despite some useful contributions from Rens van Troost and Niels Etman in the middle order. VRA meanwhile have looked serious contenders this season, not least thanks to the development of their youth players, who have stepped up admirably in the circumstances. Vikram Singh, most notably, looks increasingly comfortable at senior level, even if VRA might hope for a little more intent from the youngster given the weight of batting behind him. In what promises to be probably the weekend’s most engaging encounter, it may well come down to which of the two sides’ new faces most ably support the old guard, and in this respect the Amsterdammers look to have the advantage.

RL: Another fascinating match-up between two sides with a healthy mix of experience and youth, and two fine captains in Tom Heggelman and Peter Borren. Excelsior have had the wood on VRA lately, winning seven of their past ten meetings, and with Lorenzo Ingram still in their side they are always a serious threat. But they are using this season to blood more youngsters – scions of the Van Troost and Schewe dynasties – and they may take some time to settle into the side. In opener Vikram Singh VRA have one of the undoubted rising stars whose confidence is growing in what is now his third season in the top flight, and with Shirase Rasool added to the middle order the Amsterdammers’ younger brigade is already beginning to flourish. I would also expect VRA to have the edge, but one should never underestimate the Schiedammers’ ability to prevail in a tight battle.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.

Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Sparta, Punjab, HBS, VRA.

Season Preview – Part 2

Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 04-07-2020

This may be the first year since 1945 that there will be no Dutch national champion, but that doesn’t mean that clubs won’t be keen to finish as high on the Topklasse table as possible, and that last season’s top five won’t be doing their level best to hold on those positions.
‘Level best’ is, of course, the operative term, since Covid-19, the closing of the borders and the virtual collapse of international air travel have combined to reverse the effects of the successful challenge to the KNCB’s attempt to limit the number of overseas players in the top divisions of Dutch cricket.

DostiLike Punjab Rotterdam, Voorburg and some others, Dosti Amsterdam will clearly feel the effects of these changes, and will be forced to rely more on the contribution of locally-based players.
At its core the Sportpark Drieburg club has a seasoned group of experienced Topklasse players, not least key all-rounder Anees Davids, South African-born but now a Dutch citizen and one of the most dangerous contributors in the competition with both bat and ball.
But Davids will need more consistent support with the bat from the openers, skipper Vinoo Tewarie and wicketkeeper Rahil Ahmed, while spinner Mahesh Hans has recently demonstrated that his work on his batting is bearing fruit and is likely to assume a greater role in a middle order which otherwise seems pretty threadbare.
In the attack, seamer Masood Wahid bowled some very effective spells in 2019 and he, too, is likely to play a more significant part in the absence of the likes of Taruwar Kohli, while the same applies to spinner Asief Hoseinbaks.
The big question for Dosti, though, will be the ability of a number of fringe players who have had their chances in the side without ever really establishing themselves: Shadaab Ghori, Rishal Varma, Raj Verma and Arjun Atwarie, not forgetting the youthful Arghem Khan.
If two or three of this group step up to the challenge, it could have positive consequences not only for this season, but also for Dosti into the future.

LogoHBSHBS Craeyenhout likewise will need some former fringe players to step up as they head into the abbreviated season missing a number of big names. The absence of last year’s overseas Zac Elkin and Zak Gibson leaves a gap to fill both in terms of runs and wickets, exacerbated by the retirement of Berend Wesdijk – who took 31 wickets at 17 for the Crows last season.
Also missing will be Sharn Gomes, who has departed for the UK and there is also some uncertainty regarding how much of a role Wesley Barresi will play this season, potentially leaving HBS without their three top scorers from last season as well as their lead wicket-taker, and with Farshad Khan also understood to have taken retirement HBS will be missing more than half their first choice XI from 2019.
The arrival of former KwaZulu-Natal bat (and sometime South Africa hockey international) Tim Drummond will likely go some way toward bolstering an otherwise brittle-looking batting card, though the extent of his availability is also in question.
The Crows will be looking to skipper Toby Visee to score big as well as fast, while all-rounder Navjit Singh, as the only sure surviving middle order bat form last season, will also have a significant role to play. Ferdi Vink will likely move up the order whilst Wessel Coster will assume the role of leader of the pace attack, with Julian de Mey the key figure in the slow-bowling department.
Visee was downbeat about the teams’ambitions and sceptical of the format, but nonetheless positive about getting back into the action. “It’s obviously good to be playing any kind of cricket again, though we would have preferred a T20 competition, if only because it might have helped with player availability. A lot of the guys have other commitments now and especially some of the younger guys who have been without work for a while will have other priorities. We’ve just had intra-squad games by way of preparation, but we’ll look to get as much out of the season as we can, some of the guys from the seconds will be getting a chance and hopefully we can win a few games.”

LogoACCNot much is known about what is happening at ACC, beyond the fact that the Loopveld club has lost the services of its three remaining Zulfiqars (who have decamped to Punjab) and of Shirase Rasool (now with VRA).
Without overseas players into the bargain, that will throw huge responsibility onto the shoulders of the club’s (even) younger brigade, along with Anis Raza, Devanshu Arya and Chris Knoll.
The most successful of the youngsters up to now has been seamer Aryan Kumar, while others who may now have a more significant role are Jamieson Mulready, Areeb Shoaib, Shreyas Potdar, Ammar Zaidi, Beau de Boekhorst, and perhaps Mees van Vliet.
This latter group never had more than a walk-on part in a side dominated by the Zulfiqars and the overseas players, but the club has at least ensured that they have tasted the demands of Topklasse cricket.
It would also not be surprising if some of ACC’s old hands, like Bas van der Heyde and Rehan Younis, who made occasional first-team appearances last year, played more regularly in this very unusual season.

Logo HCCConversely HCC, despite the absence of Adam Wiffen, his planned replacement Zac Worden, and last seasons’ stand-out performer Bryce Street, look in decent shape ahead of the 2020 season. Skipper Tonny Staal will himself be under a degree of pressure to perform consistently in the absence of his overseas bats, but the experience of Itagi at the top of the order will offer some reassurance, as will the continued development of the young Boris Gorlee coming in behind him, who has looked in fine form during intra-squad training games with the national set-up. Gorlee is joined by another promising youngster in the form of Musa Nadeem (formerly of Goen Wit), whilst VCC’s spin all-rounder Clayton Floyd has also come over to HCC for the coming season.
Another new face will be Italian international Damian Crowely, who joins HCC having emigrated to the Netherlands. A top-order bat and useful left-arm spinner, Crowley will doubtless add some welcome experience to the top order. The departure of Ali Ahmed nonetheless leaves the pace attack looking a little underpowered, and HCC will hope Netherlands occasional Hidde Overdijk is fit and firing throughwhat remains of the Summer. Stall will also look to Regulars Douwe Walhain and Ollie Klaus to contribute more consistently with bat and ball, but is also positive about the introduction of some younger prospects.
“We will try and get our young guys in as well. I think this will be a great learning curve for youngsters like Boris Gorlee, Ditmar Hennop and Felix Vecchi.” Staal told Tkcricket. “We have trained since we were allowed and have been playing loads of intra-club games against each other. I would say this has been one of our better season preparations so far and I think it will show when we get going.”

LogoExcelsiorReigning champions Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will have to wait until next season to mount an official title defence, but will nonetheless be looking to continue their winning ways. They will be without Brenton Parchment, who remains in the Caribbean, and Tim Etman, who has departed for Australia. First team regular David Woutersen is also understood to be injured at present, but the core of the 2019 champion side remains intact.
Crucially, the evergreen Lorenzo Ingram is in-country, haviing made the trip early to take up his coaching duties. The spinning all-rounder led the Schiedammers in both runs and wickets in 2019 and will remain indispensible if they are to come out on top again in their centennial year. Skipper Tom Heggelman himself will likewise be key to their hopes both with bat and ball, with Sohail Bhatti and Rens van Troost rounding out the seam attack.
Filling in for the absentees will be an assortment of Ingram’s young charges from the youth programme, with young bat Luuk Kroesen expected to join Joost and Gijs as a regular fixture in the senior side. Heggelman is cautiously optimistic about his team’s hopes of topping the table again, and confident they’ll be as well prepared as any.
Before the Corona lockdown we had trained a couple of times at VOC and a selection of the team have been working on fitness at the Perfect Performance Sport Center (PPSC), one of our sponsors. After lockdown we resumed training as soon as it was permitted, and in the run up to the season we’ve been training twice a week as well as doing Wednesday fitness sessions at PPSC. The first three weeks we didn’t have training games, but we now have a 40-over game and a T20 under our belts.”
“We’ll be playing every game to win and look to continue the momentum from previous years, albeit with a team that will look a bit different. As is known we think it’s important that team mostly comprises Excelsior-produced players, and we’ll be using the coming games to give some of the youth Topklasse experience. We’ve a large group of youngsters coming through, and while it’s maybe a bit early to say they’ll make an immediate impact, but we’ll be looking to offer them a platform to perform and contribute for the club, our first team and hopefully for Dutch cricket.”

Read Part One here

Season Preview – part 1

Bertus de Jong and Rod Lyall 03-07-2020

Nothing is normal in the world we now find ourselves inhabiting, and even by normal standards this year’s abbreviated – and in a certain sense unofficial – Topklasse is difficult to predict.

The most obvious source of uncertainty, of course, is the absence of overseas players, with or without a Dutch passport, from the ranks of most teams. That means that those who are around, like Excelsior ‘20’s Lorenzo Ingram, may well be even more influential than usual.

But other than that, the 2020 competition will be an unusually clear indication of clubs’ strength in depth, and of emerging players’ true ability to make their mark.

logo punjabFew clubs will be more greatly affected by the situation than promoted side Punjab Rotterdam, whose Hoofdklasse win last year owed a great deal to a quintet of South Africans, led by former HCC coach Jonathan Vandiar.

The Rotterdammers will, however, be compensated for that loss by the acquisition of Saqib, Sikander and Rehmat Zulfiqar, who have joined family voortrekker Asad at the Zomercomplex.

With international opener Stef Myburgh also in the line-up Punjab will have a powerful, hard-hitting top five, while Sikander’s lively fast-medium bowling will complement long-serving captain Sulaiman Tariq in the attack.

Then there’s evergreen Muhammad Hafeez, still scoring runs and bamboozling batsmen, the utility players’ utility player Ashan Bamunusinghe, who can slot into the side in almost any capacity, a well as brothers Mohsin and Faizan Bajwa, and Punjab should be capable of giving any team in the competition a run for their money.

SpartaOver at the Bermweg in Capelle a/d Ijssel, Sparta 1888’s principal gain is the transfer of top-order batsman Lenert van Wyk from Excelsior ’20.

A former Boland, Cape Cobras and Free State player with 2000 first-class runs to his credit, Van Wyk appeared in four matches for the Schiedam club last season after taking a job in the Netherlands.

His arrival will compensate Sparta to some degree for the absence of overseas players, as well as the return of Tim de Kok to VOC.

New skipper Mudassar Bukhari will have a strong attack at his disposal, with Martijn Snoep, Manminder Singh and youngster Max Hoornweg joined by Punjab’s Mamoon Latif and the returning Faisal Iqbal.

Bukhari, of course, is a powerful force with both bat and ball, and with Ali Raza at the top of the order former international keeper Atse Buurman still valuable in the middle order as well as behind the stumps, and 16-year-old Prithvy Balwantsingh showing real promise with the bat, Sparta will be hoping for a better season than they managed in 2019.

Former skipper (and now Chairman) Snoep was upbeat about his club’s preparation and prospects despite the absent overseas players, “We’ve been training, had some intra-club and intra-squad games, and we also took the initiative to play in Belgium against Antwerp, we good contacts there and outdoor sports where allowed there. Missing Ter Braak en Hampton makes a big difference for obvious reasons. Still with an experienced team with Bukhari, Van Wyk, Ali Raza, Buurman, Manin Singh Myself and with Latif coming over from Punjab as well as Max Hoornweg who’s in the KNCB setup we feel we have a decent local squad to pick from, Faisal Iqbal back as well. New players Van Wyk, Latif, Iqbal and young players Maxi and 16-year old Prithvi Balwantsingh (who scored 28 of 20 against Antwerp) will get some games. Ivo Hoornweg (Max’s youngest brother) will get opportunities, hes a medium pacer. We’ll be looking to win every game and develop the team into a better one for next season.”

LogoVOCOne of the biggest disappointments of least season was the form of defending champions VOC Rotterdam, who slumped to eighth, and they will not be helped this time by the absence of international star Max O’Dowd and the (mostly) retired seamer Bobby Hanif.

They had hoped to have the services of international keeper-batsman Scott Edwards, but word is the Netherlands gloveman has run into difficulties securing permission to fly from Australia. Top-order batsman Corey Rutgers did manage to return to the Netherlands just before the borders closed however, and will have an increased role in the first team in O’Dowd’s absence.

His experience will be valuable support for skipper Pieter Seelaar, who is likely to find his bowling assumes even greater importance without not only Hanif but also Pierce Fletcher, Dirk van Baren and Ashiqullah Said.

On the other hand, there will be a good deal of interest in the progress of teenager Siebe van Wingerden, who made his Topklasse debut last season and who now has the opportunity to establish himself in the side.

Seelaar was understandably keen to downplay expectations somewhat ahead of the opening round, telling Tkcricket; Thursday will be our first and only practice of the year. When the season was cancelled earlier, there was hardly any commitment to training or practice games, that is was decided to pretty much cancel this year … Our ambition is to enjoy what is left of the cricket season. For some players it will be good to see how they will develop.”

logo VRAConversely VRA’s roster is comparatively unaffected by the continued travel restrictions, but nonetheless the Amsterdam club has seen more than a few departures over the winter, and will be fielding a somewhat new-look side this season. Pre-season talks with Adam Wiffen were eventually nixed in part due to the virus, Brandon Graber will not be returning and left arm quick Haseeb Gul is also understood to be seeking his fortune in England. Former skipper Emile van den Burg also departs for Nijmegen, while seamer Tom Long’s work commitments have taken him to Germany.

Veterans Adeel Raja and Eric Szwarczynski remain on the roster, though it’s unclear how regular a role the latter especially will play. Young Vikram Singh will consequently have to shoulder a greater share of responsibility at the top of the order, where he will likely open with Dutch international Ben Cooper. Skipper Peter Borren will likely also call upon Singh to contribute with ball in hand, alongside senior seamer Quirijn Gunning and offspinner Leon Turmaine, and indeed with the latter pair also likely to miss a couple of games owing to prior commitments, Singh’s reportedly much-improved bowling may prove crucial to his team’s considerable ambitions.

Despite the departures the VRA club look in better shape than many for the abridged season, with a bevy of promising youngsters expected to follow Singh into the senior side.

“We have a great bunch of u18s most if whom are in the Dutch u18 side.” Borren told Tkcricket,As well as Vikram Singh we have Udit Nashier, Zamaan Khan, Shirase Rasool, Luke Hartsink, Ashir Abid, Debrup Dasgupta. They are a group who has been together for a while and I’m looking forward to seeing them all getting opportunities to grow and learn at this level. Our ambition is to win the competition. I don’t think it is an unrealistic goal. Also exposing some young talented guys to a decent standard of cricket. These guys will all be future Topklasse stars, to get this chance to get used to that standard is a win in itself.”

VCCLikewise Voorburg CC will be looking to improve on their 6th place finish despite a number of last season’s first choice side being stranded abroad. Absent will be keeper-bat Noah Croes as well as the Smit brothers, whilst pace spearhead Brandon Glover has been snapped up by Gloucestershire and Clayton Floyd by HCC.

HCC’s Ali Ahmed has made the trip in the opposite direction, however, and Voorburg are also bolstered by the return of Bas de Leede from the UK, whist national legspinning prospect Philippe Boissevain will also be sticking with the club in liueu of a planned stint at MCC Young Cricketers. Aryan Dutt also returns to Westvliet after a stint at Kampong, and together skipper Tom de Grooth VCC will be looking to returnees Dutt and de Leede to plug the run-gap left by the absent Croes and Smit brothers.

Much will also depend on the fiery but fragile Viv Kingma as he steps back into the spearhead role, but de Grooth is bullish about his side’s chances. “We were back at training pretty much straight away. We’ve been playing (an intra-club) T20 comp with four competitive teams and a league with four social teams. Last round of that will be this Friday. So should all have some games behind us. Will be great to have Bas back in the side and see how he has develops. Aryan Dutt is back from Kampong and is looking the part and young keeper Tobias Nota is one to look out for with the gloves. I think there is a great opportunity to show that we can play competitive cricket without the big overseas stars. Hopefully a season where young players can step up and as a club to show out depth. Lots of chances for coming players to shine and grab their chances.”

Preview Round 18

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 23/08/19

So we arrive at the denouement of this season’s Topklasse, the championship decided last week with Excelsior reclaiming the title with a convincing win over an understrength Dosti side, and all that remains to be resolved is which of Quick and Sparta will be replaced by Punjab Rotterdam next season.

BdJ: Sparta 1888 still need a win, a tie or a washout against HCC at Bermweg on Sunday to be sure of their Topklasse survival, having failed to put the question to bed when they sank to a 64-run loss against relegation rivals Quick Haag last week. Though Andrew Fletcher has finally found some form after a disappointing season, Max Hoornweg’s progress has proved sufficient to catch the eye of national selectors and Mudassar Bukhari is bowling as well as ever, going up against the second-placed HCC is an unenviable final fixture for a side in Sparta’s position. The Cappelle side has won just one match in the second half of the season, whilst HCC are six from eight. The form of Bryce Street has been a major factor in HCC’s success thus far, currently leading the batting averages as well as boasting 20 wickets and 15 catches so far this season. Adam Wiffen has had a fine season with the bat, and comes off a couple of solid performances for Netherlands A against Jersey in the past week. It’s been an all-round effort from HCC to keep in the title hunt for as long as they did however, and Sparta will have to hope that they arrive at Bermweg somewhat deflated after falling short in the quest for the championship.

RL: No question that HCC have the edge over Sparta, who were distinctly the weaker party in their match against Quick Haag last week. They do have a potential match-winner in Mudassar Bukhari, who shares the season’s leading wicket-taker spot with Dosti’s Kuldeep Diwaan at 32, and who remains a threatening presence in the batting line-up. Sparta are, of course, a tougher proposition at home, where their bowlers are a more imposing unit than elsewhere, but HCC’s batting is both strong and relatively deep; although Hidde Overdijk didn’t come off last Sunday he is also capable of scoring quickly should circumstances demand it. Sparta will want to ensure that events at Westvliet are irrelevant to their survival, but it will take a much improved effort if they are end their season with a win.

BdJ: Also in contention for the wooden spoon are Quick Haag, currently languishing at the bottom of the table on 9 points from 17 games. They will need both HCC to best Sparta on Sunday as well as taking two points home themselves when they face VCC at Westvliet. Their win over Sparta last week kept their hopes alive one more week, though it again rather underscored the importance of Jay Bista to the side. Though Bob van Gigch and Jeroen Brand came through with half-centuries in support, it was Bista’s six wickets in the second innings that sealed the win. That said, VCC will not have forgotten the 194 that the Mumbaiker racked up against them in their previous encounter. Though one might hope Quick will be the more motivated of the two sides come Sunday, VCC bounced back from a string of poor results to find an unlikely last ball win away at VRA last week, perhaps enjoying some cricket with the pressure off.

RL: One of the season’s great enigmas is Voorburg’s failure to have a more significant impact on their return to the Topklasse: they have undoubtedly missed the contribution of Bas de Leede, but their batting has consistently been unable to fulfil its promise and they have only intermittently shown what they ought to be capable of. Quick, on the other hand, demonstrated last week that even without Geert Maarten Mol they can produce a convincing effort when it is needed, and it will never be more acutely needed than it is this week at Westvliet. They could turn on another winning performance only to find that Sparta have squeezed them out; but they know that without such a performance it won’t matter what happens in Capelle. Voorburg have the bowlers to cut through Quick’s batting, but if the latter show the resilience they did against Sparta this is a relegation battle which could go all the way to the wire.

BdJ: Meanwhile VRA have the chance to put a bit of a downer on the party at Thurlede when they take on the newly-crowned <b.Excelsior ‘20. Despite a rather sloppy performance against VCC that saw them concede some 29 extras and eventually the game, they remain entirely capable of bringing the champions down to earth. The loss of Quirijn Gunning to injury takes some of the sting from the attack, but on the batting side of things the Amsterdammers are beginning to live up to their paper strength. Vikram Singh continues to mature, crossing 500 runs for the season last week and looking in good nick for Netherlands A, and together with Peter Borren and Ben Cooper VRA now have three players with 500 runs to their name, whilst Excelsior, quite remarkably, have none. That stat is of course something of a testament to Excelsior’s strength in the field, and indeed the Schiedam side has looked more than the sum of its parts throughout the season.

RL: Brenton Parchment and Lorenzo Ingram may have had relatively quiet seasons for Excelsior with the bat, but they are massive presences in the side, and their efforts in the field far outweigh their mere statistics. With skipper Tom Heggelman and Rens van Troost in great form with the ball the Schiedammers’ demolition of Dosti last week was a fitting climax to their pursuit of the title, but the whole team will be keen to ensure that the season doesn’t end in anti-climax at home to VRA. The Amsterdam side are, of course, extremely dependent on a few outstanding players, including the rapidly-emerging Singh, and their batting will provide a stiff test for Excelsior’s attack.

BdJ: What remains for the rest is mid-table positional play, though for last year’s champions VOC Rotterdam even a top-five finish is more than they can now hope for. They welcome fourth-placed HBS Craeyenhout to Hazelaarweg on Sunday, though one expects both sides will be more concerned with events the preceding day when they contest the final round of the T20 competition along with ACC and HCC. One suspects if one side or other can carry some momentum in from Saturday’s contest at VCC it may prove decisive for the final 50-over contest of the season for these two underperforming sides.

RL: Every game of cricket matters, or ought to, and there will at least be pride at stake when HBS take on VOC on Sunday. Some of the individual battles, too, are intriguing: HBS’s battery of seamers against O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards, for example, and Seelaar’s spin against that powerful HBS batting line-up. If that suggests that HBS have the edge in both departments that’s because they do, but if VOC’s international trio perform as they are capable of doing, or other key team-members like Dirk van Baren and Bobby Hanif play their part, then this could be a closer match than form indicates.

BdJ: And finally ACC, who rather fell away after making the early running in the Topklasse, will take on the wildly erratic Dosti-United at Het Loopveld, again largely for bragging rights. ACC staged something of a resurgence after their late season slump, besting HBS at De Diepput last week to ensure they’d finish top of the Amsterdam clubs this season, whilst Dosti collapsed to 61 all-out against Excelsior to hand the Schiedammers the title on a platter. Dosti were rather understrength last week, with Kohli long gone and Bali and Davids also absent, but there is little indication they will field a substantially stronger outfit come Saturday. Though both Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed have stepped up on occasion to produce some fine innings over the season, Dosti will need both to fire and the rest of the regulars to offer some support if they’re to finish on a high this season.

RL: It’s been a difficult season for Dosti, and not only in the Topklasse, and this was underlined very firmly by last week’s disappointing effort against Excelsior. With Amitoze Singh also missing from the teamsheet and Waheed Masood forced out of the attack after bowling just ten deliveries, the attrition of resources is reaching critical levels, while ACC’s roller-coaster season has at last seen the emergence of some of their younger talents, especially Aryan Kumar and, to a degree, Shirase Rasool. But Brady Barends has been the star of their show, and with the Zulfiqar brothers making runs last week they look a much more impressive outfit than they did a month or so ago.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: HCC, VCC, VRA, HBS, ACC

Rod Lyall’s tips: HCC, Quick, Excelsior, HBS, ACC.

Preview Round 17

With just two rounds left to play, both the ultimate destination of the trophy and who will play in the Hoofdklasse next season remain in doubt, although both questions could be resolved this Sunday. There will be time once the dust has settled to debate whether this reflects positively on the current competition structure and the eligibility rules, but for the moment attention will be centred on Sportpark Drieburg, De Diepput and Nieuw Hanenburg, where crucial battles are scheduled to be fought.

RL: Needing just one more win to make sure of the title, Excelsior ‘20 travel to Amsterdam to take on Dosti United, whose convincing victory over Voorburg last Sunday demonstrated that they are still a force to be reckoned with. With Kuldeep Diwan not only the competition’s leading wicket-taker but also adding great destructive power to the lower order, the Amsterdammers are more capable than most of testing the nerve of Tom Heggelman’s side, and once again a great deal may depend on the toss. Both teams are more effective batting first, though for different reasons: Dosti can set challenging targets, while Excelsior have proved outstanding at defending modest ones. Excelsior haven’t lost since the end of May, but if Dosti win the toss they might just find themselves needing to win their final match at Thurlede to clinch the championship.
BdJ: Excelsior still have two shots at reclaiming the title, but nice as it would be to bag it in front of a home crowd they’ll be keen to put the competition to bed come Sunday rather than letting it come down to the last-round with a resurgent VRA headed to Thurlede. It’s worth noting though that Excelsior’s recent successes in defence of modest totals has come against sides that still had skin in the game, so to speak. It may be a tougher ask to apply that same pressure to a Dosti side with nothing in particular on the line. Even without Taruwar Kohli Dosti’s batting line up has proved capable of running up serious scores, though if Excelsior can maintain the expemplary disciplinethat’s got them this far they’re still odds-on to take home the silverware on Sunday.

RL: For second-placed HCC it is no longer enough to see off VOC Rotterdam; they must hope that Dosti do them a favour as well. Perhaps thrown off their stride somewhat by the collapse of Dirk van Baren, the Rotterdammers fell apart against Sparta last Sunday despite another half-century from Pieter Seelaar, and there must be serious doubts about their attack’s ability to contain an HCC line-up in which Tonny Staal, Adam Wiffen, Bryce Street and now Hidde Overdijk are all among the runs, the latter ending the season with a flourish with the bat, as he began it with the ball. VOC’s chances will depend, again, on whether Max O’Dowd, Seelaar and Scott Edwards are able to match HCC’s growing confidence with the bat, but De Diepput’s tight square boundaries will offer both sides plenty of incentive for some hard hitting.
BdJ: HCC’s championship hopes have indeed slipped out of their hands now, but VOC’s title defence never really got started. The focus of the European Champions, one suspects, has turned to the T20 competition through which they’ll be looking to book a ticket back to La Manga. Nonetheless they remain a formidable 50-over side when their trio of internationals fire, and will of course be the less nervy of the two sides on Sunday. The return of Bobby Hanif has gone some way toward shoring up VOC’s attack after the departure of Fletcher, but despite a creditable first season at Rotterdam for Ashiqullah Said the absence of Fred Klaassen is still keenly felt. If Excelsior are to take the title this weekend, one suspects they’ll have to win it themselves.

RL: Sparta 1888’s defeat of VOC last week relieved the pressure on them a little, but Quick Haag could still overhaul them – by 0.02 of a point – by winning their last two matches, including the clash between the two sides on Sunday, if the Capelle side also lost to HCC the following week. Sparta again owed a lot to Mudassar Bukhari, whose 71 and four for 36 was a fine all-round effort, and they will need him to be at his best again this week to neutralise the danger of Jay Bista, whose importance for Quick’s hopes of survival is even greater. There are plenty of reasons why these two sides are at the foot of the table, but one must hope that the immediate prospect of relegation will inspire them to raise their game at Nieuw Hanenburg on Sunday and produce a match worthy of the top flight.
BdJ: The weight of carrying Quick’s survival hopes on his shoulders seems to be finally taking its toll on Bista, whose run-a-ball fifty against VRA last week looked streakier than usual and again proved insufficient to set up a win. Though Geert-Maarten Mol has again been offering Bista steady support over the season the Hanen nonetheless find themselves in a worst position even than last year, Sparta having stolen a march on them last round and now needing two wins and a little luck if they are to avoid relegation. Neutral fans may be hoping for a Quick win for the sake of the competition, setting up a potential championship/relegation decider at Bermweg in the final round, whilst keeping fully three of the final five fixtures relevant to the title or relegation, but the most likely outcome on form at least is that both will be settled this Sunday.

RL: Despite their rather hollow defeat by Excelsior last week, HBS Craeyenhout could still finish as runners-up if results go their way in the final two rounds, and they will welcome Tobias Visée back from his Canadian exploits for their match against ACC — again scheduled for the second ground at De Diepput. Both these sides have fallen upon hard times in recent weeks after a storming start to the campaign, but they include some of the undoubted stars of the season: Brady Barends for ACC, for example, and Sharn Gomes and Wesley Barresi, as well as Visée, for HBS. The HBS seam attack, Farshad Khan excepted, underperformed against Excelsior, and ACC’s inexplicably fragile top order will be hoping that the same applies this week. If not, it may take more heroics from Barends and Sikander Zulfiqar with the bat to keep the Amsterdammers in the hunt.
BdJ: Both HBS and ACC have looked rather deflated after falling out of contention for the top spot, though it’s difficult to guage how much that has been due to the absence of Toby Visée and Jean Marais at the top of their respective batting orders.The return of the HBS captain after a typically enterprising display at the GT20 will be a boost for HBS, though with three of the top four scorers in the league also to be found in the Crows’ line up one would think a big innings from the skipper looks like a sufficient but not necessary condition for victory.

RL: Quick’s defeat by VRA saved Voorburg from any remaining threat of a quick return to the Hoofdklasse, and they will travel to the Amsterdamse Bos on Sunday knowing that this is a game on which relatively little is riding. For their hosts, however, there is a real possibility that despite their appalling start to the season they could still finish in the top half of the table, having won six of their nine games since Peter Borren resumed the captaincy. On paper it’s a lopsided contest: Voorburg’s tottering batting against a limited VRA attack, VRA’s potentially powerful line-up of Singh, Szwarczynski, Cooper and Borren against a more than useful Voorburg bowling unit. The momentum is decidedly with the home side, and despite Voorburg’s win at Westvliet back in June it would come as something of a surprise if they were to take the points this time.
BdJ: It’s perhaps a surprise that there’s nothing but bragging rights on the line at this game in the end, with both sides starting the season widely regarded as potential title contenders and then both looking like relegation candidates by five games in. VCC did the hard work to put distance between themselves and the wooden spoon in the mid-season, whilst VRA left it a little later. Both sides are now safe, but whilst VRA’s recent form has seen them win five of their last six games, VCC’s last victory came five rounds ago. That said, VRA’s already rickety attack will be further weakened by the loss of a lately in-form Quirijn Gunning, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken hand. An opportunity perhaps for an underperforming VCC line-up to repair their season averages, though given how Dosti dealt with the more celebrated VCC attack last week VRA’s batsmen may well be thinking the same thing.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, Quick, HBS, VCC.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, Sparta, HBS, VCC.

Round 15 preview

Rod Lyall 02/08/19

After the usual end-of-July week off, this year a busman’s holiday for VOC Rotterdam and for the youngsters engaged in Under-19 WCQ duty, the Topklasse resumes on Sunday, in the midst of a four-match T20I series against the United Arab Emirates.  We understand that the national squad members have been released for Sunday’s matches, although the bowlers are supposed to be limited to five overs apiece. Oh, and it’s the time of year when, as visas begin to expire, overseas players start to return home.

Against this background, leaders Excelsior ‘20 travel to De Diepput to take on their main challengers, HCC. As others have faltered these two sides have emerged as the season’s most consistent, and this promises to be one of the most absorbing matches of the year, as well as one of the most significant. An Excelsior victory would extend the gap between the sides to five points and effectively put the title out of reach for the Hagenaars, but Tonny Staal’s men have the all-round ability to keep themselves in the hunt against an Excelsior outfit which, for all its consistency, has needed some determined performances in the field to defend disappointing efforts with the bat. The outcome may depend on which side’s local players step up at this crucial point in the competition.

Fresh from their triumph in the inaugural ‘European Champions League’ in La Manga, VOC Rotterdam return to reality for their encounter at Hazelaarweg with the other principal contenders for the title, ACC. And they will, we understand, do so without Pierce Fletcher, further weakening an attack which has struggled all season.  For ACC, no less than for HCC, a win here is absolutely vital if they are to retain a chance of snatching the championship, and they will be hoping that they can recapture the dominating form which took them to the top of the table in the first half of the season. To do that they will need their top five to take full advantage of VOC’s limitations with the ball, while at the same time finding a way of containing O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards.

Among the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, one thing is certain: HBS Craeyenhout will be without skipper Tobias Visée when they take on Voorburg on the second ground at De Diepput. He, of course, is in Canada, and his side will undoubtedly miss the mayhem he so often creates among opposing attacks. Their opponents will be without Matt Smit, but will still have his brother Nic, who has provided a solid core in what has all too frequently been a disappointingly irresolute batting line-up. Who else plays, and under what limitations, remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that an HBS defeat here would definitively end whatever thin theoretical hope they might have of remaining in the title race. A fairer assessment would be that this is really a mid-table clash where pride and individual reputations are at stake rather than any larger issues.

The delayed arrival of Quick Haag’s two Indian players may now turn out to their advantage, locked as they are in a tight relegation battle with Sparta. Every match that these two sides play in the coming month will be vital, and Quick will travel to Sportpark Drieburg on Sunday knowing that they really need to raise their game against Dosti United. As so often, the contribution of Jay Bista will provide a crucial subplot: if he fires Quick will be in contention, but should Dosti remove him early their chances of claiming the points will be greatly improved. How many of Dosti’s overseas contingent remain will also be a factor: one late arrival who could balance Bista is Abhinav Bali, who has shown that he can give his side plenty of momentum in the initial powerplay.

With one point from their last five games Sparta 1888 badly need some good news, their fortunes since the turn contrasting unfavourably with those of Peter Borren’s resurgent VRA Amsterdam. Favourites (if that’s the right word) for relegation for the first half of the season, VRA have climbed way from the foot of the table, and a win in the Amsterdamse Bos this Sunday would further enhance their prospects of remaining in the top flight. Vikram Singh returns from a more successful Under-19 qualifier than many of his national team-mates, and with their combination of youth and experience VRA seem likely to be too strong for a Sparta side more dependent than ever on old stagers Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman.


Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, ACC, Voorburg, Dosti, VRA.

Round 14 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 19/07/19

Last round before the break and the final stretch of this Topklasse season is looming, and as ten team round robins go there’s a remarkable amount still to play for. Excelsior have stretched their lead at the top but there’s three sides still in a position to plausibly challenge for the title, with ACC, HCC and HBS all on 16 points from between 11 and 13 matches. A six point gap between the leaders and the mid-table leaves the rest of the pack all in some danger of relegation, though Dosti, VCC and especially VOC could take significant steps toward safety over the coming weekend.

BdJ: Of the three, VOC Rotterdam are best placed to secure their survival with a double-weekend ahead before they head off to La Manga to contest the new European Championship. Their delayed match-up against a late-resurgent VRA is Saturday’s sole fixture, where the Amsterdammers will look to continue to put distance between themselves and the relegation spot they had occupied for much of the season. VRA’s bowling finally came good last week when they bundled HBS out for 135 to set up a remarkably comprehensive upset victory, Quirijn Gunning and Brandon Graber finally making the new ball talk as they blasted past HBS’s imposing top order. VOC’s own game against VCC was written off at a flooded Hazelaarweg, so there’s little indication they have solved their own problems with the ball. That said, there’s been much promise but little consistency to be found in VRA’s own top-order, and the presence of Pieter Seelaar and Scott Edwards in the VOC middle-order means a good new-ball spell from Gunning or Graber is unlikely to be a killing blow. Whether they play out at the top or the bottom of the table, VRA and VOC’s encounters at the Bos have generally provided excellent entertainment at least, though the outcome is tough to call this would likely have been the match of the day even had their been any competition.

RL: VRA’s winning streak has brought these two sides much closer together on the table, where in terms of raw ability (and inherent weaknesses) they probably should have been all along. VRA have added a whole new dimension to the concept of a slow start, but the transformation effected by Peter Borren’s return to the captaincy makes them a danger to anyone they now face. With VOC and Dosti this weekend, followed by Sparta, Quick Haag and Voorburg, they may not only save their own skins but cause a fair degree of misery elsewhere. But VOC represent one of their tougher remaining assignments, and as m’colleague observes, encounters between these two sides have traditionally been close, hard-fought affairs – going all the way back to the 1990s. VOC’s three internationals are balanced by VRA’s one current and two former Dutch players, and which trio performs better on the day may prove to be the critical factor.

BdJ: VRA will be back in action at the Bos the following day as Dosti-United make the trip across the Amstel fresh from the absolute shellacking they handed to Sparta last week. However brittle they have looked across the season, it’s fair to say VRA’s experienced line-up will put up rather stiffer resistance than Sparta could muster last Sunday, but Dosti, and especially Anees Davids, will be riding high when they arrive in Amstelveen. At least as concerning for the hosts, Dosti’s intimidating top-order almost all have some runs under their belt from the last few rounds, and the Drieburg side no longer looks like a one-man show with the bat. Both sides look to be belatedly hitting their stride having underperformed for much of the summer, but Dosti still look odds-on to take another two points off their Amsterdam rivals come Sunday.

RL: Few sides can manage two wins over a double weekend, and should VRA overcome VOC on Saturday they may be hard-pressed to make it two out of two against Dosti, whose top six is as menacing as any in the competition. A lot may depend on whether Vinoo Tewarie calls correctly: as I have suggested before, Dosti look a much better side batting first than they do when chasing, and if VRA can get past the threat of Davids and Kuldeep Diwan and set a decent target, then they might just get the upper hand. They came close to a successful chase when the sides met at Drieburg, boosted by an outstanding Ben Cooper hundred, but with Abhinav Bali now established in the Dosti top order they could find themselves again facing an uphill battle if they have to bowl first.

BdJ: Meanwhile VOC head across to Schiedam for their second match of the weekend, taking on table-toppers Excelsior ‘20 at Thurlede. Excelsior looked less-than-convincing with the bat as they saw off their nearest rivals ACC in a low-scoring scrap at Het Loopveld last week, but once again, even with just 158 on the board, they found a way to win. Discipline and determination in the field was the Schiedammers’ greatest asset last week, and given VOC’s reliance on their three Dutch internationals for runs, containment may again prove a winning strategy, the Rotterdammers lacking both the batting depth to take real risks and the bowling attack to reliably hold opposition to modest totals.

RL: VOC may play a crucial role in deciding the championship, since they play all three of the leading sides in the course of the run in. Whether they have the all-round power to beat Excelsior is doubtful, though: Tom Heggelman’s side has emerged as a textbook example of a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts, and it must be a comfort to them that even when Lorenzo Ingram and Brenton Parchment are less than dominant with the bat they are able to make up for it with the ball – and in the field. With Heggelman himself, Rens van Troost and Sohail Bhatti all bowling well, the leaders can defend low totals, although they may have to go up a gear against O’Dowd, Seelaar and Edwards.

BdJ: After missing their chance to leapfrog Excelsior last week, ACC will want to avoid slipping further behind on Sunday when they head to Bermweg to take on the beleaguered Sparta 1888, who are now just a single point clear of the relegation spot after an abject performance at Drieburg. Boasting the league’s two leading wicket-takers in Brady Barends and Saqib Zulfiqar, ACC will likely feel confident of rolling Sparta for a total even their misfiring batting will have little trouble with. On that front the Amsterdammers have looked increasingly dependent on Jean Marais at the top of the order however, with the rest of the batting card struggling to maintain early form. If there is a one-on-one battle likely to prove decisive it is doubtless that of Marais and the evergreen Mudassar Bukhari, who has looked his old self and then some this season.

RL: Having collapsed twice in succession ACC’s batting must now be a subject of serious concern in Amstelveen, though not nearly as much as Sparta’s after last week’s debacle against Dosti. Another defeat might well put ACC out of the running for the title altogether – depending on results elsewhere – while Sparta’s slide towards the bottom of the table means they also have to start conjuring victories from somewhere. Their attack always looks a shade more effective at the Bermweg, but it’s hard to believe that a batting line-up which includes Marais and the Zulfiqar brothers will fail again, even if the middle and lower order seem currently unable to contribute a great deal. The imponderable, of course, is what events at Drieburg last Sunday have done to Sparta’s morale: they will have to regroup very quickly if they are to have any chance against the Amsterdam side.

BdJ: Safe to say that Quick Haag will be hoping for an ACC victory on Sunday, giving them a chance to steal a march on their relegation rivals when they take on HBS Craeyenhout at Nieuw Hanenburg. Taking two points off their local rivals remains a tall order for the Hanen, however, the Crows’ spectacular collapse against VRA an aberration unlikely to be repeated. There were more positives to be drawn from Quick’s defeat last week than that of HBS, though, most notably Jeroen Brand and Doc Mol lifting them past 200 despite the early loss of Jay Bista. But they will likely need their Mumbaiker MVP to fire on Sunday if they are to have any hope of matching HBS for firepower, or for his compatriot Prathamesh Dake to make swift inroads into a rattled but still dangerous HBS top order.

RL: The farmyard battle between the neighbours in the Bosjes van Pex is one of the great Dutch derbies, and if HBS are now somewhat off the pace – though not yet mathematically out of the title contest – their hosts have a very great deal at stake. It’s true that Tobias Visée’s men had an off-day last week, as they did against Voorburg earlier in the season, but it does seem unlikely that that lightning will strike again on Sunday. Dake is, of course, capable of shaking them up, but it’s more probable that normal service will be restored and that they will again post a winning total, whether setting or chasing. The wild card is, as always, Bista: if he gets going, the Nieuw Hanenburg public could again be in for a treat. The same applies, though, to Visée and Wesley Barresi, while with Zac Elkin and Sharn Gomes as foils the HBS top four is collectively a class better than Quick’s line-up.

BdJ: The final match of the round sees HCC, now in second place behind Excelsior on 8 wins from 11, take on the much-fancied but thus-far disappointing Voorburg at Westvliet. Now nine points adrift of the top-spot, VCC will have likely put their title ambitions on hold for another year, but retain the quality to beat anyone in the competition. HCC will nonetheless start as favourites on form, with a top five all enjoying seasons ranging from the solid to the exemplary. Voorburg’s much-vaunted new-ball pairing of Vivian Kingma and Brandon Glover have delivered on occasion, but not with the regularity needed for VCC to mount a title challenge given their disappointing efforts with the bat. Facing off against Itagi, Staal, Wiffen, Street and Gorlee, the pair will have their work cut out for them on Sunday.

RL: Nor should we forget the contribution of Hidde Overdijk with the ball: his four-wicket haul against Quick last week set up HCC’s victory, and his consistency has been a significant factor in taking his side to their current elevated position. HCC’s matches against Excelsior and ACC in the first two weeks of August may well determine where the championship cup resides this winter, but this visit to Westvliet is scarcely less important for the Lions in their pursuit of a record 39th title (49th if we include the ten won by HCC II). Soft dismissals have been the bane of Voorburg’s season, and with the side facing one of the tougher programmes over the last five weeks they must be looking to provide stiffer resistance against an HCC attack which – Overdijk apart – is tidy rather than devastating.

BdJ’s tips: VRA, Excelsior, Dosti, ACC, HBS, HCC.

RL’s tips: VOC, Excelsior, VRA, ACC, HBS, HCC.

Round 13 Preview

Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 11/07/19

This week’s round features what may prove to be the most decisive match of the entire Topklasse campaign, with leaders Excelsior ’20 facing the side they displaced last Sunday, ACC. At the other end of the table, VRA Amsterdam and Quick Haag take on tough challenges against the remaining teams from the top four, respectively HBS Craeyenhout and HCC.

RL: While the chance of these sides finishing level at the end of the season have been greatly diminished by last week’s tie, the encounter between Excelsior and ACC at Het Loopveld is of vital importance to both teams. The Schiedammers won their earlier clash at Thurlede, and a repeat performance here would lift them three points clear of their rivals, while ACC would leapfrog back to the top of the table if they evened the score. How badly the Amsterdammers’ confidence has been dented by their dramatic collapse against Voorburg, and how effectively they can throw it off, are obviously key factors, while Excelsior’s failure to overhaul Sparta’s relatively modest total – however much the one point from the tie may have been a consolation prize – will cause them some concern as well. Both attacks, though, have been performing well, with Tom Heggelman and Rens van Troost taking wickets for the visitors and Brady Barends and Saqib Zulfiqar doing the damage for ACC. Form suggests a low-scoring game, but a big innings from one of the top order for either side would likely settle the matter in his team’s favour.

BdJ: The combination of (no) results thus far has indeed effectively taken net run rate out of the equation at both ends of the table, but without question Sunday’s clash at het Loopveld is a true four-pointer. A three point lead would put Excelsior in full control of the table, likely needing only three wins from five to reclaim the title. Whilst their two Jamaican pros hit the ground running early in the season, it has taken a while for the rest of the side to hit their stride. Yet of late they have looked a more complete side, with Etman and Verhagen finding some form with the bat too. A longish tail remains their chief weakness, though it’s one that they share with their rivals for the top spot. Jean Marais’ promotion to the openers slot has paid off on occasion, notably against VRA, but leaves them looking more top-heavy than most. Early wickets, as they say, will be key.

RL: Having been unable to take advantage of the leaders’ travails, HCC will be keen to avoid any further slip-up when they take on relegation-threatened Quick Haag at De Diepput. Given that Quick’s bowling strength is mostly in the seam department the fact that VRA’s spinners took three wickets apiece against HCC may be less relevant than otherwise, and the other side of that coin is that Quick conceded 338 against VOC. As always, Jay Bista is the potential trump card, but with Adam Wiffen and Bryce Street in their line-up and Boris Gorlee playing his best Topklasse innings to date last week, HCC seem well-placed to match his influence and to counter the threat posed by his compatriot Prathamesh Dake. Quick will need all their support acts to be at their best if they are to overcome the all-round strength of HCC, who will certainly start as firm favourites.

BdJ: The quick-fire century in a losing cause is becoming something of a trademark for Jay Bista, much to his own irritation, one suspects. It’s not hard to imagine another come Sunday, as a big Bista score has generally proved necessary but not sufficient for a Quick victory. As much as quantity of runs, Quick are unduly dependent on the Mumbaiker to drive the scoring. Whilst Doc Mol has provided regular support and others have chipped in on occasion, Bista has had to score twice as fast of any of his partners to keep the scoreboard ticking at a moderate rate. Quick’s attack will have to substantially up their game if they are to hold HCC to a modest total, or risk again leaving Bista with too much to do.

RL: Suddenly the match between HBS Craeyenhout and VRA Amsterdam has become a mouth-watering prospect between what should be two of the more entertaining teams in the competition. HBS have, of course, been running up big totals and pressuring opponents into defeat all season, but the resurgence of VRA with Peter Borren back at the helm has enlivened things enormously, and not just the battle to avoid relegation. Emile van den Burg celebrated his release with his first century for four years a couple of weeks ago, but it was Borren and Eric Szwarczynski who put their side in a winning position against HCC. With Vikram Singh, still a work in progress, and Ben Cooper, VRA have a top five to match the home side’s, and capable of totals even their vulnerable attack can defend. That said, HBS have the superior record and a better-balanced side, and know they need to keep winning to keep pace with the top three.

BdJ: For all the inconsistency of VRA’s underperforming top order, it is the bowling that has really let them down this season. On that front there is cause for optimism however, with Gunning and Graber beginning to find some rhythm and Ben Cooper’s continued improvement bolstering the spin section. HBS remain favourites come Sunday though. Even if VRA are perhaps unfortunate to be playing them two weeks before they lose Toby Visée to the GT20, his role remains wildcard rather than linchpin with the rest of the top four all in the top six of the batting averages. Improving or no, it’s difficult to see the VRA attack containing them.

RL: A coldly dispassionate eye might suggest that Sparta 1888 have outperformed their strength on paper, at least on occasions, by as much as Dosti United have underperformed theirs. How else to account for the fact that a side which boasts the talents of Taruwar Kohli, Anees Davids, Abhinav Bali, Kuldeep Diwan and Amitoze Singh, not to mention former Dutch internationals Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed, has suffered the same number of defeats as the much more modestly-equipped Capelle team? But Sparta amply demonstrated their fighting qualities in achieving that tie with Excelsior last Sunday, while for Dosti Kohli again found himself in a largely lone battle in pursuit of an imposing target. None of which will prevent Dosti starting as favourites when the sides meet at Sportpark Drieburg this week, although those odds could be narrowed somewhat should the home team be bowling first – Dosti are much more effective batting first, and Sparta have the knack of finding someone to step up as required. Last week it was Andrew Fletcher, who seems at last to have adjusted to Dutch conditions.

BdJ: Fair to say that Dosti have the more impressive roster of the two, with talents previously kept in the second team by the old rules now making their presence felt in the Topklasse, but Kohli remains the only consistent performer for the Amsterdammers and even he is having a quiet season by his admittedly high standards. Sparta, meanwhile, have had to carry their underperforming pros for the first half of the season, and if Fletcher, like Tarr, has belatedly found some form their line-up looks rather stronger than their place on the table would suggest. And as to former Dutch internationals, it must be said that Mudassar Bukhari is currently enjoying a rather more productive retirement than Ahmed or Tewarie.

RL: The contrast between the victories of VOC Rotterdam and Voorburg last Sunday could scarcely be starker: VOC won the highest-scoring game of the day after seeing off a stern Jay Bista challenge, while Voorburg were dismissed for 122 – fewer than VOC’s Max O’Dowd made on his own – and still won by 47 runs. So the clash between these two mid-table sides at Hazelaarweg this week presents an intriguing prospect: a batting side whose big guns are scoring prolifically against what is perhaps the most potent attack in the competition, and one whose top and middle order has been consistently disappointing against bowling which has tended to lack impact. The key for Voorburg will be to get rid of O’Dowd early and to limit the impact of Pieter Seelaar and Scott Edwards, and by the same token, VOC will be looking to cut through a surprisingly fragile Voorburg top five. It’s the first of these two which will likely determine the destination of the points.

BdJ: At the start of the season, few would have predicted that the absence of Umar Baker would have such a dramatic effect on the title-holders’ fortunes. Yet with a spin-friendly home ground and O’Dowd experimenting unsuccessfully with leg-spin for half a season the loss of ten overs of solid spin has been telling. VOC didn’t lose a single game at home in 2018, this season they’ve lost four already. If the batting is reliant on their three Dutch internationals, it’s not clear who the bowling should depend on, with VOC using an average of eight different bowlers in each of their past five games. VCC’s top order has indeed underperformed all season, but then they may look at a trip to Hazelaarweg as a chance to play themselves back into form.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, HBS, Dosti, VOC.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, HCC, HBS, Sparta, VCC.