Round 3 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 15/05/19

After just two rounds (or rather less, since VRA and VOC didn’t play last week), the Topklasse has already begun to take shape, with the stronger teams making their presence felt and a couple of early candidates for the looming relegation battle already looking over their shoulders. The presence of the largest overseas contingent in the history of Dutch cricket, however, is likely to have a powerful influence on the eventual outcome in what may be one of the closest competitions for many years.

RL: Having overcome Dosti in the final over last week, HCC will be full of confidence when they take on VRA Amsterdam at De Diepput. The Amsterdammers had a very unhappy start to their campaign, collapsing to 139 all out against ACC, and after a week off, need a quick reset. It took some splendid resistance from Peter Borren to get them even that far, and they will need a much better start from their top order, featuring Eric Szwarczynski, Ben Cooper and the promising Vikram Singh, if they are to trouble an HCC side in which Adam Wiffen and Bryce Street are already amongst the runs. The Hagenaars’ bowling has yet really to fire – Hidde Overdijk’s four-wicket haul against Dosti the exception – but the batting looks strong and will provide a significant test for VRA’s bowling.

BdJ: VRA will hope that they can break the habit of losing twice in their first two matches by the simple expedient of not playing in the second round, though with only a heavy loss to ACC under their belt the Amsterdammers head to de Diepput short of both momentum and match practice. They will take some comfort, however, from the return of opening bowler Quirijn Gunning, who took 6-47 against HCC last season across the two matches, and Ben Cooper also has also been in the runs, making an impressive (if far from chanceless) 135 for the Hurricanes in last week’s pro-series match. Wiffen and Street may be the two batsmen causing them the most concern, but HCC are hardly a 2-man show, with Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee both continuing to improve, and Douwe Walhain, as VRA will well remember, still packing a punch down the order. With both sides boasting batting line-ups capable of taking wayward bowlers to task, the winners at de Diepput will likely be whichever side does a better job of keeping the big guns quiet.

RL: HBS Craeyenhout have set out their stall pretty effectively in their first two outings, beating a promising HCC side at home and then accounting for Sparta 1888 at Bermweg last Saturday. After two tight finishes in as many games, though, Dosti United Amsterdam will be looking to upset the unbeaten Crows this week. The HBS top five of Zac Elkin, Tobias Visée, Sharn Gomes, Navjit Singh and Wesley Barresi is as menacing as any in the competition, and with a five-man seam attack and two spinners they have a well-balanced bowling unit as well. Dosti’s four overseas players are capable of demolishing any opposition if they all come off at the same time, but the Amsterdam side will have been encouraged by the early batting form of Rahil Ahmed and Vinoo Tewarie as well. This promises to be a great battle.

BdJ: Another match-up where one would expect bat to dominate ball, HBS racked up a record 356-run total against Dosti in the same fixture last season on their way to a 134-run victory. This time round the Crows are without Jaron Morgan, who hit a brutal 115 off 93 in that match, but this season’s top order is no less intimidating, and there is now a sizeable Mohammad Hafeez-shaped hole in Dosti’s bowling attack. Left arm spinner Kuldeep Diwan has stepped up admirably in his place however, with the relaxation of overseas restrictions meaning the former Himachal Pradesh all-rounder is set to play a more significant role for the Amsterdam club this season. The key man for Dosti remains Taruwar Kohli, however, his string of three-figure scores underpinned their early top-table challenge last season, and another one looks a crucial ingredient to any potential upset on Saturday.

RL: The most attractive fixture of the round, however, is probably the clash between early leaders ACC and promoted side Voorburg, whose batting collapse against Excelsior last week will have concentrated their minds considerably. One of the big stories of the first two weeks has been the success of 16-year-old ACC batsman Shirase Rasool, who may have become the youngest top-flight centurion in history last week with his unbeaten 117 against Quick Haag (we’re still checking that one!). His side have been untroubled in their opening matches, but Voorburg are likely to provide a rather stiffer test. In Brandon Glover and Viv Kingma they have the sharpest pace attack of all, and Clayton Floyd’s spin will trouble opposing batsmen with greater success than he enjoyed against Excelsior. This, too, should be an absorbing contest, and the outcome may depend on whether it’s Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde who turns up at Het Loopveld.

BdJ: A maiden fifty in round one, a maiden century in round two, by simple extrapolation one would expect that this week or next young Rasool will hit the Topklasse’s first double ton since Ben Cooper’s 202 against Hermes in 2013. Reversion to the mean is probably rather more likely of course, but the performances of Rasool and the equally young Arjan Kumar suggest that ACC’s habit of blooding youngsters early may finally pay off for them this season. Whether it will do so on Saturday specifically is rather a different question of course, and despite VCC’s collapse against Excelsior last weekend they remain among the favourites for the title this year, and Glover and Kingma are a big reason why. Kingma’s continued fitness issues have meant that he’s bowled only 5 overs in the Topklasse so far, missing the first match and bowling 2nd change against Excelsior, but he looked back in form in the Pro-Series on Sunday, taking 3-22 in 6 for the Seafarers whilst Glover bagged 3-44 for the other side. The pair will likely prove a tougher test for ACC’s top order, which will be without Sikander Zulfiqar again this week owing to a side strain. Zulfiqar’s benching also leave ACC’s attack looking rather thinner, though Brady Barends looks to have taken to Dutch conditions well.

RL: Having upset the Voorburg apple-cart last Saturday, Excelsior ’20 Schiedam return to Thurlede to take on Sparta 1888, who have been disappointing in their two games so far. With the exception of Brenton Parchment the Schiedammers’ seam attack has yet to find its rhythm (or, indeed, its radar), but with spinners Lorenzo Ingram and Umar Baker bowling as well as they did last week that is less of a problem that it might otherwise be. Ingram and Parchment are also the core of the batting, although it was Tim Etman whose resilience saw the side through to their seven-wicket victory against Voorburg. The Sparta bowlers fought back well against HBS, but the batting has so far been too dependent on old stagers Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman, and they will be looking for a bigger contribution from overseas players Andrew Fletcher and Garrett Tarr.

BdJ: The performance of Parchment and Ingram for Excelsior is the principal reason the Schiedammers are two from two heading into the third round, whilst for Sparta slow starts for both their overseas goes a long way toward explaining their winless record thus far. In the circumstances Sparta’s home players have made a decent fist of picking up the slack, but without significant contributions from their pros it’s hard to see them competing this season. The batting, especially, looks fragile when Fletcher and Tarr fail. Though new signing Ali Raza remains a menace at the top of the order and Bukhari looks in fine nick coming in at six, Sparta will likely need one of Fletcher or Tarr to start earning their keep if they are to take point home from Thurlede.

RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam began the season among the favourites, and they were a little unfortunate to fall foul of the DLS system in their opening match against Dosti. After a week cooling their heels they return to the action at home to Quick Haag, who continue to miss their overseas players Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake. VOC’s international trio of Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards and Pieter Seelaar are crucial for their title hopes, but the attack looks somewhat diminished by the loss of Fred Klaassen. Pierce Fletcher, though, has a new new-ball partner in Ashiqullah Said, and they struck early against Dosti in a badly rain-affected opener. It’s much too soon to count them out of the running, and they should be too strong for a depleted Quick, notwithstanding the batting exploits of Rupert Young, whose century enlivened an otherwise feeble run chase against ACC.

BdJ: In the absence of Bista and Dake Quick will again start as underdogs on Saturday, though former skipper Tim Gruijters looks to have done his old club a fine favour by dispatching his Leeston-Southbridge CC team-mate from New Zealand as cover. Young’s defiant century was about the only positive Quick could take from their 3-figure defeat at the hands of ACC, and the bowling especially looks a worry with O’Dowd in particular looking in solid form, coming off the back of a Pro-Series 95 on Sunday. The loss of Klaassen to Kent, and to a lesser extent Baker to Excelsior, has certainly taken some of the sting from VOC’s attack this season, but against and understrength Quick they should be confident enough of avoiding a second home defeat.

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

Round 2 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 09/05/19

With VRA and VOC postponing their fixture this week until July 20th, we’ve just the four matches coming up on Saturday for the 2nd round of the Topklasse season. Though Dosti and HCC considered playing their fixture on VRA’s second ground, the match has instead been relocated to de Diepput, leaving the capital bereft of top division cricket this weekend.

BdJ:Coming off a nail-biting rain-affected win over last year’s champions VOC, which was eventually decided by a DLS margin of just one run, Dosti-United, in lieu of home advantage, will be hoping to carry some momentum into their game against HCC, who sank to a 6-wicket defeat away at HBS last week thanks in large part to the efforts of centurion Wesley Barresi. New acquisition Adam Wiffen had racked up an unbeaten ton of his own in that match, hitting 135 off 128 on Topklasse debut, a promising start for the 21 year-old who HCC will hope can fill the hole left by Jonathan Vandiar. Though HCC’s seam attack were made to look rather toothless by the rampant Barresi, they nonetheless picked up early wickets against a strong HBS top order, and could well do the same against Dosti’s historically more brittle line-up. Taru Kohli’s will be the wicket they want the most, though skipper Vinoo Tewarie was the man who saw his side home last week, knuckling down with the middle order to strike an unbeaten and eventually match-winning 47 off 71. Dosti will hope that Tewarie’s innings was a sign of things to come, and that the Amsterdammers’ local cohort can step up this season, to compensate for the club’s more conservative overseas acquisition strategy.

RL: With four overseas players in their line-up – Indians Taruwar Kohli, Amitoze Singh and Kuldeep Diwan and South African Anees Davids – Dosti are making full use of the collapse of the KNCB’s restrictions. While that wasn’t the decisive factor last week, it will no doubt stand them in good stead this season. HCC, though, also have four imports: Dutch resident Bharat Itagi, Dutch passport holder Adam Wiffen, Bryce Street and Matt Hay, and with their home-grown contingent looking more and more at home in the Topklasse, they, too, will be a force to be reckoned with. Barresi’s match-winning knock did emphasise the limitations of HCC’s attack, but in other respects the two Den Haag sides were pretty evenly matched until Barresi cut loose, and this may prove to be another hard-fought encounter.

BdJ: Meanwhile HBS Craeyenhout travel to Bermweg to take on Sparta 1888, who sank to a 25-run defeat at the hands of former Hoofdklasse rival VCC last week. Twin ducks from Sparta’s overseas signings Andrew Fletcher and Garnett Tarr did not help their cause at Voorburg, though one suspects the pair will acclimatise to Dutch conditions in time. The rest of the batting order at least have runs under their belt though, Mudassar Bukhari’s battling 47 keeping them in the game into the death last week. The seam attack’s lack of penetration will be more of a worry however, especially against an HBS top order that can quickly put the game beyond reach if early wickets fail to come.

RL: HBS were title contenders for much of last season, and with Sharn Gomes joined by lively seamer Zak Gibson and batsman Zac Elkin they will certainly not be less of a handful this time round. Gomes is a known quantity, and if none of the trio played a decisive part against HCC they all fitted into a side which is a well-balanced unit. Navjit Singh’s composed knock suggests that he is developing into a valuable allrounder, and the seam attack of which he is a quarter will trouble many opposing batsmen. Sparta, on the other hand, struggled to get into the game against a powerful Voorburg unit, and will be hoping that Fletcher and Tarr are able to play significant innings in their initial home match. The Sparta attack was able to make little impression on Voorburg’s top order, but it may be a different proposition at traditionally bowler-friendly Bermweg.

BdJ: Toward the top of the nascent table Voorburg CC will welcome Excelsior ‘20 to Westvliet, both sides looking to go two-from-two. Excelsior looked far from convincing last week on their way to a four wicket win over a Quick Haag side still waiting on their pros, but new signing Brenton Parchment seems to have taken to Dutch conditions like a duck to Dutch conditions. His all-round performance was the difference on Saturday in an otherwise forgettable encounter, though Umar Baker also did himself credit on debut at Thurlede. The question remains whether they will be able to trouble the thoroughly-acclimatised Matt Smit, who showed every sign of carrying over his intimidating form in the Hoofdklasse last season into the top flight. Smit’s 137-ball 110 meant much of the VCC batting remains untested in the Topklasse, though Noah Croes and Steve Nottle also looked unperturbed by the step up in divisions.

RL: Voorburg were indeed impressive on their return to the top flight, and Excelsior face a stiff test on their visit to Westvliet. With Parchment joining Lorenzo Ingram in Schiedam in succession to James Hilditch Excelsior have resisted the temptation to increase their overseas contingent, preferring to rely upon the ‘class of 2016’ who won them back-to-back championships. They may not have been at top pitch in last week’s miserable conditions, but they will certainly let us see whether Voorburg are as strong as they appeared to be in their victory over Sparta. Their reliance on their overseas players and the inconsistency of their top and middle order were issues even in Excelsior’s title-winning seasons, and they will need to resolve them if they are again to be in the mix for this year’s championship.

BdJ: Finally ACC will travel to Nieuw Hanenburg to take on Quick Haag who will start as underdogs in their own yard, looking for their first win and hoping to get it without the aid of the nigh-indispensable Jay Bista and his fellow Mumbaiker Prathamesh Dake. Stand-in overseas Rupert Young and Pieter Groenewald managed only ten runs between them last week, though the rest of the side’s performance was more promising than it appears on a scorecard. New skipper Daan Vierling, especially, showed some fight down the order as he dragged his side into three figures with the help of Doc Mol and Thijs van Schelven, the latter also looking back to his old self with the ball, giving away just 18 from his 8 overs and eventually bagging the wicket of match-winner Parchment, albeit by then too late. ACC will be riding high after their victory in the Amsterdam Derby last week, and the performances of youngsters Arjan Kumar and Shirase Rasool especially are a cause for optimism for the coming season. The Amsterdammers also have the advantage of their two overseas players having arrived in timely fashion, Bardy Barends’ return of 2-29 last week suggesting he knows what he’s about on a mat and Jean Marais still yet to lose his wicket in the unfamiliar conditions.

RL: Indeed, the decisive contributions of Kumar and Rasool last week suggested that ACC’s youth policy may be starting to bear fruit, and with Quick still waiting for Bista and Dake the home side will have to raise their game significantly on their new, artificial turf. The Haantjes don’t lack experience, but the old guard have struggled to hold their own in the top flight over the past year, and they will need to be at their best against the emerging talent of the Amsterdam side. It might be an exaggeration to see this game as an intergenerational battle, especially since ACC looked a more balanced outfit against VRA than they did last season and Quick have a couple of youngsters of their own, but Quick’s old hands such as Geert Maarten Mol, Lesley Stokkers and Jeroen Brand will have a lot resting on their shoulders as they attempt to hold the fort until reinforcements arrive from Mumbai.

Bertus’s predictions: HCC, HBS, Voorburg, ACC.

Rod’s predictions: Dosti, HBS, Voorburg, ACC.

Dosti ambush the champions, but Voorburg stake their claim

Rod Lyall 06/05/19

The opening weekend of the 2019 Topklasse campaign turned out to be as incident-filled as some seasons might not manage in the first month, as freezing cold, intermittent rain and occasional bursts of sunshine provided the context for some thoroughly entertaining cricket.

It also revealed the true extent of the New Order created by the collapse of the KNCB’s attempts to limit the number of foreign players per team, which is less than some may have feared but still more than many will have hoped.

With three matches played on Saturday and the remaining two on Sunday, only one game proved free of the influence of Messrs Duckworth, Lewis and Stern, with ACC dismissing Amstelveen rivals VRA for 139 at Het Loopveld on Sunday and knocking off the runs in 36.4 overs for the loss of three wickets.

Here it was two local youngsters who made all the difference: seamer Aryan Kumar took four for 28 as VRA collapsed to 38 for six at one stage, and then Shirase Rasool hit a maiden Topklasse half-century, making 56 on the way to ACC’s comprehensive victory.

Top-scorer for VRA was former national captain Peter Borren, whose 81 constituted an almost single-handed attempt to rescue his side; keeper Mitch Lees, who shared in a 59-run seventh-wicket stand, was the only other player to reach double figures.

The other Sunday game was a fluctuating affair which featured contrasting unbeaten centuries by opener Adam Wiffin for HCC and Wesley Barresi for HBS.

Batting throughout his side’s innings, Wiffin made 135 not out from 128 deliveries, hitting 11 fours and three sixes. Farshad Khan claimed three wickets for HBS and Julian de Mey two, and at 135 for five it seemed as if HCC might struggle to get far past 200.

But then Matt Hay chipped in with 30 in a sixth-wicket stand of 64, and as Wiffin cut loose in the closing stages he was well supported by Ali Ahmad Qasim, and HCC finished with 246 for seven.

Qasim and Hidde Overdijk grabbed three early wickets when HBS replied, but with the target reduced to 236 from 45 overs after two brief interruptions for rain, Navjit Singh (55) shared a partnership of 138 with Barresi, who dominated the bowling from the time he arrived at the crease, hitting a match-winning 93-ball 126 not out, which included 11 fours and five sixes, and HBS took the points with eight deliveries remaining.

The closest match of the weekend was at Hazelaarweg on Saturday, where overnight rain caused the match between VOC and Dosti to be reduced to 31 overs before the start. An interruption during the VOC innings caused a further reduction to 28 overs, from which the home side made 143 for seven.

Max O’Dowd gave them a solid start with 45, and Pieter Seelaar contributed a not-out 38 from just 23 balls, while Kuldeep Diwan, one of Dosti’s four overseas players, took four for 16.

The Dosti target was adjusted to 150, and VOC appeared to have the upper hand when Rahil Ahmed and Taruwar Kohli were both dismissed by the time 20 was on the board.

But skipper Vinoo Tewarie anchored the innings with 47 not out, and with smaller contributions from Amitoze Singh and Diwan, they had reached 129 for five in 25.1 overs when further rain brought an end to proceedings.

That was just one run ahead of the DLS par score at that stage, and thus Dosti were the winners by the narrowest of margins.

Matt Smit
That’s hundred for Matt Smit!

Fielding a side with no fewer than six overseas players, three of them the bearers of Dutch passports, Voorburg demonstrated the power of their batting line-up by compiling 229 for three in their 47 overs, with opener Matt Smit making 110 before he fell to the final ball of the innings.The rain also brought a premature end at Westvliet, but in this case promoted side Voorburg had established an unambiguous advantage over Sparta 1888.

He shared in stands of 124 with Noah Croes (59) and 77 with Steve Nottle (39 not out), while the only successful Sparta bowlers were Joost-Martijn Snoep with two wickets and Usman Saleem with one.

Pace man Brandon Glover then removed Andrew Fletcher in the first over of Sparta’s reply, and although Ali Raza hit a brisk 32 and Tim de Kok a patient 33, and the target was eventually reduced to 225 off 44 overs after another shower, it was only former international Mudassar Bukhari who showed any real sign of keeping his side in the game.

When he was bowled by Smit for 47 to make it 176 for seven the game was effectively over, and at 190 for nine after 42 overs when the rain descended again, Sparta lost by 25 runs. The wickets were shared, with two apiece for Glover, Yasir Hamid, Stef Mulder and Clayton Floyd.

The rain had also left its mark on Thurlede, where the match between Excelsior ’20 and Quick Haag was reduced to 37 overs before the start.

Put in to bat, Quick struggled against the Excelsior attack, with West Indian international Brenton Parchment taking three for 35 on his Topklasse debut and only Geert Maarten Mol (22) among the top order showing any real resistance.

New skipper Daan Vierling (24) and Thijs van Schelven (29 not out) managed to get their side up to 146 for seven, but this never seemed likely to be enough, even in difficult conditions for batting.

At 56 for four, with key batsman Lorenzo Ingram among those back in the dug-out, Excelsior were making heavy weather of the chase, but Parchment’s 77-ball 49 was the decisive factor, and in a low-scoring game his 55-run stand with David Woutersen (31) laid the foundation for the win.

By the time Parchment fell to Van Schelven only five runs were needed, and Rens van Troost and Gijs Kroesen saw their side home by four wickets with 14 deliveries to spare.

Round 1 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/05/19

The 2019 competition opens with a split round over the Liberation Day weekend, with three matches taking place as originally scheduled on Saturday and two moved to Sunday. In a further adjustment to the normal programme, Saturday’s matches will start at 10:00 in order to allow for the observance of the national commemoration in the evening, while those on Sunday will commence at 12:00.

RL: Much attention will focus on Voorburg’s Westvliet ground, which was in its first season when the club last played in the top flight. Their guests on their return will be Sparta 1888, who made a winning start last season on their own return to top-division cricket. Saturday’s match will give us a first glimpse of Voorburg’s side, impressive as it unquestionably is on paper, while Joost-Martijn Snoep and Mudassar Bukhari will have the task of quickly moulding their reshuffled outfit into a winning combination. The return of Viv Kingma to Westvliet adds a good deal to the Voorburg attack, and it would come as no surprise if the home side take the points.

BdJ: Also expecting a winning return to the Topklasse here for VCC, who have arguably just been biding their time in the second division in the last couple of seasons to build a side capable of making an immediate impact. Even with Bas de Leede’s departure for England this Voorburg side has the look of top four contenders rather than also-rans, though Sparta’s strength is perhaps tough to guage given the personnel changes over the winter. In Fletcher and Tarr they have two batsmen with proper first-class pedigree, and should they both take quickly to Dutch conditions Sparta may yet take an early lead again this season, but such rapid adjustment has generally been rare in batsmen new to the country.

RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam will be at home to Dosti Amsterdam at the Hazelaarweg on Saturday, and despite the loss of Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker from their attack they will start as clear favourites. They were not always completely convincing last season, especially with the bat and early in the season, but they settled into a formidable combination as the campaign went on, and although the pace attack will look different they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Dosti are likely to rely heavily on their overseas players, but will also be hoping that Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed among the batsmen and Mahesh Hans, Asief Hoseinbaks and Wahid Masood among the bowlers can play a greater role. If that happens this could be an intriguing game to watch.

BdJ: Hans and the wily Mohammad Hafeez will likely be key to Dosti’s hopes of upsetting the defending champions in the season opener as they memorably did a year ago, though this time they’re taking on the title holders in their own yard, where they went unbeaten last season. It remains to be seen whether VOC persist with their tactic of preparing dry, turning wickets again now that they are a spinner lighter, but either way if Vinoo Tewarie hopes to grab two points off the better-fancied VOC in the first game again, a good start might be winning the toss.

RL: Excelsior ‘20, who entertain Quick Haag at Thurlede in the third of Saturday’s matches, will be keen to put a slightly disappointing 2018 behind them and return to the winning ways which took them to the title in the two previous seasons. Lorenzo Ingram has been joined in Schiedam by West Indian Test batsman Brenton Parchment, who has the most distinguished credentials of any of this year’s overseas players, and surrounded by a talented bunch of young players who are now three years older and more experienced than they were when they first claimed the championship, they should prove too strong for a Quick side which tailed off badly last season.

BdJ: Well word is Quick are still waiting on overseas signings Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake, who are both apparently going under the hammer at the Mumbai T20 tomorrow when Quick might prefer them to be taking the field, while both Lorenzo Ingram and Brenton Parchment have arrived in good order for Excelsior. Given Bista kept Quick afloat more-or-less single-handedly last season it would be a remarkable upset if they were to knock over a full-strength Excelsior tomorrow without him. That said, it would presumably be a major confidence boost if they managed it. Skipper-in-exile Tim Gruijters has apparently arranged for his Canterbury Country team-mate Rupert Young to fly over and bolster the Quick batting, whilst the veteran Edgar Schiferli is understood to have taken the team in hand over the winter, subjecting them to a remorseless and unrelenting fitness program, and is reportedly mulling a return to competitive cricket to continue pushing his side on the field. They are still far from favourites tomorrow, but it could just be that the 2014 champions surprise everyone this season.

RL: On Sunday ACC, with South Africans Jean Marais and Brady Barends making their Topklasse debuts, will take on VRA Amsterdam at Het Loopveld in the first of this season’s traditional derbies. The Bos-dwellers turned out to be the strongest of VOC’s challengers last year, and although they will be without Daan ter Braak this season they have the most experienced outfit of all: Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski have more than 7000 top-flight runs each, and will again provide the core of the batting. Het Loopveld, though, can be a tricky place to visit, and the Amsterdam derby in recent years has generally been a hard-fought affair.

BdJ: Het Loopveld may take some getting used to for visitors, but this VRA side have generally felt quite at home there. Last season they skittled the home side for 112 and then knocked off the runs for the loss of just two wickets in half their allotted overs, despite a 3-ball duck for Peter Borren who generally makes hay on the ACC mat. Somewhat perversely, the visiting side will be more familiar with the “conditions” at ACC than two of the home side’s key players, with Marais and Barends likely having little experience on artificial pitches. That said, VRA are traditionally slow starters in the Topklasse and will be without Quirijn Guinning, who took 2-17 in the team’s last encounter at het Loopeveld.

RL: The other Sunday game pits HBS against HCC at Craeyenhout. The only first-round match which pits two teams from the top half of last season’s table against one another, this promises to be an absorbing duel. With New Zealander Zak Gibson and South African Zac Elkin joining Sharn Gomes at Craeyenhout HBS promise to be at least as strong as they were last year, while HCC will have Gibson’s compatriot Matt Hay joining Ryan Ninan to support their crop of young locally-produced players, led by allrounder Hidde Overdijk, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee in the batting and Ali Ahmed Qasim among the bowlers.

BdJ: HBS carry form and home advantage into their opening fixture after the match-up was belatedly relocated, and are firm favourites on paper. Despite the loss of Jaron Morgan, the Crows only look to have got stronger over the off-season, whilst HCC have put their faith in their maturing cohort of youth players. Word is that Ninan will not in fact be back at all for HCC this season, and indeed he was absent for both their warm-up matches. Heavy defeats in both suggest HCC’s young side has yet to really find their feet under new skipper Tonny Staal, and they will either need everything to click for them if they are to take home 2 points from Craeyenhout or Ali Ahmed Qasim to put on a repeat of his performance at the crows’ nest from last season.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Voorburg, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.

Season preview 2019 – Part 2

Bertus de Jong 03/05/2019

Logo HCCWith a youthful looking squad and an absent Jonathan Vandiar, HCC were more-or-less targetting a mid-table finish last season, and got it. The side is a year older this time round, and may revise their expectations upwards somewhat, even if rumours of Vandiar’s return proved only half-true (that is to say, he’s back in the country but headed to Punjab Rotterdam).

Bryce Street, the seam all-rounder brought in as Vandiar’s replacement, did an admirable job last season filling those considerable shoes with 649 runs at 41 and 23 wickets, and the addition of 21 year-old left-handed opener Adam Wiffen, who comes across from Worcestershire and has already drawn the attention of national team coach Ryan Campbell, means HCC’s top-order looks a deal stronger than last summer.

With two young overseas signings and the retirement of skipper Mark Jonkman over the winter,HCC will be reliant on the increasing maturity of youth graduates Hidde Overdijk and Tonny Staal, both now 23 and hovering around the fringes of national selection, and u-19s bat Boris Gorlee. Staal, returned from a season at Balcatta CC in Perth Grade Cricket, will be the league’s second-youngest captain, and if rumours that overseas spinner Ryan Ninan’s is in doubt prove accurate, HCC’s leadership group will look very young indeed.

Should Ninan stay away, HCC’s slow-bowling options will also be limited to part-timers or fringe players, though even without Jonkman the seam section of Qasim, Bijloos, Overdijk and Street is an enviable one. Consecutive defeats in their two warm-up matches against VRA and Excelsior do not augur well, however. A slow start last season left them fighting an uphill battle all Summer, and Staal’s side have no more time to settle in. There’s plenty of young talent at de Diepput, but they’ll need to hit the ground running if they are to mount a serious challenge this season.

LogoExcelsiorAfter two championships on the trot in 2016 and 2017, Excelsior ‘20 finished a disappointing 4th last season, 5 wins behind VOC at the top of the table. A comparatively quiet season (by his standards) for star overseas Lorenzo Ingram rather exposed the Schiedammer’s reliance on the Jamaican left-arm spinning all-rounder, especially in terms of batting. Ingram’s tally of 611 runs was more than 200 clear of the next contributor, Tim Etman. The likely absence this season of opening bowler and lower-order trouble-shooter James Hilditch, who has been roped in as Assistant coach for the national team, is also likely to put more pressure on the young core of the side to step up this season.

That said, the signing of former West Indies test bat Brenton Parchment, probably the most eye-catching acquisition of the season will likely do more than a little to shore up the batting. Joost Kroesen’s unbeaten 80 in a warm-up against Hermes also suggest he may have put a disappointing 2018 behind him, and skipper Tom Heggelman also has runs under his belt heading into the season opener against Quick Haag.

Umar Baker arrives from VOC to share in Ingram’s slow-bowling duties, whilst Parchment is also capable of sending down some serviceable off-spin. Heggelman meanwhile leads a sprightly but occasionally expensive pace attack further comprising Sohail Bhatti, Gijs Kroesen and Rens van Troost, and will at least be spoiled for options when cycling through his attack.

With the addition of Parchment and Baker the Schiedammers arguably have a stronger side than they did in either of their championship seasons, but last season it was above all the failure of the promising youngsters in the side to kick on that cost them a shot at defending their title. Good seasons for one or both of their Jamaican overseas will likely be enough to keep them in contention this time round, but the Thurlede faithful will be hoping above all that their maturing youth cohort come into their own this season.

LogoHBSHBS-Craeyenhout’s big-hitting top order couldn’t quite carry them into Topklasse title contention last year, despite Sharn Gomes, Wesley Barresi, Toby Visee and Jaron Morgan all crossing 500 runs in the season. Even with the departure of Morgan the top order remains the most intimidating in the league, however, and with Western Province opener Zac Elkin coming in to play foil to the ever explosive Visee at the top of the order the batting may even have gained a degree of stability.

New Zealand under-19s seamer Zak Gibson also joins the Crows, taking some pressure off spearhead Berend Westdijk who will likely be skipping a few games this season owing to work commitments. With Farshad Khan and Wessel Coster coming off the back of solid seasons, the HBS pace attack looks in good shape, whilst the spin attack comprising Wesley Barresi (who has taken to his new role as off-spinning all-rounder with all the zealousness of a convert) paired with the ever more impressive Julian de Mey looks equally sound. With allrounders Navjit Singh and Ferdi Vink also impressing last season, there’s no obvious weak links in this HBS side.

After claiming the national T20 title last season, the Crows were disappointed to discover that qualification for the new European Championship competition hinged on final Topklasse standings. It’s not out of the question that they’ll make doubly sure of their place in the next edition by the simple expedient of winning both this time round.

logo VRAAfter two seasons in a row as runners-up, VRA will be looking to end their seven-year title drought this season. They fell short by just one win last time round, and again a slow start to the season was in part to blame as opening losses to Quick and Excelsior left them playing catch-up for much of the season. They’ll be looking for a stronger start this time round, though with only a single serious warm-up against HCC ahead of the season opener against ACC on Sunday they risk again going in under-cooked.

They did bet HCC comfortably however, with rather unheralded overseas signing Brandon Graber bagging four wickets. South African seamer Graber comes in to replace the departing Vivian Kingma (who was largely sidelined by injury last season) and is one of a number of somewhat low-profile additions to the VRA roster that nonetheless look to have shored-up a side that often struggles with player availability, with Englishmen Matt Lake, Graeme Scott and Thomas Long also joining the side.

Headed the other way is opening bat Daan ter Braak, who won’t be returning for another season. His departure leaves a 600+-run gap in the batting and whilst new skipper Emile van den Burg would doubtless be delighted if Lake were to fill it, VRA will likely be looking first to the veteran Eric Szwarczynski to bounce back from a disappointing 2018 and cover the shortfall. Given a batting line-up that also includes Ben Cooper and former captain Peter Borren, VRA need not rue ter Braak’s departure unduly if the senior players deliver.

Borren will doubtless have a role to play with the ball too, though with Graber, Quirijn Gunning and Haseeb Gul in the side as front-line seamers and a solid spin section in Adeel Raja and Leon Turmaine he will hope to have more competition for the VRA lead wicket-taker title than he did last season. All told the Amsterdammers head into 2019 with a balanced side and a deeper bench than they have in the past couple of years, and going one better this time round is far from out of the question.

LogoVOC2018 champions VOC Rotterdam will have to mount their title defense without the services of new-ball spearhead Freddy Klaassen, the left arm quick having been picked up by Kent over the winter. The loss of their lead wicket-taker inevitably takes some of the sting out of the VOC seam attack, with more responsibility falling on the shoulders of Dirk van Baren, Bobby Hanif and newcomer Ashiqullah Said, as well as Pierce Fletcher, especially at the death.

VOC have never been over-reliant on pace however, their unbeaten home record at the spin-friendly Hazelaarweg last year largely built around the slow-bowling trio of Umar Baker, Max O’Dowd and skipper Pieter Seelaar. With Baker departing for Thurlede, O’Dowd and Seelaar will be all the more crucial to VOC’s fortunes both with bat and ball.

Together with keeper Scott Edwards, O’Dowd and Seelaar provided the bulk of VOC’s runs last season. VOC will hope that Corey Rutgers (the trio’s former analyst with the national side and VOC’s main overseas player) will be able to contribute more from the top of the order after a shattered finger rather limited his effectiveness last season.

As much as the absence of Klaassen, it is the strengthening competition that poses the biggest obstacle to a successful title defense for VOC – with their nearest rivals bagging some judicious signings and newcomers VCC arriving in the top division with an intimidating roster – but bar Klaassen the principle components of last season’s success remain in place.

Season preview 2019 – Part 1

Rod Lyall 30-04-19

VCCMuch of the initial interest in this year’s Topklasse competition will focus on promoted side Voorburg, returning to the top flight after a nine-year absence.

They lost just one match on their march to the Hoofdklasse title last season, and despite the absence of young international allrounder Bas de Leede, now in England with the MCC Young Cricketers, all the indications are that they will be stronger this year, and that they could even challenge for the Topklasse championship itself.

At the heart of their selection are four South Africans, two of them bearers of a Dutch passport and already members of Ryan Campbell’s national squad.

They are seamer Brandon Glover, who took 17 wickets at an average of 6.06 last year, and slow left-armer Clayton Floyd, whose 28 wickets at 13.61 contributed a good deal of the attack’s cutting edge.

He will share the new ball with Viv Kingma, who returns from injury and from VRA showing every sign of wanting to shake up opposing batsmen. Steffen Mulder, the only surviving member of the 2009 Voorburg side unless Tim de Leede decides to take his bat out of the cupboard one more time, will no doubt bowl his share of seamers as well.

With leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain, another member of the Dutch squad, to match Floyd’s left-arm spin Voorburg look to have a balanced and menacing attack.

And that’s without taking into account the contribution of South African brothers Matt and Nicholas Smith, whose main contribution is likely to be with the bat. Left-hander Matt hit 467 Hoofdklasse runs at an average of 116.75 in just seven matches last season before being forced out with a knee injury, and this year he will be joined by Nicholas; both have plenty of experience of club cricket in England, and can be expected to cause problems for opposing bowlers.

The side will again be captained by former Dutch international Tom de Grooth, and with keeper Mohit Hingorani and Australians Noah Croes and Steve Nottle also on their players’ list, Voorburg will be one of the teams to watch as the competition gets under way.

LogoACCThe South African influence will again also be strong at ACC, who will be hoping to improve on a very disappointing 2018 campaign.

Their new recruits are 26 year-old Boland batsman-wicketkeeper Jean Marais and 30 year-old North-West allrounder Brady Barends, who will bring some maturity to what is still a very young and inexperienced outfit.

The Zulfiqar presence will still be of great importance to the side, although Asad has moved to Punjab Rotterdam; elder brother Rehmat, one of the most improved players in the Topklasse last year, will still have skipper Saqib and the other remaining triplet, Sikander, alongside him in the team, even if it is unclear how regular an appearance will be made by their evergreen father Ahmed.

Above all, it’s consistency that the Amsterdammers will be looking for from their three remaining Zulfiqars: all have proved the ability to make big scores and to take crucial wickets from time to time, but their importance to the side is all the greater because of the club‘s commitment to a youth policy, and means that they need to come off more regularly than they were able to do last year.

There will be hope, too, that the younger brigade of Aryan Kumar – arguably the most successful of the group to date – Areeb Shoaib, Jamieson Mulready, Shirace Rasool, Ammar Zaidi and Shreyas Potdar will make significant progress this season, and that some at least of them will hold their own on the demanding Topklasse stage.

It’s not as if ACC don’t have more experienced players on their books: Bas van der Heyde topped the Second side’s batting averages last year, and with the likes of Rehan Younis and Steven de Bruin also potentially available, the opportunity is there to field a more balanced side.

Half-filling a side with teenagers is a laudable commitment to the future, but it only has real value if they are able to rise to the challenge.

LogoQuickJay Bista, the leading run-scorer in the Topklasse last season with 854 at an average of 47.44, is back at Quick Haag, where he will be joined by his countryman Prathamesh Dake, a seam-bowling allrounder who is something of a T20 specialist in his native Mumbai.

Sean Davey has reportedly moved to Ajax Leiden, and with seamer Imran Khan out through injury the club’s rebuilding phase looks set to continue. But the abandonment of the KNCB’s restriction on overseas players means that Namibian Pieter Groenewald could move up from the Seconds to strengthen the Topklasse side.

Otherwise, it looks as if Quick might need to rely on the mixture as before, with Jeroen Brand, Lesley Stokkers, Thijs van Schelven and Geert Maarten Mol, all of whom have played for the national side at some point, among the more familiar names and faces; it remains to be seen whether last season’s successful coup of persuading Edgar Schiferli to return to the colours will be repeated this year.

Keeper Daan Vierling made good progress last season, posting a maiden Topklasse half-century, and Bob van Gigch is another veteran who is always ready to demonstrate that he is still capable of making a contribution in the top flight.

Rogier Rooda and Stefan Ekelmans have yet to establish themselves as fully-fledged members of the side, and they may well find youngsters like Teun Landheer and Tycho de Mooij breathing down their necks.

Visitors to Nieuw Hanenburg will find one major difference this season: the outfield, the butt of more than its fair share of jokes over the years, has gone, as Quick have followed the example of neighbours HBS and laid a brand-new astroturf surface. Whatever one may think about artificial outfields, it seems likely to offer better value for one’s strokeplay than its predecessor sometimes did.

SpartaSparta 1888 made a promising start on their return to the top flight last season, but then fell away and had to be content with seventh position.

There’s been something of a reshuffle at the Bermweg, with Michael Pollard, Warren Bell, Craig Ambrose and Faisal Iqbal all moving on, to be replaced by 25-year-old Wellington batsman Andrew Fletcher and 18-year-old South African wicketkeeper-batsmen Garnett Tarr, as well as by spinner Manminder Singh, batsman Chandan Kumar, and the hard-hitting Ali Raza moving from Hermes-DVS, Excelsior ‘20 and Punjab respectively.

Fletcher will fill the spot vacated by Pollard, and much will depend on his ability to made consistent runs, the core around which Sparta can build significant totals.

That said, with former internationals Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman still on the strength, and Belgium’s Raja Saqlain added to the squad, Sparta will doubtless be a force to contend with, especially at home.

Spearheaded by Bukhari but also featuring solid performances from skipper Joost-Martijn Snoep, Dost Muhammad, young Max Hoornweg, Usman Ishfaq and Usman Saleem, it was the attack which largely kept the Capelle side clear of the relegation zone last season, and apart from the departure of Bell that will be unchanged.

DostiThe least altered of all the squads appears to be Dosti’s. They will sorely miss Mohammad Hafeez, the leading wicket-taker and top of the bowling averages in 2018, who has moved on to Punjab.

But as against that, they have Taruwar Kohli, Anees Davids and Amitoze Singh all on their books again, and this year there is nothing in the rules to prevent all three playing at once; last season Singh proved an invaluable replacement when Kohli returned to India.

Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need more consistency from its local players, not least Tewarie himself. He and Rahil Ahmed have struggled to build major innings, and although they made 378 and 336 runs respectively last year, Kohli needs more support from both of them.

Kohli and Davids are also central to the attack, and will be even more so without Hafeez. Here, however, the pace of Wahid Masood proved useful last season, and the advent of Asief Hoseinbaks to share the spin burden with Mahesh Hans also gave a better-balanced look to the attack.

One of Dosti’s greatest problems, though, is the relative thinness of their squad: they rely heavily on their overseas players and a small number of locals, and they have not been able to find new players to help lift them back to their title-winning form of four years ago.


Round 18 Preview

Bertus de Jong 25/08/18 

The business of the season is done, VOC are deserved champions, last week Punjab’s last hope of survival was snuffed out, and indeed for most of the mid-table there’s been little but pride on the line for a while. There’s still a round to finish however, as the ten teams all look to sign off on a high.

Punjab Rotterdam will play their final Topklasse match until 2020 at least against their erstwhile relegation rivals Quick Haag, who secured their safety with a win over HBS last week. Quick’s captain, coach and MVP Jay Bista has an outside shot at breaking 1,000 runs for the season, needing 147 to reach the milestone, whilst returning veteran Edgar Schiferli needs three wickets to pass Luuk van Troost and claim second place in the all-time Topklasse wickets standings. Such statistical considerations aside, what could have been a tense relegation play-off is just an opportunity to banish memories of a disappointing season for both sides.

Meanwhile ACC, whose season has been little better, need only turn up to play Sparta 1888 to avoid a wooden spoon finish, and judging by last week’s performance they probably need the motivation. Mudassar Bukhari, currently joint top with Dosti’s Mohammad Hafeez as top wicket-taker for the season, will be looking to add to his 34 wicket tally when he runs in against his old club, who could certainly have used him this season. A top-5 finish is still notionally within reach for Sparta, though they’d need a tie or a wash-out at de Diepput to get there.

Though the weather’s taken an appropriate turn for the damp and dreary at the fag end of the season, neither outcome is terribly likely when HCC take on Dosti-United. The departure of Taru Kohli has seen Dosti’s fortunes declineafter a strong start to the season, and HCC will start as favourites in front of a home crowd. Young Hidde Overdijk is still in contention for the top spot on the wicket-taking table, whilst Tonny Staal needs only a half-decent knock to break 500 runs, the performance of both gives HCC hope of a better showing next year, though as predicted they have missed Jonathan Vandiar’s runs.

In the meantime Craeyenhout will witness the battle for bronze when fourth-placed HBS welcome third-placed Excelsior ’20. James Hilditch’s ill-advised return has strengthened Excelsior’s line-up even as it has aggravated his hamstring, but if HBS’ thus-far misfiring top order manage to go out with a bang the crow crowd will likely go into hibernation happy.

The day’s final game is the final that might have been, as champions VOC Rotterdam head to the Bos to take on runners-up VRA. It’s been quite a turnaround for both sides since they were playing off for the wooden spoon just two years ago, but VRA stumbling out of the blocks against Quick and HCC in their first two games more-or-less cost them a shot at the title in the end. They’ll back themselves to bag some bragging rights at least in their final match. Though VOC are not champions without good reason, they have looked more vulnerable away from home. Whoever takes the honours tomorrow the match-up is doubtless the match of the day.

BdJ’s Tips I guess just enjoy yourselves and try not to worry about how pointless it all seems.