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.

Round 11 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 27/06/19

As the Topklasse returns to what passes for normal this Sunday, the luck of the draw pits each of the current top five at home against one of the lower teams; this should make prediction easy, but of course it doesn’t. What it does do is create opportunities for the teams in the wrong half of the table to bridge the gap to the current leaders somewhat.

RL: In what has the potential to be the most absorbing clash of the day ACC will take on Quick Haag at Het Loopveld. Having managed to survive the absence of almost half their team last week in beating strugglers VRA, the Amsterdammers can add a maiden Topklasse century for Jean Marais and a first significant innings from young Jamieson Mulready to their list of milestones for the season. With new ball spearhead Brady Barends one of the undoubted successes of the season they have moved from surprise packet to deserved title challengers, while the addition of Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake to Quick’s line-up has not (yet) made the side as competitive as many at Nieuw Hanenburg will have hoped. Nevertheless Quick can be expected to put together two or three winning performances in the latter part of the season, and by doing so they could have a real effect on the championship as well as keeping themselves clear of relegation.

BdJ: Two judicious acquisitions and regular contributions from an increasingly impressive cast of junior players has seen ACC to the top of the table, and it’s beginning to look like they have the side to go the distance. Witch Excelsior and HCC close on their heels though the Amsterdammers need to keep winning to stay ahead of the pack. Doc Mol aside, Quick have not really been at their best this season, and even the qualities of Bista and Dake would not have been enough to keep them out of relegation danger so far were it not for the haplessness of VRA. As it stands, they will likely only need three or four more wins to be assured of safety this time round, and upsetting the current leaders would be a fine way to start.

RL: Another game in the banana skin category sees Excelsior ‘20 take on Voorburg at Thurlede. Tom Heggelman’s side has also gone on winning, fortified no doubt by the experience of two titles with pretty much the same squad in 2016 and 2017, and with Brenton Parchment proving a fine successor to James Hilditch they, too, have emerged as one of the most difficult sides to beat. Voorburg’s performances have been much more variable, but their demolition of HBS a few weeks ago proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Brandon Glover returns after a successful introduction to the Dutch side, and together with his national team colleague Viv Kingma he will present a serious challenge to the Excelsior top order. With Tom de Grooth adding more solidity at the top of Voorburg’s batting, this too is likely to be a keenly-fought battle.

BdJ: A tough on to call, this. With Excelsior’s sole home defeat so far this season coming courtesy Max Hoornweg’s spectacular return of 7-36, it’s fair to say it will take something special to take two points home from Thurlede. The return of VCC’s pace pairing of Glover and Kingma certainly gives them something of an x-factor, though the slow-bowling contribution of Clayton Floyd to Voorburg’s hopes should not be underestimated. The batting has been the somewhat surprising weakness for Voorburg so far, with an under-performing Matt Smit the only VCC bat to have reached 200 runs at better than 30. Against and Excelsior side that has managed to win consistently even without really recapturing the collective dominance of two years ago, Voorburg start as underdogs on form at least.

RL: Currently third, one win behind the leaders, HCC will welcome Dosti United to De Diepput. Welcome may not be exactly the right word, since the Amsterdam side will be buoyed up by their 217-run win over VOC last Sunday, and their powerful batting line-up will relish the short square boundaries at the HCC ground. Abhinav Bali’s maiden Topklasse century takes some of the pressure off Taruwar Kohli, but it was the Dosti bowling which was particularly impressive against VOC. With Bryce Street in great form with both bat and ball, however, at the centre of a well-organised and balanced HCC outfit, and this is again a match which, despite the current standings, could well go either way.

BdJ: With one less completed game, HCC are in fact marginally less than one win from the top spot having, like ACC and Excelsior, lost only twice thus far. They have every chance of adding to that tally on Sunday however when they take on a Dosti side that indeed looks in good nick. Perhaps not too much can be read into their beating up on a depleted VOC last weak, the Rotterdammers resorting to nine different bowlers to share the overs around, but the bowling does indeed look well settled, with the Hoseinbaks-Hans spin axis providing a variety of slow bowling options and Anees Davids also in the wickets. HCC will nonetheless be a considerable step-up in class of opposition however, even if the batting card remains rather top-heavy.

RL: Having started their campaign in rampant mood, HBS Craeyenhout have faltered in recent weeks, and their game against Sparta 1888 on Sunday is now a must-win event for them. They were, of course, handicapped by the absence of Tobias Visée and Wesley Barresi in losing to HCC last Sunday, and their powerful batting line-up will be back at full strength for this crucial encounter. For Sparta, dropping Andrew Fletcher down the order produced his first significant innings of the season, but they will need him to make the most of the batsman-friendly conditions at Craeyenhout if they are to trouble HBS. Sparta are, it must be said, something of a bits-and-pieces side, but all their bowlers have performed well on occasion, and with former internationals Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman always capable of producing important innings, they will be hoping to pick up a win which would move them further clear of the relegation zone.

BdJ: HBS will have to get used to being without their captain, one suspects, an upcoming stint in Canada at the GT20 will see him miss two further games this season, and the Vancouver Knights likely won’t be the last franchise to come calling. They’ll be glad to have him back Sunday, and Sparta will doubtless be ruing the Netherlands’ comparatively light international schedule having failed to take advantage of a weakened VCC last week. Fletcher’s drop to number five seems to have worked for him, but not necessarily for his team who are now an opener short, and even contributions from both overseas wasn’t enough last week. With HBS batting back at full strength and Westdijik still bowling well Sparta will have their work cut out at Craeyenhout.

RL: Just at the head of the chasing pack on net run rate, VOC Rotterdam meet relegation candidates VRA Amsterdam at Hazelaarweg. Here, too, the return of the sides’ Dutch internationals will come as a relief, especially for VOC, who suffered that thumping defeat at Dosti last week. These teams have not yet met this season, their first-round match having been rescheduled for 20 July, but this is a traditional rivalry which always has an additional charge. VOC’s attack has been strengthened by the return of Bobby Hanif, but for VRA the inability of their bowlers to dismiss opposing sides remains a serious concern. Leon Turmaine is their leading wicket-taker with 11, but in all they have only taken 40 wickets in eight matches, and they have lost their last two by seven wickets. If O’Dowd, Edwards, Seelaar and Co. fire here, VOC could achieve a big total on their own account.

BdJ:With two games to play against VOC and only three losses adrift, besting the Rotterdammers twice may represent VRA’s best shot at avoiding relegation. But though Dosti exposed the reliance of the VOC batting on their three Dutch internationals, all three are now back and in fine form, indeed O’Dowd has probably never looked better. VRA’s pace attack has at times bowled better than their meagre returns suggest, and the batting remains stronger on paper than in practice, but the Amsterdammers will need to find another gear if they are to escape an increasingly inevitable-looking relegation.

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

Round 10 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 22/06/19

With the season half-done, the traditional opening fixture reversal is upon us. Also upon us, as some have noted with indignation, are the first international fixtures of the Summer, the Dutch national team making a good start to their four-match ODI/T20I series against Zimbabwe with outstanding wins at Deventer on Wednesday and Saturday. Such elevated international goings-on are usually rather above our pay grade here at TK of course, except that the scheduling of the first T20I on Sunday afternoon means the 13 players called up for Oranje will not be available this round. Such clashes are something of a rarity in Dutch cricket, where the national team’s sparse schedule has in the past made them easy to avoid, though they are likely to become more common in future as the international fixture list grows from “barely there” to “comparatively light.”

Whether Sunday’s availability issues merit the dread term competitievervalsing perhaps depends on your (sense of) perspective, it may equally be said that where you stand depends on where you sit. If, for example, you’re sat at Drieburg or de Diepput, one imagines it’s comparatively easy to be sanguine about it, less so at at Craeyenhout or Hazelaarweg, with some sides being significantly hit and others not at all.

BdJ: Without question the most affected are VOC Rotterdam who travel to Drieburg to take on Dosti-United. VOC will make the trip to Amsterdam under the leadership of Jelte Schoonheim, who will be standing in for regular skipper Pieter Seelaar. Also on national duty are Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards, leaving VOC without their captain, keeper and two lead run-scorers. Dosti meanwhile are entirely unscathed by the decimation perpetrated upon the Topklasse by the national selection committee, and even with Taruwar Kohli currently looking comparatively out of form should fancy their chances of having the best of the mid-table encounter. They managed to sneak a one-run win in the season opener against a full-strength VOC despite Kohli contributing just 3 runs, and have at least shown they can win on occasion without him, if not with any consistency.

RL: If we try to think about these things positively, it’s an opportunity for players who usually have a secondary role to step up and prove their worth to the team. In VOC’s case, the attack will, of course, be weakened by the absence of Seelaar, but it’s the batting which will be especially tested. That said, the Dosti attack is hardly fearsome, and if Schoonheim’s depleted side can bat the fifty overs it could be an interesting contest. For Dosti, though, this looks like a great opportunity to harvest two much-needed points.

BdJ: Also passed over by the scouring hand of Campbell are Quick Haag and Excelsior ‘20 who will both be undiminished when they meet at Nieuw Hanenburg on Sunday. Excelsior won their rain-abbreviated opening encounter by four wickets with 14 balls to spare, the increasingly impressive David Woutersen getting them to the 147-run target with 31 from 33 balls from number 6, but then Quick were without overseas Dake and Bista. Bista’s presence will be Excelsior’s biggest worry, coming off the back of a titanic 194 against a much vaunted VCC attack last week. Though Excelsior will doubtless be relieved that their own pace spearhead, Sohail Bhatti, has once again been inexplicably overlooked by the national selectors, they will nonetheless be hoping the persistent rumours of Bista’s return to Mumbai prove better founded than they did last week.

RL: Although Bista has been justifiably attracting most of the attention, Prathamesh Dake’s addition to the attack has also been a key factor in Quick’s recent performances. Nor should we underestimate the contribution made by evergreen allrounder Geert Maarten Mol. If they, with or without Bista, can again cut through Excelsior’s top order then we could be in for an absorbing battle; otherwise Quick’s somewhat brittle batting may struggle to match the visitors’ run-scoring capabilities. And it seems likely that Lorenzo Ingram and Branton Parchment will relish the artificial Nieuw Hanenburg outfield.

BdJ: Also passing unreduced through the winnowing fan of national duty are Sparta 1888 who will be spared having to face either of Voorburg CC’s first pick opening bowlers, with Viv Kingma and Brandon Glover both called up. Perhaps then a chance for Sparta’s chronically underperforming Andrew Fletcher to make fresh start with the bat for the second half of the season. Sparta have muddled through without him thus far, but only VRA’s horror season has kept either of these sides out of serious relegation danger so far. With five teams on six points as it stands though, two points today would go a long way to calming nerves.

RL: Sparta have indeed crafted some surprising wins through the contributions not only of the invaluable Mudassar Bukhari, but also of Max Hoornweg and Joost Martijn Snoep. The Bermweg, too, is never an easy place to visit, and the Spartans will be hoping that they can get the jump on a Voorburg side which was distinctly a better outfit – even without Kingma – than they on the season’s opening day. It was the batting which gave Voorburg the edge that day, and the batting is essentially unaffected by international duty. If they perform to their potential, which is admittedly a fairly big if on recent form, Voorburg might well prove too strong again, even without their new-ball pairing.

BdJ: Meanwhile at de Diepput HCC will be happy not to have to bowl at Wesley Barresi this time round, after his unbeaten, 93-ball, 126 sunk them in their opening match at Craeyenhout. Also missing from HBS roster will be skipper Tobias Visée, also on national duty on Sunday and now likely to miss two more matches in early August having been picked up by the Vancouver Knights in the Canada Global T20 league. Conversely, Adam Wiffen’s bad luck at missing out on selection is his side’s good fortune, especially should he repeats his century-hitting efforts from the two sides’ last encounter. That said, HBS have a degree of depth in their batting, Sharn Gomes especially looking in good nick, and though they may be low on fireworks without Barresi and Visée they will be no pushovers.

RL: The absence of Visée and Barresi would be significant for any side, and with Ferdi Vink still out of the attack as well this will be a stern test for HBS. Their title hopes have taken a blow or two in recent weeks, while HCC have produced a series of solid performances when the weather has permitted. With two home games rained off in the past two weeks they may be a little rusty, but they are a well-balanced side who would be equipped to trouble even a full-strength HBS. Hidde Overdijk has been in great form with the ball, and with Tonny Staal and Bryce Street making runs, you have to think that the home side may have the edge here.

BdJ: Also skipperless will be table-toppers ACC when they make the short trip down the Kalfjeslaan to take on runaway wooden spoon favourites VRA. Whilst losing captain and lead wicket-taker Saqib Zulfiqar is a blow for ACC, VRA will probably miss Ben Cooper at least as much. The VRA batting has been shaky all season and taking Cooper out of it leaves a hole they don’t have the bench strength to fill, and these days deprives them of their second spinner too. That Cooper’s admittedly perfectly serviceable off-spin is so regularly called upon by skipper Peter Borren is itself a testament to the paucity of VRA’s bowling stocks, whilst Borren’s own return to the captaincy suggests that the threat of relegation is perhaps now being taken seriously at the Bos.

RL: If a serious relegation-avoiding campaign is to get under way at VRA, there could be no more satisfying spot to begin it than the traditional Amsterdam derby. It’s been a long time since these clubs went into the fixture with ACC top of the table and VRA bottom, and it must be acknowledged that both positions are a fair reflection of the sides’ efforts so far. ACC, like HCC, have been the surprise-packets of the season until now, and logic says that they will take another step towards their title goal on Sunday. But this is the Topklasse, and if anyone can craft a win from nowhere it’s Peter Borren.

Bertus de Jong’s picks: Dosti, Excelsior, VCC, HCC, ACC.

Rod Lyall’s picks: Dosti, Quick, VCC, HCC, VRA.

Bista blasts Voorburg; ACC back on top

Rod Lyall 17/06/19

On a dank, damp, unseasonable June day Jay Bista announced his return to the Topklasse with a vengeance on Saturday, lighting up Nieuw Hanenburg with a magnificent 194 for Quick Haag against Voorburg.

It was the highest individual score since Ben Cooper’s 202 for VRA against Hermes-DVS six seasons ago, and it came off just 147 deliveries. Bista reached his hundred at exactly a run a ball, but his next fifty took just 28 balls and the remaining 44 only 19; in all he hit 19 fours and eight sixes.

It was a virtuoso effort which contributed almost two-thirds of Quick’s total of 315 for four, Bista’s only real support coming from the dependable Geert Maarten Mol, who made 59 in a third-wicket partnership of 175.

All the Voorburg bowlers came in for good deal of punishment; Brandon Glover was the most successful, but his two wickets came at a cost of 88 runs, while Clayton Floyd and Stef Mulder managed to keep the scoring down to four-and-a-half an over.

It was always going to be an uphill battle when Voorburg replied, and when Matt Smit and Noah Croes went cheaply, removed by Prathamesh Dake and Pieter Groenewald respectively, the incline became even steeper.

But Tom de Grooth was now joined by Nic Smit in a third-wicket partnership of 63, Smit making 40 of them, and after his departure De Grooth went on to post his ninth top-flight century.

He was the eighth to go, having made 107 from 118 deliveries with 14 fours, but even this could not match Bista’s solo effort, and the innings ended in the 44th over on 252, giving Quick a comfortable 63-run victory.

Dake was again the main wicket-taker for Quick with three for 43, and there were two wickets apiece for Groenewald, Mol and Jeroen Brand.

ACC consolidated their position at the top of the table with a 25-run win over Dosti United in a match at Het Loopveld reduced to 36 overs after overnight rain.

Put in to bat, ACC reached 185 for four, with Jean Marais leading the way with a 62-ball 61.

He departed with the total on 107, but then Sikander Zulfiqar and Brady Barends pushed on with an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 78, of which Zulfiqar made 46 and Barends 40.

Without Kuldeep Diwan and Anees Davids, Dosti made a disastrous start to their chase, and at 29 for four the match appeared to be effectively over.

Devanshu Arya struck first, getting Shahdab Ghori caught behind by Marais and then claiming the all-important wicket of Taruwar Kohli, caught by Shreyas Potdar for four, and it was left to Amitoze Singh to try to reconstruct the innings.

He made 30 before falling to the Saqib-Sikander Zulfiqar combination, and he received some support from Waheed Masood, who hit two sixes in a 23-run cameo.

It was Mahesh Hans, though, who brought the side within striking distance of ACC’s total, posting a maiden Topklasse half-century and finishing on 54 not out from 47 deliveries with three fours and three sixes.

But it wasn’t enough, and with Arya taking another to finish with three for 9 and Saqib Zulfiqar claiming three for 30, the innings closed on 160 for nine.

The rain put paid to the other two matches scheduled for Saturday, a waterlogged Diepput unfit for the match between HCC and Sparta 1888 and conditions in the Amsterdamse Bos too wet even for the VRAExcelsior ‘20 to be transferred to VRA’s second ground.

The postponement of the match between HBS and VOC Rotterdam until Sunday meant that it was largely played in warm sunshine, and it featured two innings with remarkably similar patterns before ending in a four-wicket victory for the defending champions.

Two wickets for Pierce Fletcher, one for Ashiqullah Said and a run-out meant that HBS, after electing to bat, were soon in desperate trouble at 39 for four, but they were rescued by a fifth-wicket stand of 105 between Wesley Barresi and Sharn Gomes, who had dropped down to bat at six.

Barresi was eventually bowled by Jelte Schoonheim after making 51, but Gomes continued in company with the lower order, recording his first century of the season before becoming one of three victims for Peter Seelaar in the final over of the innings. His 109 came from 110 balls with eleven fours and a six, while Seelaar finished with somewhat fortuitous figures of three for 35.

As VOC had done, HBS proceeded to rip through the opposition’s top order, Berend Westdijk producing an outstanding seven-over opening spell to reduce VOC to 40 for four.

But the Rotterdammers were in turn rescued by an excellent fifth-wicket partnership, this time between opener Max O’Dowd and wicketkeeper Scott Edwards.

They capped Barresi and Gomes’s effort by putting on 146, the stand only ended by the return of Westdijk, who proceeded to trap Edwards in front for 81, made from 76 balls with 13 fours and a six.

Schoonheim now joined O’Dowd and contributed a typically free-hitting 27 which took VOC to the brink of victory and which incidentally deprived his partner of what would have been a thoroughly-deserved century.

It was a valuable effort for the side, however, and although O’Dowd was left on 96 not out when he hit the winning boundary, it was the win – with more than eight overs to spare – which was important for VOC as they strive to recover from a poor start to their title defence.

O’Dowd faced 113 balls and hit nine fours and a six, while Westdijk finished with five for 39, his best figures of the season and his third five-wicket haul in total.

Round 9 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 13/06/19

And so we reach the half-way point in the competition, ending the first round as we began it, with a split weekend: four matches are scheduled for Saturday, but the game between HBS and VOC will be played on Sunday.

RL: After two wins at the weekend, one by the skin of their teeth and the other very comfortably indeed, Excelsior ‘20 will be full of confidence for their visit to the Amsterdamse Bos to take on VRA on Saturday. It’s a rare occasion that neither Lorenzo Ingram nor Branton Parchment gets a bat, but the batting of Tim Etman and Roel Verhagen will have given Tom Heggelman’s side a boost, while Niels Etman filled in admirably in the absence of Sohail Bhatti on Monday. For the hosts the attack’s toothlessness continues to be a source of concern, and although Vikram Singh, Eric Szwarczynski, Ben Cooper and Peter Borren have all made runs at times they don’t often get much support, and the top order as a whole is not coming together to produce totals which their limited bowling can defend. Injuries are, of course, not helping the cause, but VRA will need to raise their game considerably if they are to get clear of the relegation zone.

BdJ: Etman and Verhagen coming into this game with runs under their belts will compound the worries of a VRA side that has indeed struggled to take wickets all season, and with the fitness of Gunning and Gul in question the Amsterdammers attack looks about the weakest in the league as it stands. The Schiedammers’ status as favourites ahead of thie game owes as much to some judicious acdditions to the roster over the winter as their results so far, with the acquisitions of Umar Baker and Branton Parchment both paying dividends. Conversely VRA were in retrospect perhaps unduly sanguine in declining to engage in a serious search to replace Daan ter Braak and Viv Kingma. Of the new faces that have rocked up in the Bos, largely on their own initiative, only Brandon Graber seems to have found his feet at Topklasse level. As the half-way point of the season looms one suspects VRA may be beginning to sense the peril of their situation, but with the competition’s new frontrunners headed their way with the wind at their backs a turnaround is a tough ask.

RL: Dosti United again have no ground available for the last round before the competition switches to Sundays – the extended football season affects them worse than any other Topklasse club – so they will again have to play on their opponents’ ground. This time it means the short trip to Het Loopveld to face ACC, who lost by the narrowest of margins to HBS on Monday. Saqib and Sikander Zulfiqar are both in good form for the visitors-become-hosts, and with Brady Barends, currently the competition’s leading wicket-taker, adding incisiveness to the attack ACC have thoroughly deserved their position among the leaders. Dosti, by contrast, have failed to gel, and their defeat by Excelsior on Monday confirmed once again how vital Taruwar Kohli’s wicket is to their chances of making a decent total. The battle between him and Barends could be one of the more interesting head-to-head contests of the season.

BdJ: As much as their two new overseas, it is the seeming confidence of ACC’s core of young players that has seen them hanging out near the top of the table all season. Though both Jean Marais and Barends have been excellent for ACC thus far, the continued improvement of the three remaining Zulfiqars and occasionally outstanding contributions from such youngsters as Shirase Rasool, Aryan Kumar and last week Jamie Mulready has given ACC the look of genuine title contenders for the first time in years. Dosti meanwhile have struggled when Diwan was absent or Kohli has failed, though skipper Vinoo Tewarie has on occasion shown admirable application and obduracy in the midst of collapse, it is a situation he has found himself rather too often.

RL: Having seen off VOC in convincing fashion HCC will look forward to entertaining Sparta 1888 at De Diepput, and they will be hoping that their ground doesn’t live up to its name again this week. Even without Ali Ahmed Qasim the HCC attack has a menacing look about it, Jan Willem Damhuis slotting in effectively against VOC, and with Bharat Itagi, Tonny Staal and Bryce Street all making runs even when Adam Wiffen doesn’t the Lions seem likely to maintain their pursuit of the leaders for a while yet. Sparta are a less predictable side, but their win against Quick, in which Garnett Tarr’s century was a highlight, has lightened any lurking fears of relegation, at least for the moment, as has their defeat of tailenders VRA. You have to fancy HCC to pick up the points here, but Sparta have shown they are capable of springing surprises.

BdJ: Given the forecast it should be said that here and elsewhere rain is the most likely winner on Saturday, but the hosts are indeed a solid second. HCC have looked a solid side in spite of occasional changes in the line-up, Damhuis the latest after Itagi and Walhain to successfully step up to the first team, and bench strength has generally been crucial to successful Topklasse campaigns. A win over Sparta will keep them well in touch with the leaders as the table begins to bifurcate, but Sparta have every chance of derailing them. The Capellenaars have yet to play at their collective best, with exceptional individual performances generally accounting for the points they have on the board. Should a few come along at once two points will be within their reach, weather permitting.

RL: Even with the arrival of their Mumbaikers (compensated in part by the departure of Rupert Young), Quick Haag are another up-and-down side, too dependent on a few players. Jay Bista’s batting is as talismanic for them as Kohli’s is for Dosti, and they will be tested this week by a Voorburg outfit which has been boosted by the advent of Nic Smit. The Voorburg top order is likely to enjoy the new artificial outfield at Nieuw Hanenburg, though Prathamesh Dake will no doubt have other ideas. Quick’s attack, however, is not as menacing as it once was, while Voorburg’s is varied, and with Viv Kingma and Brandon Glover on song likely to be a real handful for Quick’s brittle top and middle order.

BdJ: Quick are indeed arguably still more dependent on Bista than Dosti on Kohli, relying on him not only for quantity of runs but also for tempo. Barring the veteran Doc Mol, who looks set to put in another unassumingly crucial season for his side, Quick lack for hitters as much as accumulators to support or at least take the pressure off Bista. With Jeroen Brand, once the reliable purveyor 17-ball 30s down the order currently striking at 55 and the rest of the line-up little better Bista is relied upon both to provide the bulk of the runs and to drive the scoring rate. Facing VCC’s attack that task may prove beyond even his considerable talents.

RL: VOC Rotterdam’s incipient recovery received a setback on Monday when they were pretty comprehensively beaten by HCC, and they really need to take something away from Craeyenhout where they take on HBS this week. All the champions’ problems were clearly illustrated in that defeat by HCC: the batting, apart from the three internationals, contributed little, and the attack struggled to dismiss a side which is steadily growing in confidence. HBS, by contrast, are strong in both major departments: the batting, balanced between the aggression of Visée and Barresi and the quieter skills of Elkin and Gomes, consistently produces the highest total of the round, while the bowlers, both the seamers and the spinners, also deliver on a weekly basis. This being the Topklasse one can’t rule out a stellar performance from the whole VOC outfit, but there can be little question that HBS will start as clear favourites.

BdJ: Generally I’d try to find at least one point of disagreement on the prognostications for the sake of making a contest of it, but I find myself in complete accord with the good professor this round. As with last years’ runners-up VRA, the defending champions are feeling the loss of key players in Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker, with their replacements failing to fill their shoes. It’s beginning to look as if after contesting the championship last season, VRA and VOC may be back at the other end of the table again by the end of this summer in a 2017-style relegation battle. HBS conversely look a stronger side than they did last season, when they came a creditable third. The big-hitting top order remains Crows’ key strength, and with Elkin playing foil to the more belligerent elements it looks more balanced than the 2018 version, but the bowling attack has also been strengthened by the addition of Zac Gibson as well as the continued development of Julian de Mey and (whisper it) Wesley Barresi as a genuine slow bowling option.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Excelsior, ACC, HCC, Voorburg, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: Excelsior, ACC, HCC, Voorburg, HBS.

Round 8 Preview

Bertus de Jong 09/06/19

Capping off a frenetic fortnight for the Topklasse, the 8th round of Topklasse matches kick off on Monday – the fourth round in ten days. Despite two of yesterday’s matches falling victim to the elements, the table is nonetheless taking on a recognisable shape, with the field beginning to sort itself into title contenders and relegation candidates.

Of the former, front-runners ACC are set to take on nearest rivals HBS at het Loopveld in what looks likely to be the round’s headliner, weather permitting. ACC’s game against HCC at de Diepput was called off early in sodden conditions, so they have been two rounds now without a win. After a five match winning streak the Amsterdammers were handed their first defeat by Excelsior the week before, and HBS suffered similarly at the hands of the Schiedammers yesterday losing and abbreviated 30-over encounter in the final over. The Crows’ top order did a decent job for them, with the top four all looking in decent nick, but the bowling unit struggled in the face of Excelsior’s Jamaican combination, unable to defend 195. Wesley Barresi’s off-spin has come a long way since he passed on the gloves, and Julian de Mey has improved markedly, but the HBS spin attack remains more serviceable that intimidating. ACC lack an equivalent to the Ingram-Parchment partnership however, despite the strides made by Shirase Rasool and the acquisition of Jean Marias. It has been a joint effort with the bat from ACC that has got them this far, but they will nonetheless be looking to Brady Barends, currently the league’s leading wicket-taker, to spike HBS’ top-order guns early if they are not to come up short.

Keeping pace with the top two, and the only side to have beaten both, Excelsior ‘20 welcome 6th-placed Dosti-United to Thurlede tomorrow hoping to rack up their sixth win. Dosti’s match against Voorburg at Westvliet was abandoned yesterday as high winds kept blowing the sightscreens over, and conditions were consequently judged impossible for play. In the two sides most recent encounter, at Thurlede last season, Dosti skittle the hosts for just 81 after Wahid Masood pinned Ingram LBW for a six-ball duck. Now, as then, Excelsior have looked alarmingly reliant on the Jamaican all-rounder together with his newly-arrived compatriot. It is perhaps a little reductionist to luck at this game as Kohli and Diwan vs Ingram and Parchment, and the result may come down to which of the two sides offer their overseas the greatest support, but solid showings from the pros will likely be at least a necessary, if not necessarily sufficient condition for victory.

Meanwhile mid-table 4th-placed HCC head over to Hazeleaarweg to take on VOC, who completed a 126-run trouncing of Sparta at the same ground yesterday, bouncing back from 53-4 to post 204 thanks to Jelte Schoonheim’s counter-attacking 66, and then ran through Sparta for just 78. The Rotterdammers will be heartened by the performance of Pierce Fletcher, Ashiqullah Said and Rami Upadhyaya, each of whom picked up three wickets in the rout. VOC’s bowling remains their weaker suit however as they rebuild after the loss of Klassen and Baker. With Wiffen, Itagi and Street all in the runs for HCC, and Hidde Overdijk in fine form with the ball both in HCC’s yellow and in Orange, the Hagenaars have reason to be optimistic as they take on the defending champions.

As we head down-table, both Sparta 1888 and their opponents Quick Haag have had just a day to recover from their respective defeats at the hands of VOC and VRA on Saturday. Quick had at least looked in decent form against last year’s runners-up, and might have taken the points had Jay Bista managed to make another century. As it happened he fell for 75, and collapse ensued. Though arguably the best bat in the league, Bista is too often put under pressure by the slow scoring of the rest of the Quick line-up, and cannot be expected to both anchor the innings and drive the scoring. He has nonetheless proved of more use to his side than Sparta’s overseas, Andrew Fletcher especially looking like the season might be half-over by the time he acclimatises to Dutch conditions. Though Sparta’s local boys have stepped up on occasion and Garnett Tarr has settled in rather better than his senior colleague, they cannot continue to carry a misfiring pro with any success. Conversely, should Fletcher find his feet Sparta would suddenly look a competitive outfit. Dost Mohammad’s four wicket on return to the team was the only real positive Sparta could take from yesterday’s shambles, and if he can line up alongside Max Hoornweg and Mudassar Bukhari Sparta’s attack takes on an intimidating character. Whether they can contain or remove Bista, however, is a different question.

The day’s final encounter sees incumbent wooden spooners VRA head down to Westvliet to take on newly-promoted VCC who have rather failed to live up to their pre-season hype. With yesterday’s game blown out, their win over HBS last week remains only their second victory of the season. The arrival of a second Smit has appreciably strengthened the batting however, and against VRA’s under-performing attack they may not need to worry too much about their brittle lower-middle order. Probably more of a concern for VCC is VRA’s batting card, even if Peter Borren is the only VRA bat to find any consistent form the Amsterdammer’s order is comparatively deep and dangerous. Though with Kingma and (county trials permitting) Brandon Graber opening the bowling early wickets are always on the cards, that may not be enough to restrict VRA. That said, VRA occupy the bottom spot for good reason, having lacked consistency with the bat and penetration with the ball all season. Newcomers Tom Long and Matt Lake have yet to convince at Topklasse level, and with Haseeb Gul and Quirijn Gunning both likely out injured, the VRA bowling especially looks rather thin.

Bertus de Jong’s picks: Sparta, VCC, Dosti, HBS, HCC

Round 7 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 06/06/19

Once again this week we have two rounds of matches in three days, with the normal Saturday fixtures followed by another set on Monday’s Pentecost holiday. The table may look a lot more settled by Monday evening – or, on the other hand, it may not.

RL: Back at the top of the table by virtue of a better net run rate, ACC travel to De Diepput to take on HCC. The Lions disappointed last week when the batting folded against Excelsior, but they had a significant plus point in the Topklasse debut of Raafiek Isaacs, who claimed four wickets, a contribution all the more valuable because of the absence of Ali Ahmed Qasim. ACC’s victory over VOC owed much to a superb innings from Sikander Zulfiqar, as well as to the opening onslaught of Brady Barends with the new ball. ACC have shown considerable consistency in the first month of the season, and if the top order of the brothers Saqib and Rehmat Zulfiqar and Shirase Rasool have been less productive in the past couple of weeks, others have done enough to keep them winning. HCC’s efforts have been much more fluctuating but they’re only one game behind, and if they can withstand Barends and Aryan Kumar early on they have the ability to give ACC a real run for their money.

BdJ: HCC have indeed blown rather hot and cold so far this season, and with a rather top-heavy batting line up could be particularly vulnerable to ACC’s new ball pair. Conversely the quality of the HCC top four is such that ACC will likely struggle if they fail to make early inroads. ACC’s top order will have their own worries too, facing the abovementioned Isaacs as well as an in-form Hidde Overdijk, who has already racked up 14 wickets with the new ball for HCC this season, as well as another six (and counting) for Netherlands A against Guernsey during the week. It may well come down to which of the sides weather the new ball with the fewest casualties.

RL: After losing to Voorburg last Saturday HBS Craeyenhout will be anxious to get back into a winning stride against Excelsior ‘20. By all accounts Voorburg’s win was testimony to the old-fashioned virtues of line and length, and Excelsior’s attack – with the exception of Brenton Parchment and Lorenzo Ingram – has not so far shown the same level of discipline. That said, the Schiedammers did well to cut through HCC’s batting last week, and if they can reproduce that sort of form they could give even HBS’s powerful top order some difficult moments. Ingram’s also in great form with the bat, though he could do with greater support from the rest of the batsmen. Roel Verhagen is struggling after coming back from injury, and HBS have the bowling – even if Ferdi Vink is unable to play – to cause Excelsior’s rather shaky line-up plenty of problems.

BdJ: Excelsior’s Ingram dependency seems to have gotten worse in the past two seasons. Of the promising young side that exceeded expectations to claim the title two seasons running just a couple of years ago, only Tim Etman seems to have even stayed still much less kicked on. Even with HBS on the back foot after last week’s defeat, Ingram will need more than a couple of Excelsior’s now fairly experienced home-grown core to step up and offer support if they are to keep the Crows at bay.

RL: The two sides which have been most greatly influenced by the rules change regarding overseas players, Dosti United and Voorburg, meet at Westvliet. Nominally a home game for Dosti, the game will be played at Voorburg’s ground because the Amsterdammers’ isn’t yet available on Saturdays owing to the extended football season. Dosti again lost chasing against Quick last week, and it may be that they are more comfortable setting a target than in pursuit of one – if so, this may be an important toss to win. Voorburg’s reversal of their fortunes against HBS was created by their impressive attack, but there are signs too that the arrival of Nic Smit has given more solidity to the batting order. A consistent run of good form could put either of these teams into the mix at the end of the season, and there will be few games in this competition where more talent will be on show.

BdJ: If VCC have proved vulnerable to collapse after Smit is out, it makes sense that they’d look a steadier outfit with two Smits rather than one. Conversely, given that Dosti are unlikely to be able call upon the services of the other Kohli any time soon, they will have to make do with the one they have. Taruwar Kohli remains their most reliable source of runs, but one suspects a solid score from him will be necessary but not sufficient for victory at Westvliet on Saturday. Taking a longer view, Dosti’s less celbrated batsmen will need to start stringing regular scores together if they are to mount a serious challenge at the top of the table, though with Kuldeep Diwan in fine form their already solid spin section now looks the strongest in the league, they cannot be expected to regularly hold their oppponents under 200. Voorburg’s own attack, spearheaded by Kingma and Glover, have looked capable of defending low scores on occasion, but not as low as the ones the batsmen have been posting. Though these two sides both boast enviable overseas contingents, it may nonetheless come down to who offers their pros the best support.

RL: Both VOC Rotterdam and Sparta 1888, who meet at Hazelaarweg in what used once to be the Rotterdam derby, experienced roller-coaster rides on Saturday: VOC fought their way back into their match against ACC only to be denied by Sikander Zulfiqar, while their visitors withstood a late rally by Peter Borren to secure the narrowest of victories against VRA. The defending champions are more dependent in their batting on internationals Max O’Dowd and Pieter Seelaar than they would like, and although Ashiqullah Said and Pierce Fletcher removed the top of ACC’s batting they were unable to press home the advantage. For Sparta, Mudassar Bukhari has played a crucial role recently with both bat and ball, but it was skipper Joost Martijn Snoep’s five-for which clinched the win against VRA. Where others, VOC not excepted, may be less than the sum of their parts just now, Sparta may be a little more. In a competition as tight as the Topklasse, that can be very important indeed.

BdJ: It’s remarkable how well Sparta’s season has gone despite the comparatively limited impact that their overseas have had so far, Bukhari, Max Hoornweg and now skipper Snoep’s performances ensuring they’ve been able to hang with the lower mid-table till now. Hazelaarweg is not the fortress it was last season, with VOC short ten, arguably twenty overs of reliable spin compared to last year. VOC’s three Dutch internationals were the only three to reach triple figures against ACC, and Max O’Dowd is the only VOC bat averaging over 30 so far. At first glance last year’s champions at home against last year’s 7th place finisher ought to see VOC start clear favourites, but I’d say the form book is rather more ambiguous for this encounter.

RL: It was predictable – and predicted – that the arrival of Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake would make a big difference to Quick Haag’s fortunes, but last Saturday’s victory over Dosti, defending a relatively modest total, was a fine team effort. Their next engagement is in the Amsterdamse Bos, where they face a VRA Amsterdam side which is still looking for a first win. There have been some epic matches between these sides over the years, and both have veterans of many of them: Geert Maarten Mol is still a key figure for Quick, as Borren is for VRA. The Amsterdammers have missed Eric Szwarczynski from their batting line-up in recent games, and although Ben Cooper’s century in a losing cause against Dosti last Thursday was a reminder of what he is capable of, VRA need more consistency from a batting order which has to compensate for an attack which is decidedly lacking in firepower.

BdJ: Game in hand or no, the Amsterdammers’ none-from-five record this season has gone rather beyond a slow start, and VRA are beginning to look like a side that’s flatlining. Borren aside, the batting has been flakey all season and the bowling broadly insipid. The absence of the unassuming but dependable Dan ter Braak at the top of the order seems to have unbalanced the batting more than anyone expected, whilst the decline with the ball is less explicable. The front-line bowlig attack is largely unchanged from last season barring the addition of Brandon Graber, but Quirijn Gunning and Leon Turmaine have both struggled for rhythm, and the top 20 wicket-takers for the season current features not a single VRA player. Having to do without Bista and Dake for their first few games seems to have galvanised Quick, and the Mumbaikers’ arrival makes them solid favourites in a match one might even have backed them to win in their absence.

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