Round 6 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 25/05/18


RL: Having gone clear at the top of the table thanks to a comfortable victory over Quick on Monday, Excelsior ’20 will travel to De Diepput in good heart. But HCC were equally impressive in their demolition of Punjab, and with Tonny Staal in great form with the bat they will take on the champions with no lack of confidence. The Hagenaars started slowly, but three wins on the trot will have given them plenty of heart, and Ali Ahmed Qasim is, like Staal, a potential matchwinner. Nor should we forget HCC were the last team to beat the Schiedammers, at Thurlede on 13 August last year. That said, there’s more to Excelsior than their two seasoned overseas players, as the bowlers’ demolition of VOC on Saturday demonstrated, and they will start as favourites in what promises to be a tough old battle.

BdJ: It’s fair to say the HCC are hitting their stride this season, with Bryce Street and Hidde Overdijk also impressing in the Pro-Series this week. With a home crowd behind them they look set to provide Excelsior with probably their sternest challenge yet, and if the defending champion’s latest winning run is to be broken one feels tomorrow is the time. Still it’s hard to argue with Excelsior’s momentum, the bowling unit has been a model of discipline and if their batting line up remains somewhat top-heavy the lower middle order has shown they can get the job done if called upon. And then there’s the rumour that Ed Cowan’s in town…


RL: Without Pieter Seelaar and Max O’Dowd, VOC were all at sea against Excelsior, but they came storming back with a decisive win over ACC on Monday. They have yet to fire on all cylinders, and they will need to be at their best against a Sparta 1888 side which moved confidently into second place on Monday by virtue of their hard-fought victory over Dosti United. Michael Pollard confirmed his quality with a superb hundred in that game, and the attack then held its collective nerve as Kohli and Hafeez led the chase. The clash between VOC’s star-studded side and the more workmanlike Sparta outfit should be absorbing, and it would not be altogether surprising if it were the home side which came out on top.

BdJ: Sparta have had a solid start in their return season, and if the side lacks the start power of VOC they have certainly proved themselves more than the sum of their parts. It’s tough to call them underdogs at Bermweg, especially with Mudassar Bukhari fit and in form. Nonetheless they will need him or Dost Muhammad to take the top off VOC early. Though the Rotterdammer’s batting, as with HBS, has been something of a disappointment so far, and Bermweg isn’t the easiest track at the best of times, the quality is still there and they’ve more than a few batsmen due a score.


RL: Dosti United will be keen to put that defeat at the hands of Sparta behind them, and to reinforce their title aspirations with a win over HBS at Craeyenhout. But Monday confirmed just how reliant they are on Taruwar Kohli, and his 52 wasn’t enough to get them home, despite a fine 77 from Mohammad Hafeez. Anees Davids’s contributions are a lot less consistent, but he remains a danger to any opponents, while the artificial outfield at Craeyenhout has proved to the liking of Dosti’s batsmen in the past. HBS have been something of an enigma, but they proved against Punjab on Saturday that when the top order gets it right they can be the most powerful combination in the competition. Neither attack, perhaps, is of the same quality as the batting, so high totals may be on the cards.

BdJ: Though firm favourites on paper, especially at home, the big question for HBS remains who, if anyone, is going to take Kohli’s wicket tomorrow. Better attacks have tried and failed, and if he is not removed promptly one can imagine him thaking the game swiftly away from the hosts tomorrow. HBS’ cause will not be helped by the rumoured suspension of two first choice bowlers, who have reportedly fallen afoul of a newly-instituted policy barring 1st team cricketers from playing other sports in season. Nonetheless Dosti probably have more wickets to worry about than HBS, with Toby Visée and Wesley Barresi in the runs this week and the menace of Jaron Morgan and Sharn Gomes to come after them, Dosti’s attack will need to be on top of their game if they’re to contain the Crows.


RL: VRA Amsterdam will travel to Het Zomercomplex to take on a Punjab side which showed signs of complete collapse against HCC on Monday. Whether it was the absence of Stef Myburgh which threw them out of kilter or the continuing dispute over the eligibility of their Belgian-based players, but the batting slump and the bowling performance which followed suggested that the Rotterdammers, regardless of the eligibility regulations, may face an uphill struggle to avoid relegation. VRA have yet to hit a consistent vein of form, with their top order still failing to produce the starts they are capable of, but it will take a huge effort from Punjab if they are to prevent the Amsterdam side taking the points back north with them. And with half-centuries in his last two knocks, Peter Borren is starting to look ominous.

BdJ: Indeed as things stand Punjab’s dispute with the KNCB looks like it might turn out academic at least in so far as the Rotterdam club’s Topklasse survival is concerned, though Raza and Latif have shown in the past why Punjab are so keen to field them. The sidelining of Vivian Kingma due to a recurring ankle issue also takes some sting out of VRA’s new ball attack, and even in Myburgh’s absence Punjab have the firepower to take advantage. Nonetheless VRA’s mercurial middle order has enjoyed the Zomercomplex’s short boundaries before, and if Borren or van den Burg tee off it’s tough to imagine a score that would be out of reach.


RL: Like Punjab, ACC and Quick Haag have just one win from five games, and in normal circumstances both would be beginning to have serious worries about relegation. It’s ACC who will be at home on Saturday, and they will be fully aware that the four Zulfiqar brothers managed just 14 runs between them against VOC on Monday. On top of the failure of all except Sikander on Saturday, a side which is very dependent on that one family has genuine cause for concern. If ACC’s Richardt Frenz is just starting to run into form, Quick’s Jay Bista did so with a vengeance against Excelsior, and the Hanen will hope that he can do the same again this week. Quick are, perhaps, marginally less brittle at the moment than their hosts, and may start as favourites to prevail in what is a real four-pointer.

BdJ: Last weekend was certainly an emphatic demonstration of ACC’s weakness should all four (or five) Zulfiqars fail at once, with even Frenz’ firsts serious score of the season not enough to prevent comprehensive defeat. That said a look at the seasons’ stats does suggest that total Zulfiqar failure is something of an aberration, with Sikander especially looking in good nick, as he showed again during the Pro-Series this week. Jay Bista’s rapid acclimatisation to Topklasse cricket is Quick’s only real comfort in a season where they have first played down expectations and then played down to them, and even 127 rapid runs from the Mumbaiker were not enough to win any points last weekend.


RL’s tips: Excelsior, Sparta, Dosti, VRA, Quick.

BdJ’s tips: HCC, VOC, HBS, VRA, ACC.

Round 5 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 20/05/18


BdJ: A quick turnaround after yesterday’s games and we’ve another full five game set of Topklasse matches to look forward to tomorrow. The heavily front-loaded schedule this season has been particularly unforgiving to slow-starters, and if the under-performing VRA hope to claw their way into contention they will need to take two points off HBS when they meet at the Amsterdamse Bos. A match that promised to be a highlight at the start of the season now sees the visitors start as strong favourites, with the Crows’ top order big guns Toby Visee, Wesley Barresi, Jaron Morgan and Sharn Gomes finally firing against Punjab yesterday.

The hosts will need early wickets if they are to contain them, though in Vivian Kingma and Quirijn Gunning they have the bowlers to deliver and it’s worth noting that HBS have yet to pass 160 away from home. But if HBS have been inconsistent, VRA have found altogether the wrong sort of consistency, with each of their top six having been dismissed for single figures at least as often as not thus far.

RL: It’s less obvious than the failures at the top of the batting order, but Gunning and Kingma have only taken nine wickets between them so far, and have not been as devastating as they might be expected to be. The turf of the Bos is not, of course, the artificial surface at Craeyenhout, and a repeat of Saturday’s 300-plus total by HBS would come as a surprise, but if the Crows’ top order has until now flattered to deceive, VRA’s has simply been miserably disappointing. The return to form of the HBS top four, however, proves that things can change very quickly, and Peter Borren’s 60 on Saturday illustrates the dormant power of the home side’s batting. Home advantage may in the end prove decisive here.


BdJ: Likewise hoping to turn around a poor start to the season will be Quick Haag at Nieuw Hanenburg tomorrow but with their opponents Excelsior ‘20 embarking on yet another winning streak it’s fair to say they will be underdogs even in their own back yard. So far in the season Quick have amassed just 460 runs for the loss of 38 wickets, and though Jay Bista’s 90 against HCC yesterday looked like a promise of a lot more runs to come, the rest of the batting card’s form inspires little confidence.

Though the defending champion’s four-wicket win over VOC chasing just 100 was far from emphatic, the fact that the lower middle order got them over the line after Fred Klaassen had removed both Ingram and Hilditch and reduced them to 5-37 will doubtless redouble the self-belief of the as-yet undefeated defending champions.

RL: Winning ugly can be the key to long-term championship success, and if Excelsior have been less than wholly convincing so far, the fact remains that they go on winning. The Schiedammers’ bowling has been the decisive factor, and with the five-man seam attack of Hilditch, Van Troost, Heggelman, Bhatti and Gijs Kroesen backed up by the spin of Ingram, they should be sharp enough to dismiss Quick’s brittle batting regardless of who bats first. Quick put up more of a fight against HCC than they managed against VOC a week ago, but it would be a major shock if Excelsior failed to return to Thurlede with the points.


BdJ: Likewise undefeated thus far are Dosti-United, in no small part thanks to the stellar form of Taruwar Kohli, now on three centuries from four innings, who seems to have rather got the hang of Dutch conditions in his second Topklasse season. With support from a rotating cast of partners including Rahil Ahmed, Vinoo Tewarie or the veteran Hafeez, Dosti have been able to put opponents under scoreboard pressure and have had the discipline to capitalise.

It remains to be seen of course how well the Dosti line-up will cope should Kohli fall early, and with Sparta 1888’s Mudassar Bukhari relishing his top-flight return they have the firepower up front to put their hosts on the back foot, and they showed against HBS and VRA that they have the ability to knock over more highly-rated top orders than that of Dosti.

RL: It’s the all-round team effort of Dosti United under Vinoo Tewarie’s leadership which has impressed so far, almost as much as the disciplined technique and awesome consistency of Taruwar Kohli. Nor should we forget the menace of Anees Davids, who adds a real cutting edge to the attack and considerable power to the middle order. ACC were profoundly disappointing on Saturday, but Dosti maintained the pressure extremely well, and while Sparta have potential match-winners in Bukhari and Michael Pollard, and a supporting cast of solid performers, they probably lack the quality in depth to mount a really sustained challenge.


BdJ: Meanwhile Dosti’s Amsterdam rivals ACC will head down to Hazelaarweg to take on VOC Rotterdam. Though neither side have had the start to the season they might have hoped for, the Rotterdammers will back themselves to bounce back after their disappointment at Thurlede, especially with Max O’Dowd slated to return from injury and skipper Pieter Seelaar back at the helm. O’Dowd and Seelaar’s return not only adds some depth to a batting order full of talent but low on form, but also adds extra options with the ball, meaning it’s hard to see who ACC might look to target.

With ACC overseas players Richardt Frenz and Devon Botha yet to make much of an impact this season the Amsterdammers have been even more reliant than usual on the Zulfiqar clan, and when some or all of the brothers fail heavy defeats usually follow.

RL: If ACC’s attack failed to impress on Saturday the batting was much worse, and with three of the four Zulfiqar brothers going cheaply it was left to Sikander to try, rather forlornly, to marshal the inexperienced tail. VOC came back hard at Excelsior after their own batting collapse, and with Fred Klaassen and Pierce Fletcher leading a menacing attack it will take a much more concentrated effort from the Amsterdammers’ top order if they are to take anything from the weekend. VOC need a win to stay in touch with the leaders, and it’s hard to see who is likely to deny them.


BdJ: The round’s final match will see HCC travel to the Zomercomplex to take on Punjab Rotterdam, though as with all of Punjab’s games so far this season the validity of the match is contingent on the outcome of the Rotterdam club’s ongoing dispute with the KNCB regarding the status of Ali Raza and Mamoon Latif, who will likely play again come Monday. The pair were not enough to help Punjab bag two provisional points yesterday however, when a rampant HBS top-order ran up the season’s first 300+ score against them, and Navjit Singh ensured they would fall well short. Stephan Myburgh’s fluctuating form is a particular worry, though he and Raza showed the danger the Punjab opening pair can pose last week against ACC should they get going, but given that that onslaught has delivered their only points thus far one feels early wickets could put them out of the game early.

HCC meanwhile celebrated their 140-year jubilee with a 3-wicket win over Quick and head into the game with momentum on their side,  and an enviable new ball attck. Bryce Street has shown his value with both bat and ball, and though Jonathan Vandiar remains irreplaceable, HCC will be very pleased with his stand-in thus far. Much continues to depend on HCC’s own young batsmen stepping up this season, though with Tonny Staal at least rising to the occasion the Haagse may yet be revising their ambitions upwards from the mid-table finish they were targetting at the start of the summer.

RL: Even with their enhanced line-up Punjab have not shown much sign so far of repeating last season’s successes, and it’s clear that they are missing the contribution of Shoaib Minhaas, Khurram Shazad and Yasir Ali. Three defeats out of four on the field may be overshadowed by the eligibility dispute, but it would in itself be sufficient to suggest that the Rotterdammers might be early candidates for relegation. That said, HCC too have struggled to find their best form. They, though, have won two on the trot, and will be very keen to make it three and reinforce their mid-table position.


BdJ’s Round 5 tips: HBS, Excelsior, Dosti, VOC, HCC

RL’s Round 5 tips: VRA, Excelsior, Dosti, VOC, HCC

Round 4 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 18/05/18


BdJ: The first round of this coming Topklasse double weekend is set to kick off a tad earlier than usual at de Diepput, where HCC and Quick Haag will be getting underway an hour early to leave ample time for HCC’s 140-year Jubilee celebrations in the evening. Quick will be looking to spoil the party, but with the Hanen in a dreadful rut of form it would certainly be an upset. Quick’s batting has looked fragile all season and only their only points so far have come from a surprise win against an undercooked VRA side in the season opener. Overseas signings Jay Bista and Sean Davey have not really taken to Dutch conditions so far, and a Quick side in the midst of rebuilding will need them to come good quickly if they are to stay afloat.

Their hosts meanwhile will be full of confidence, coming off the back of their Ali Ahmed-inspired demolition of HBS last week. HCC’s own new signing, Australian Bryce Street, seems to have adjusted rather more quickly, hitting his maiden Topklasse fifty last week as well as lending some variety to the pace attack. With Ryan Ninan pairing Ahmed in the spin section HCC have the look of a balanced team, though the batting still looks rather brittle without Jonathan Vandiar to underpin it. Nonetheless Quick this season have not looked the side to take advantage.

RL: After a slow start HCC suddenly found another gear against HBS on Sunday, although they have some way to go before they can be seen as one of the stronger teams in the competition. The batting does, indeed, lack real conviction, but there is little evidence that Quick are in a position to cause them major problems. The Nieuw Hanenburg outfit were never in the game against VOC last week, and the bowling looked, if anything, even more dispirited than the batting.


BdJ: Meanwhile defending Champions Excelsior ‘20 will welcome the widely-tipped VOC Rotterdam to Thurlede looking to extend their latest unbeaten run. VOC have recovered from an upset opening defeat away at Dosti to win their next two games convincingly, but have yet to fully live up to the pre-season hype. Of their batch of eye-catching new signings only keeper-bat Scott Edwards has really delivered thus far, and they will be without skipper first-choice spinner Pieter Seelaar when they head to Schiedam due to bereavement, young Seb van Lent returning to the side in his place.

Nonetheless the Rotterdammers pose a serious threat to Excelsior’s nascent streak, with Ahsan Malik and Fred Klaassen as capable of taking advantage of Thurlede’s occasionally two-speed pitch as the host’s own disciplined young seamers. Early wickets will likely be key one way or the other, with limited batting depth the key weakness of both sides. James Hilditch’s especially will be the scalp VOC will be looking for, together with that of the evergreen Lorenzo Ingram, whilst the hosts will want to see Edwards and Corey Rutgers back in the pavilion as soon as possible.

RL: This should be the game of the round, with Excelsior’s established, twice-champion outfit taking on a VOC side which, as m’ colleague points out, has yet to deliver its full potential. But the VOC attack was in complete command against a disappointing Quick side, and even without Pieter Seelaar they have the variety to test Tom Heggelman’s team.


BdJ: Also unbeaten thus far, to the surprise of many, are the perhaps rather underrated Dosti-United, who will meet Amsterdam rivals ACC at het Loopveld on Saturday. The Dosti middle order of Mohammad Hafeez, new overseas Anees Davids and especially Taruwar Kohli have proved the backbone of their success thus far, whilst sometime national team prospect Rahil Ahmed seems to have recaptured some of his old confidence.

ACC meanwhile remain thankful that the unduly less-celebrated Rehmat Zulfiqar was blessed with three younger brothers at once, the four Zulfiqars and their semi-retired father still providing the backbone of the batting order. New overseas keeper Richardt Frenz has yet to make a significant impact for his side, having missed one of their three matches due to illness, but with his return the visitors arguably have the advantage in batting depth. That aside there’s really little to pick between the two Amsterdam sides, though on current form probably Dosti have momentum on their side.

RL: ACC and Dosti have provided some memorable encounters in recent years, and this one should be no exception. In a crowded table matches like this acquire extra significance, and with Kohli in supreme form with the bat – and capable of chipping in with the ball as well – Dosti have fully deserved their excellent start to the campaign. If they are to maintain their challenge to Excelsior, and others’, title hopes, and having lost the chance to take a two-point advantage at the top last week, they will be especially keen to maintain the momentum at Het Loopveld.


BdJ: Fellow Amsterdammers VRA have been rather underwhelming thus far, an intimidating middle order line up of Ben Cooper, Eric Szwarczynski and Peter Borren having misfired in the early rounds, but they remain odds-on to take two points back from Bermweg when they take on Sparta on Saturday.

Nonetheless Sparta have thus far performed creditably on their return to the Topklasse with two wins from three games, and with Tim de Kok in fine form and new overseas Michael Pollard looking sound pick the absence of last season’s stalwarts Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell has not proved too costly. Dost Mohammad has grown into his role as new-ball partner to former Netherlands international Mudassar Bukhari, and at full strength the Capelle side will be no pushovers. VRA will need to shake off the early-season cobwebs if they are to avoid the stumbling start that cost them so dearly last season.

RL: Sparta’s assiduously assembled team has made a good start to the campaign, even without Jeggels and Bell, and were decidedly too strong for Punjab last week. Although Pollard has had less impact with the bat than his first-day knock suggested, he is too good a player to struggle for long, and his contribution will be needed if the Bermweg side is to hold its own against a VRA team which is capable, on its day, of beating anyone in the competition. The same applies in reverse to VRA’s international batting line-up, and on current evidence I would be inclined to tip a narrow Sparta victory here.


BdJ: HBS will look to bounce back from their disastrous outing at de Diepput last week when they take on Punjab Rotterdam at Craeyenhout, thought the vulnerability to the moving ball that Ali Ahmed exposed in their top order will doubtless give their opponents hope of taking two points back to Rotterdam. The big question of course remains whether they will awarded any points regardless of what happens on the field, should they indeed persist with the selection of Belgian nationals Ali Raza and Mamoon Latif, whom the KNCB have deemed ineligible as local players.

Punjab have indicated that the two will continue to play until the dispute is resolved, and the board have made clear that every in which match they appear will be awarded to the opposition. Even with Raza and Latif the Rotterdammers head to the Hague as underdogs, but there’s every chance that with them they will be earning only penalty points on Saturday.

RL: HBS and Punjab were both surprise packets last season, but the Kraaien have been less convincing so far this time round, while the eligibility dispute which hangs over Punjab makes any prediction difficult. Punjab do have a well-balanced side, whatever its legitimacy, and the departure of Corey Rutgers to VOC has removed some solidity from the HBS top order. Barresi and Visée have the ability to take any attack apart, but they have yet to maintain the fireworks for very long. If they, and Jaron Morgan, don’t pile on the runs on Saturday Punjab may prevail, but as m’ colleague points out, any victory may prove to be Pyrrhic.


BdJ’s Round 4 tips: HCC, VOC, Dosti, VRA, HBS
RL’s Round 4 tips: HCC, Excelsior, Dosti, Sparta, HBS

Another split weekend, and a clear leader in prospect

Rod Lyall 11/5/18


The mildly sadistic master who was in charge of cross-country running at my secondary school used to claim that his task as a handicapper was to ensure that everyone crossed the line at the same moment.

He never achieved this, of course, but it’s beginning to look as if the self-regulating recruitment and transfer process which has operated in the Topklasse over the winter might just produce such a result, with all ten teams on 18 points at the end of August.

Two sides emerged from the second round of matches on Thursday with a brace of wins, but after an excellent start Excelsior ‘20 had to work hard to overcome the resistance of VRA Amsterdam, and it’s only Dosti United who have twice been really convincing winners. Intriguingly, these two sides will meet at Dosti’s Drieburg ground on Saturday.

Dosti, who could thank a fine double from Mohammad Hafeez – including five for 13, his best-ever figures in the top division – for their convincing victory over Quick Haag, will have every reason to relish this encounter, while Excelsior, after reducing VRA to 79 for eight on Thursday, saw their visitors recover to 176, George Dunlop contributing a career-best 57 and sharing a ninth-wicket stand of 82 with veteran former international Adeel Raja.

It was, moreover, only due to a fighting knock of 62 not out by James Hilditch that the Thurlede side squeezed home with a three-wicket margin and 11 balls to spare, and Tom Heggelman will be conscious that his side has yet to hit top gear in its attempt to win a third successive title.

45-Hilditch-playsfrom-the-b
James Hilditch

Quick, bowled out for 71 by Dosti as they chased 209, only openers Jay Bista and Lesley Stokkers reaching double figures, came down to earth with a bump after their first-day victory over VRA, and they will visit VOC Rotterdam on Saturday determined to regain some momentum.

But it is the opposite story for the Rotterdammers: having suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Dosti last weekend, they bounced back with a vengeance against HCC on Thursday, dismissing the Hagenaars for 127 with an excellent all-round bowling performance.

Their own total of 206 for nine owed a huge amount to Dutch international keeper Scott Edwards, who batted throughout the innings for his 153-ball 90, including just three fours and a six, and a good deal to his partnership with Pieter Seelaar, who made a rather brisker 53 in a fourth-wicket stand of 91.

HCC now find themselves at the foot of the table, and will face difficult opponents this Sunday in the form of HBS Den Haag, whose demolition of Sparta 1888 secured them a position in the top half of a very crowded table.

Disappointing as their total of 160 may have been, Wesley Barresi and Tobias Visée again falling in single figures and Jaron Morgan top-scoring with 36, HBS made it seem like a decent score when they shot the Capelle side out for 61, seamer Berend Westdijk claiming four for 30.

This defeat put Sparta’s win over HCC into a different perspective, and they will be very keen to add Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell to their strength at the earliest opportunity. They are clearly a workmanlike side, but it looks as if they may need every point they can muster as the season unfolds.

They, too, will face a tricky third game on Saturday, when they play Punjab Rotterdam at Het Zomercomplex. Punjab were in rampant form against ACC on Thursday, with Stef Myburgh (101 not out) and Ali Raza (73) ripping the Amsterdammers’ attack apart with an opening stand of 163 in just 22 overs.

The advent of legspinner Bernard Vorster gives the Punjab attack another dimension too, and while it may not be the most dangerous in the competition, the bowlers did well to restrict ACC to 204 for six, a total which the batsmen then passed with more than 17 overs to spare.

For ACC, who were admittedly weakened by the absence through illness of Richardt Frenz, this will have been something of a wake-up call, the innings of Rehmat (30), Saqib (45) and Sikander Zulfiqar (67 not out) again confirming just how vital the fortunes of the brothers are, not forgetting the contribution of father Ahmed (29), standing in for Frenz.

Saturday will see ACC make the short journey across Amstelveen to take on the enigmatic VRA, who share with HCC the indignity of being winless after two matches.

Their blushes rescued to a degree by the resistance of Dunlop and Raja, and by another fighting effort with the ball, the VRA top order again failed to live up to their reputation and their potential, and Emile van den Burg’s men will need to regroup quickly if they are to avoid losing contact with the leaders, one of whom will be on six points by Sunday evening.


One the first week, two on Thursday – can I make it three this weekend with the following picks?
Dosti, VOC, HBS, Punjab, VRA.

Ascension Day programme gives Topklasse an early lift

Rod Lyall 09/05/18


The traditional Ascension Day fixtures on Thursday feature a clash between two of last weekend’s surprise winners, Quick Haag and Dosti United Amsterdam, at the former’s Nieuw Hanenburg ground.

It also brings into direct confrontation two of the overseas players, both Indian, who made the greatest impression in the opening round: Dosti’s Taruwar Kohli (Punjab), whose chanceless 115 not out was the first century of the new Topklasse season, and Quick’s Jay Bista (Mumbai), who took three for 23 on debut in his side’s three-wicket victory over VRA Amsterdam.

Bista’s arrival at Nieuw Hanenburg, along with New Zealander Sean Davey, looks to have compensated Quick to some degree for their loss of international opener Wesley Barresi and the long-serving Henk-Jan Mol, while Dosti, thanks to the batting of Kohli, Rahil Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez, were never really stretched in their 81-run win against VOC Rotterdam.

Thursday’s contest will give us a clearer perspective on the relative strengths of both these sides, one of whom will be guaranteed at least a share of the early running in the Topklasse’s packed May programme.


Sparta 1888 also made a promising start to their campaign, and what was particularly encouraging about their six-wicket victory over HCC was the way in which, even without Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell, they fought back after their visitors had established a firm initial platform.

The Capelle side have a well-balanced attack, led by Mudassar Bukhari and Dost Muhammed, backed up by the seam of Usman Saleem and skipper Joost Martijn Snoep as well as Faisal Iqbal’s spin, and in Michael Pollard they have an overseas player who seems well equipped to score plenty of runs in the middle order.

They will again have home advantage on Thursday, when they take on HBS Den Haag at Sportpark Bermweg.

HBS’s powerful batting lineup failed to fire against ACC on Saturday, only Sharn Gomes coming good as his side chased a target of 234, and they will need two or more of Wesley Barresi, Tobias Visée, Navjit Singh and Jaron Morgan to give him greater support if they are to recover from that setback.

The clash between Barresi and Visée on the one hand and Bukhari and Dost Muhammed on the other could well be one of the highlights of what looks like an intriguing encounter.


HCC’s decline on Saturday from a potentially winning position will have given Mark Jonkman’s side cause for serious reflection, and it is already clear that the Diepput outfit will be missing the resilience of leading run-scorer Jonathan Vandiar.

He dug them out of some difficult situations in recent seasons, stiffening a middle order which looked all too vulnerable against Sparta, and that absence will throw even greater weight upon the top three, Bryce Street, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee, while Ryan Ninan and Hidde Overdijk will also have a crucial role if HCC are to set – or chase – decent totals.

They will have their first chance to rectify matters at De Diepput on Thursday, when they entertain VOC Rotterdam, who were also disappointing in going down to Dosti United last Sunday.

One of the strongest sides in the competition on paper, a VOC attack which includes internationals Fred Klaassen, Ahsan Malik Jamil and Pieter Seelaar, as well as seamers Pierce Fletcher and Bobby Hanif and spinner Umar Baker, was able to make little impression on the Dosti top order, while the batsmen struggled against a disciplined opposing attack.

It can only be a matter of time before VOC realise their very considerable potential, but Dosti did enough on Sunday to show they cannot be taken lightly.

Another of the sides which underperformed on the opening day, VRA Amsterdam, travel to Schiedam to take on Excelsior ‘20, who once again took up the battle where they had left off last season.

The defending champions looked as strong as ever as they cruised to an eight-wicket victory over Punjab Rotterdam, with Lorenzo Ingram and James Hilditch again leading from the front, and VRA will need to raise their game considerably if they are to trouble their hosts.


Early-season rustiness can scarcely explain a VRA side which includes Ben Cooper, Eric Szwarczynski and Peter Borren, as well as openers Vikram Singh and Daan ter Braak, being bowled out for 124, and although the bowlers did well to keep their team in the game, a much more disciplined effort will be needed against Excelsior.

The Schiedammers are, of course, a much more experienced outfit than they were in their first championship season two years ago, and they seem virtually certain to be at the heart of the title race. That said, VRA are perfectly capable of bouncing back fast, and their potentially explosive batting and very considerable bowling resources are both strong enough to give Excelsior a serious run for their money.


At Het Loopveld West ACC, the fifth of last weekend’s winners, will be at home to Punjab, and looking to build on that opening victory over HBS.

The Rotterdammers remain something of an unknown quantity, and all the more so because they had to begin their campaign against as formidable opponents as Excelsior. But they did enough, especially with the bat, to indicate that last year’s mid-table position wasn’t a flash in the pan, and they will travel to Amstelveen hopeful of causing problems for an ACC side which remains far too dependent upon the Zulfiqar brothers and their overseas players.

But the Zulfiqars looked to be in great early-season form last weekend, and unless Punjab can find a way of neutralizing that threat a home win looks to be on the cards.


Rod Lyall’s I’m-not-sure-why-I-do-this predictions:
Quick, Sparta, VOC, Excelsior, ACC.

Round 1 Preview

Rod Lyall 04/05/18


A year ago, Rotterdam’s Zomercomplex became the Topklasse’s newest venue when Punjab made their debut in the top flight with a notable win over Quick Haag. This time last season’s newcomers again start at home, but against defending champions Excelsior ‘20, who will be setting out on their quest to become the first side since VRA in 2005-07 to win three national titles in a row, a feat which the Schiedammers themselves achieved a decade earlier.

This match will have added piquancy because Excelsior will feature seamer Haider Khan, who returns to his old club after a spell with Punjab, while the home side will include Dutch international opener Stef Myburgh, who had two seasons at Thurlede before moving to Schiedam neighbours Hermes-DVS, whence he has now landed at the Zomercomplex.

Punjab will be hoping that Belgian international allrounder Ali Raza and 20-year-old South African Bernard Vorster are able to fill the gaps left by Shoaib Minhaas and Khurram Shazad, and that the amateur members of what proved a workmanlike and resilient side last season are able to rise to the occasion against a stable, increasingly experienced Excelsior outfit.

With Lorenzo Ingram and James Hilditch once again at the heart of Tom Heggelman’s side, and Gijs Kroesen back from a successful grade season in Perth, Excelsior will start as clear favourites, but the opening of a Topklasse campaign always throws up a surprise or two, and the Schiedammers would be happy and relieved to head home with their first points tomorrow evening.


This year’s new venue is Het Schollebos in Capelle aan den IJssel (a.k.a. Sportpark Bermweg), where promoted Sparta 1888 will host HCC at the ground they have developed in the years since their last, brief sojourn in the top flight.

Successful as they were in the Hoofdklasse, Sparta’s overseas players Riaan Jeggels, Warren Bell and Craig Ambrose will need to adjust quickly to the tougher demands of the Topklasse, and a HCC lineup which includes new player-coach Bryce Street and the returning Ryan Ninan alongside a healthy mix of experienced and developing home-produced players will constitute a stiff test.

Mudassar Bukhari will doubtless relish his return to the highest division, and he can be expected to use all his experience against the Hagenaars. HCC’s ability to deal with him, and that of the Sparta batting to cope with a varied HCC attack, spearheaded by Mark Jonkman and Reinier Bijloos, may well be the keys to what promises to be an intriguing encounter.


On paper at least, VRA Amsterdam look to be one of the main challengers to Excelsior’s hegemony, and they will have an early test of their mettle when they take on traditional rivals Quick Haag in the Amsterdamse Bos. It will be interesting to see how quickly and effectively international Viv Kingma takes over the new-ball role from the departed Fred Klaassen, and how well Daan ter Braak fits into an already-strong batting lineup.

For Quick, overseas players Jay Bista and Sean Davey will need to settle in as rapidly as possible to get the season away to a solid start, especially with Wesley Barresi and Henk-Jan Mol no longer in the side. But man for man, new VRA skipper Emile van den Burg looks to have a more accomplished side, with deep batting – the top six have 20 centuries in the top division to their credit – and a well-balanced attack, and a home win looks to be on the cards.


HBS Den Haag had a significant impact last year on their return to the Topklasse, and they will be aiming to build on that platform when they entertain ACC at Craeyenhout.

With Australian player-coach Jaron Morgan – one of three batsmen to pass 1000 runs last season – joined by left-arm spinner Sharn Gomes, and the top order reinforced by the arrival of Wesley Barresi, the Kraaien are another side capable of putting in a convincing title challenge, and will hope to exploit the advantage of their artificial outfield against an ACC side which often struggled last year.

In the constant battle to find new ways of saying that the Amsterdammers are worrying dependent on the brothers Zulfiqar, perhaps it is sufficient to remark that much may hinge on the contribution of their new overseas players Richardt Frenz and Devon Botha. But in the longer term it is the emergence of one or more of the crop of ACC youngsters which will determine whether the Loopveld club is able to emulate Excelsior’s achievement in building a young side into a winning combination.


Another of last year’s struggling sides, Dosti United will start at Sportpark Drieburg against another of the potential title challengers, VOC Rotterdam, although because of field availability issues this match will be played on Sunday.

With five current or recent Dutch internationals in their squad and national skipper Pieter Seelaar at the helm, VOC have plenty of firepower with both bat and ball, and they will be very disappointed if they do not give a much better account of themselves than in 2017. Dosti, too, have a lot to prove, but they will need a much greater team effort if they are to avoid putting excessive weight on the shoulders of their overseas players, Taruwar Kohli and Anees Davids.

Overall, though, VOC look like a much stronger outfit, and they will be favourites to take the points back to Rotterdam, avenging in the process their last opening visit to Drieburg, when they were dismissed for 17 in the first round of the 2016 season.


Rod Lyall’s first-round tips: Excelsior, HCC, VRA, HBS, VOC.