Topklasse Team of the Year 2021

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 08/10/21

Having had some time to reflect on the highs and lows of a fortunately full season 2021 of Topklasse, we at TKcricket are once again seating ourselves in the selector’s chair (or bench?) to fill out the roster for the 2021 Topklasse Team of the Year.

Max O’Dowd

BdJ: Once again the easiest pick this year is also the first, VOC’s Max O’Dowd appears at the top of the run aggregates this year, and so at the top of our batting order. His 820 runs at a shade over 63 included five 50s and three centuries, and the Netherlands’ opener has been unmatched at the top of the order all season. The question of who partners him at the top is a little trickier, however. VCC’s keeper-opener Mohit Hingorani deserves a mention, having had a quietly effective season seeing off the new ball at Westvliet, and this despite the added burden of keeping to the league’s most intimidating pace attack, a task which he has performed admirably. But his numbers just don’t quite justify a claim to an opening slot, nor indeed the gloves, over O’Dowd’s usual partner at the top of VOC’s line-up, Scott Edwards. Edwards’ tally of 533 runs at 53 certainly makes a strong case for including him alongside O’Dowd, but for the fact that this season Edwards could not always be relied upon to take the field at the top of the order as scheduled. Assuming we’re not willing to risk our Team of the Year opener being caught short at the start of the innings, Edwards’ natural spot, it seems to me, is that of “floater.” This would also make room for Punjab’s Stephan Myburgh, who didn’t quite replicate his phenomenal showing last season but nonetheless racked up 570 runs at a brisk strike rate of 109.6, along with a Topklasse winner’s medal of course.

RL: In a season in which several well-established openers couldn’t quite come up to expectations – one thinks of VRA’s Vikram Singh (338 at 21.12), HCC’s Tonny Staal (261 at 21.75), Myburgh’s partner at Punjab, Rehmat Zulfiqar (334 at 19.65), and Tobias Visée (231 at 17.77) – the choice of O’Dowd and Myburgh seems immensely reasonable. It may be that the wettest summer in living memory had something to do with the batters’ modest returns, but it also confirms a pattern whereby Dutch-produced players have been less successful with the bat than with the ball.

Tristan Stubbs

RL: The same applies to the rest of the top six, which makes it all the more sensible to adopt m’colleague’s suggestion and bat Edwards at four or five. My number three would be Punjab’s Asad Zulfiqar, whose 529 runs at 37.79 lent solidity to a top order which blazed brightly much of the time but which could be extinguished on occasion. Asad hit three fifties, and the same argument of consistency in a line-up which often faltered leads me to find a place for VRA’s Eric Szwarczynski in his valedictory season; he only played 14 matches, but made 345 runs at 28.75, including four half-centuries. Another strong contender, if we pick him as a batsman-who-can-bowl rather than as an out-and-out all-rounder, is Navjit Singh of HBS, who contributed 519 runs at 39.92, earning himself a place in the Dutch A squad. This assumes we aren’t going to avail ourselves of the services of one of the handful of overseas players who graced the competition this year; if we are, then there’s a quartet of contenders for a spot in the top order.

BdJ: We’ve not specified our rules regarding overseas players with any more clarity than the League itself, but whatever the allowance you’d think Tayo Walbrugh’s 780 runs at 65 for HBS would give him a stronger claim to the number three slot than any potential challenger, likewise even if we count the Netherlands-eligible Tristan Stubbs as an overseas for as long as Cricket South Africa continue to be difficult about his potential call-up, his three figure average for Excelsior makes a strong case for finding space for him in the top order despite his early departure. Sybrand Engelbrecht’s overseas status must likewise be fading somewhat now that he’s settled in the Netherlands, though the desire to include him may stem somewhat from recency bias, having had a fairly quiet season until his magnificent innings against VRA propelled VCC into the final. Among the overseas contingent Garnett Tarr also deserves at least an honourable mention, his 637 runs at a shade under 40 one of the few positives for Sparta in an otherwise miserable season. All told Walbrugh and Stubbs remain head and shoulders above the rest of the Topklasse pros this season however, and would be my picks if we restrict ourselves to the rather retro two-overseas maximum. If the gloves go to Edwards I’d say Navjit Singh shades it over Asad Zulfiqar or Szwarczynski, by a distance the most improved bat in the competition over the past couple of seasons, and his busier, hard-running style makes him a fine foil to his HBS team-mate Walbrugh and the big-hitting Stubbs.

Sikander Zulfiqar

BdJ: On to the all-rounders, and two names immediately stand out here, or one if we’re going by surnames. Sikander and Saqib Zulfiqar have both had excellent seasons with bat and ball, and indeed their stats these season look as similar as do the brothers themselves. Both averaging just over 30 with the bat, and 27 wickets each with the ball, the pair have been instrumental in Punjab’s successful title run throughout the season. Sikander’s game-changing century in the first qualifier was a strong contender for knock of the season, and the pair’s six consecutive wickets were instrumental in the Rotterdammers defending 157 against VCC in the final. HCC’s Hidde Overdijk likely has the next strongest claim, despite only playing 12 matches, 19 wickets at 15.5 and 225 runs at 44.8 is an excellent return. VCC’s Bas de Leede, with 26 wickets at 12.4, would be a tempting option as a bowling all-rounder despite a middling season with the bat.

RL: Of the faster bowlers, De Leede’s season looked up after a slowish start, but Overdijk’s contribution to the HCC attack during that period when they were consistently ripping through opponents’ top order – the run which would have taken them into the play-offs but for that nonsense in the final round – gives him the edge in my view, as a bowler who can bat if not as an allrounder. But pride of place among the pacemen must go to Ryan Klein of HBS, whose 27 wickets at 12.93 gave his side’s attack an invaluable cutting edge. Not far behind comes Voorburg’s Viv Kingma, who claimed 23 at 12.78 despite another bout of injury worries; his partnership with Logan van Beek (who deserves an honourable mention in the allrounders category) was a key factor in the side’s elevated position, and their absence mid-season was a considerable blow. An honourable mention, too, for Suleiman Tariq, both as a tireless seamer who often bowled his ten overs unchanged, and as a canny captain, whose role in Punjab’s first championship should not be underestimated.

Clayton Floyd

BdJ: Klein’s appearances in an orange shirt this summer have put his local status beyond question, and his place near the top of the wickets table would make him a shoe-in for this side even without his occasional but crucial cameos for HBS with the bat. Of the competitors to share the new ball Kingma has the edge over his VCC partner van Beek or Punjab’s Tariq by dint of his superior strike rate, and by the same token I’d say De Leede probably has the strongest claim as first change, and if we are to go with four seamers likely worth his spot as a dedicated bowler this season. That doesn’t leave us a lot of room in the spin section of course, if Stubbs and Saqib Zulfiqar both make the cut we’ve only one slow-bowling slot to play with, and despite some notable performances filling it ought not to be the toughest assignment for the selectors.

RL: If O’Dowd is the first name on the sheet, HCC’s slow left-armer Clayton Floyd is fairly certainly the second: with 37 wickets at an average of 7.32 he was ten wickets ahead of his nearest rivals, and he claimed five in an innings on three occasions. That gives us two or three spinners turning the ball away from the right-handers, but to be fair none of the leading off-spinners has made an overwhelming case for inclusion. With 26 wickets Voorburg’s Philippe Boissevain, another leggie, deserves a shout-out, while another to watch out for in future is VOC youngster Siebe van Wingerden, who only bowled 65.1 overs in his 16 matches but still took 22 wickets at 13.77 and finished seventh in the bowling averages. That gives us then, an almost settled selection, with issues balance leaving us with one spot still up for debate…

BdJ: Saqib Zulfiqar or Bas de Leede is indeed the last question left to us, and though it leaves the side looking a little spin-heavy I feel that team balance must take a back seat to the weight of a champion’s medal in this case. Cruel as the cut may be, one hopes that de Leede will be able to find some solace in his call-up for the Netherland’s World Cup squad.

Our Topklasse Team of the Year fro 2021:

O’Dowd (VOC), Myburgh (Punjab), Walbrugh (HBS), Navjit Singh (HBS), Stubbs (Excelsior), Edwards (VOC), Saqib Zulfiqar (Punjab), Sikander Zulfiqar (Punjab), Floyd (HCC), Klein (HBS), Kingma (Voorburg)

12th man: Van Wingerden (VOC).

Punjab CCR vs VCC at Zomercomplex. Grand Final Topklasse|05.09.2021

VCC vs VRA at Westvliet Topklasse semi final|04.09.2021

Preview Finals Weekend

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/09/21

The KNCB’s scriptwriters were back in top form last weekend, as after all the hassle of the previous two weeks actual cricket became the headline once more, and Punjab hauled themselves out of a seemingly hopeless situation to claim the first grand final spot and home advantage for the season’s climax this Sunday. First, though, Voorburg and VRA Amsterdam will have to play off on Saturday to decide who their opponents will be.

RL: Having come so close to victory last Sunday, only to see it torn from their grasp by an innings of rare character and accomplishment, Voorburg will need to discover resources of character of their own as they try to achieve a rematch with Punjab. That they have resources of ability, especially in the bowling department, is beyond question, although the sharpness of the attack was effectively blunted towards the latter stages of last week’s encounter. Still and all, Viv Kingma and Logan van Beek, backed up by Bas de Leede and Aryan Dutt, did well against the might of Punjab’s top order, and VRA’s rather more fragile batting will need to be at its very best to cope with that threat. If we assume that the Amsterdammers will be at full strength for this one – and if not now, when? – then a top six of Vikram Singh; Zamaan Khan, Shirase Rasool or Luke Scully; Ben Cooper; Eric Szwarczynski; Peter Borren; and Jack Balbirnie is, on paper at least, the equal of any in the competitition. Lack of consistency has, of course, been one of the hallmarks of their season, but they are no strangers to the big occasion, and there are few in Dutch domestic cricket bigger than this. Setting a decent tempo has been the bugbear of Voorburg’s batting this year, but they showed last week, mainly through the efforts of De Leede, Sybrand Engelbrecht and Van Beek, that even a slowish start need not be terminal if the side has wickets in hand. Engelbrecht is Voorburg’s leading run-scorer and only centurion, and getting him early might well be crucial for VRA’s chances. New-ball pairing Quirijn Gunning and Ashir Abid may lack the menace of Van Beek and Kingma but they have claimed early wickets often enough, and with seamers Singh and Borren and spinners Leon Turmaine, Udit Nashier and Balbirnie available to take over VRA’s bowling resources are far from negligible.

BdJ: It’s fair to say that VCC’s attack is better suited to their own conditions than the Zomercomplex, where pace on the ball is ever a risky strategy. Against Punjab the wet conditions didn’t help either as lateral movement didn’t last and the visitors weren’t willing to risk deploying Boissevain’s legspin given how tough it was to keep the ball dry. In retrospect that may have been a mistake, and one suspects it’s not one that will be repeated. Voorburg’s traditionally slow starts with the bat are arguably a sign of a lack of faith in their lower middle order, preferring to build a platform for the likes of Engelbrecht, Dutt and van Beek to launch from rather than going hard from the start, and it’s a strategy that has largely worked for them, thanks in part to the strength of their bowling. Against a line-up with the potential hitting power of VRA it’s perhaps not the soundest approach however, and risks the hosts underexploiting VRA’s bowling woes. Though the visitors’ persistent availability issues are unlikely to be a factor for a semi-final, the improbably numerous injuries that have plagued them through the season persist. With Quirijn Gunning, Udit Nashier and Luke Hartsink all less than fully fit, even if VRA can field their first-choice attack it will be somewhat under-strength. What VRA do have, however, is momentum. A six-game winning streak heading into this fixture will lend the visitors a degree of confidence that their hosts, having seen a place in the final slip away last week, may struggle to match.

RL: And then the winners will proceed to the Zomercomplex on Sunday to take on Punjab. Leaders after the round-robin phase, the Rotterdammers have shown in recent weeks both that they are far from invincible and that they fight all the way to the final delivery. They will undoubtedly miss injured allrounder Teja Nidamanuru whoever their opponents may be, and in view of the way Irfan ul Haq stepped up last week when Nidamanuru was forced to leave the field and the faltering of the top order it may be that his absence will be felt especially keenly when the side bats. The depth of Punjab’s resources has been tested less than any other side in the competition: they’ve used only 13 players all season. But with Steph Myburgh and the four Zulfiqars in the line-up they remain a powerful unit, and the bowlers, if a little short of cutting edge, make up for that with discipline and an evident loathing of giving runs away. It has all the makings of a really cracking denouement.

BdJ: After such a dominant early season, Punjab’s entry into the final lacked a certain pomp for sure, though it indeed illustrated a degree of resilience that they’ve not had to call upon much. As much as the Zulfiqar-heavy middle order, the obduracy of the Punjab tail has been a somewhat un-remarked strength of the table-topping Rotterdammers. That may again come into play regardless of who they face in the final, especially if VRA’s rickety bowling attack is called upon to play two days in succession. That said, should the Amsterdammers get through to the final they arguably have a better shot at spoiling Punjab’s party. The ability to bring in pinch-hitters such as Marcus Andrew and Shirase Rasool whose style of play is well-suited to Punjab’s artificial wicket and short boundaries makes them better able to at least partially negate the hosts’ home advatage. It’s worth noting that since Sieb van Wingerden’s six-for saw VOC roll Punjab in their own back yard back in May, VRA are the only visiting side to have taken points home from the Zomercomplex. Conversely, VCC have now lost there twice. It’s hard to argue that either would be favourites over a Punjab side that, despite their late wobbles, has consistently looked the strongest in the competition, but one suspects that the Rotterdammers themselves will be rooting for Voorburg tomorrow.

RL’s picks: Voorburg, Punjab.
BdJ’s picks: VRA, VRA.

Punjab CCR vs VCC at Zomercomplex. Preliminary Final|29.08.2021

Scorecard | VCC vs Punjab | 29.08.21

Voorburg I Vs Punjab I
1-Innings Match Played At Zomercomplex, Rotterdam, 29-Aug-2021, Topklasse
Punjab I Win by 3 wkts
Round SF
Toss won by Punjab I
Umpires ML Hancock – WPM van Liemt
Home Side Voorburg I
Points Awarded Voorburg I 0, Punjab I 4
Voorburg I 1st Innings 209/7 Closed (Overs 50)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
M Hingorani+   b Mubashar Hussain 18 44 1 0
TN de Grooth   b Mubashar Hussain 22 47 3 0
BFW de Leede* c AA Zulfiqar b I Ul Haq 38 75 2 1
SA Engelbrecht   c&b SM Zulfiqar 59 82 4 0
A Dutt c sub b SM Zulfiqar 15 16 1 1
LV van Beek c Y Usman b I Ul Haq 40 23 1 4
FJ de Lange run out Y Usman/AA Zulfiqar   10 13 1 0
PRP Boissevain not out   0 0 0 0
VJ Kingma dnb          
ST Mulder dnb          
N Kulkarni dnb          
extras   (b1 lb0 w6 nb0) 7      
TOTAL   7 wickets for 209      
1-39(TN de Grooth) 2-48(M Hingorani) 3-126(BFW de Leede) 4-147(A Dutt) 5-164(SA Engelbrecht) 6-208(LV van Beek) 7-209(FJ de Lange)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
S Bhatti 5 1 28 0 6
S Tariq 10 2 24 0
Mubashar Hussain 10 2 16 2
SA Zulfiqar 4 1 22 0
SM Zulfiqar 10 0 63 2
AT Nidamanuru 1.1 0 4 0
I Ul Haq 9.5 0 51 2
Punjab I 1st Innings 211/7 (Overs 48.2)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
SJ Myburgh c M Hingorani b VJ Kingma 11 8 2 0
RU Zulfiqar   b LV van Beek 10 35 2 0
AA Zulfiqar+ lbw b VJ Kingma 8 18 2 0
SM Zulfiqar lbw b A Dutt 4 21 0 0
SA Zulfiqar not out   114 116 6 5
I Ul Haq c M Hingorani b BFW de Leede 1 11 0 0
Y Usman   b BFW de Leede 0 3 0 0
S Tariq* c TN de Grooth b LV van Beek 18 42 2 0
S Bhatti not out   31 38 1 0
Mubashar Hussain dnb          
AT Nidamanuru dnb          
extras   (b0 lb2 w10 nb2) 14      
TOTAL   7 wickets for 211      
1-15(SJ Myburgh) 2-29(AA Zulfiqar) 3-31(RU Zulfiqar) 4-44(SM Zulfiqar) 5-51(I Ul Haq) 6-52(Y Usman) 7-93(S Tariq)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
A Dutt 10 3 16 1
VJ Kingma 10 2 38 2 1
LV van Beek 10 1 38 2 3
BFW de Leede 9.2 0 54 2 6 1
ST Mulder 8 0 57 0 1
PRP Boissevain 1 0 6 0

Sikander Zulfiqar’s heroics deny Voorburg

Rod Lyall 30/08/21

In one of the most extraordinary turnarounds of this or any other season Punjab Rotterdam, thanks to a magnificent unbeaten 114 from Sikander Zulfiqar, recovered from an apparently hopeless 52 for six to beat Voorburg by three wickets on Sunday and progress to next week’s grand final.

In a rain-punctuated reply chasing Voorburg’s 209 for seven, Punjab appeared to be heading for defeat for much of their innings, but dogged knocks from skipper Suleiman Tariq and from Sohail Bhatti gave Zulfiqar the support he needed as he batted his side into a winning position.

Earlier, Tariq had led from the front with an unbroken ten-over spell in which he conceded only 24 runs, while fellow-seamer Mubashar Hussain was even more economical, removing Voorburg openers Tom de Grooth and Mohit Hingorani into the bargain to finish with two for 16 from his unrelieved ten.

Punjab’s effort was all the more remarkable because key allrounder Teja Nidamanuru was able to bowl only seven deliveries before he was forced to leave the field with a hand injury sustained as he tried to stop a straight drive off his own bowling.

But Irfan ul Haq stepped into the breach, and for much of his spell he, too, was able to contain Voorburg’s batters.

Bas de Leede and Sybrand Engelbrecht batted solidly as they put on 78, but with boundaries few and far between it took them 21 overs to do it, and almost as soon as the runs began to flow a little De Leede was caught behind reaching for a delivery from Irfan.

Aryan Dutt made a cameo appearance for his 15, and Engelbrecht, having reached a hard-working half-century, decided that the time had come for more sustained aggression and, after hitting Saqib Zulfiqar for successive boundaries, fell to a return catch at the end of the same over and departed for 59.

There were now five overs left and Logan van Beek, who had already shown his intentions, made full use of them; they produced 45 runs, 34 of them from the bat of Van Beek, who made 40 from 23 deliveries, hitting four sixes, before he was caught on the long on boundary off the penultimate ball of the innings trying to add a fifth.

That final flurry had given Voorburg a solid total in the conditions, and when Viv Kingma had removed Steph Myburgh and Asad Zulfiqar and Van Beek had bowled Rehmat Zulfiqar, it began to look like a winning one, particularly with Nidamanuru unable to bat.

Rain held up proceedings for half an hour at 44 for three after 17 overs, and immediately after the resumption Saqib Zulfiqar fell to Dutt without addition to the score.

Dutt, if not unplayable, was certainly unhittable, and having opened the innings with two overs for six runs he now bowled his remaining eight at a cost of 10 more; when his spell came to an end Punjab were on 77 for six with just 20 overs left and 133 still needed.

By now Tariq had joined Sikander, combining rock-like defence with the occasional meaty blow. But it was one of the latter off Van Beek which flew to De Grooth on the point boundary and ended the skipper’s resistance.

Still Punjab needed 117, now from just 16 overs with only two effective wickets left, and Voorburg must have believed that they had one foot in the grand final.

Bhatti continued, however, where Tariq had left off, and Sikander, himself batting with an injured hand sustained in Saturday’s T20 semi-final, reached fifty with a six off De Leede.

Now Sikander moved quickly through the gears, needing only 25 deliveries to go from fifty to his hundred and hitting four more sixes in the process, and by the time the rain intervened with only five overs remaining, Punjab were on 185, requiring 25 more and just ahead on DLS.

Bhatti played his part, pushing singles to give Sikander the strike, and as the target neared he took a hand himself, slicing Philippe Boissevain away for four off the first ball of the only over he bowled.

Voorburg continued to fight all the way, knowing that dismissing Sikander would turn the game back their way, but Punjab could now be content with ones and twos, and they gradually edged their way towards victory.

The end had something of the Keystone Cops about it as, with four needed, Bhatti pushed to point for a quick single to get Sikander back on strike, the return hit the stumps, and with the fielders’ attention on a sustained appeal for the run out, the ball continued on to the boundary for four overthrows.

Sikander Zulfiqar’s unbeaten 114 came from 116 deliveries and included six fours and five sixes, while Bhatti finished with 31 not out from 38.

Voorburg will look back on this match as an opportunity lost as they prepare to face VRA Amsterdam next Saturday, but the truth is that they were denied by a superb and courageous innings, one which will be remembered for a very long time.

HCC and VOC withdraw from playoffs, VRA granted bye to semi-final

After two weeks of controversy, HCC and VOC Rotterdam have both elected to withdraw from the playoff phase of the Topklasse, citing the greater interests of Dutch cricket. The decision leaves Punjab Rotterdam and Voorburg CC to contest the preliminary final this Sunday, with the winner of that match going on to host the final a week later. Meanwhile VRA have been granted a bye to the semi-final on Saturday September 4th where they will take on the loser of that encounter with the winner taking the second spot in the final the following day.

HCC and VOC were originally slated to contest their final league phase match at de Diepput on the 15th of August, but that match was eventually abandoned with HCC refusing to continue after a heated exchange in the middle apparently included a racially-charged comment directed at the HCC keeper. After the KNCB initially awarded the game to VOC, the Commissie van Beroep overturned the decision, mandating that the match be replayed the following week, consequently delaying the start of the palyoff phase.

In the event, VOC declined to play the rescheduled match citing concerns over escalating tensions and throwing the competition into further confusion, compounded by an unrelated controversy over the conflicting rules over precedence of tie-breakers for teams finishing on equal points which cast doubt on which of VCC or HCC would finish in second should HCC be awarded the game.

HCC would then find themselves embroiled in a controversy of their own this week when a photo surfaced of the whiteboard on which the team had written their pre-game objectives ahead of their Round 17 match against Punjab, which featured a slogan which reffered to their opponents using a derogatory Urdu term.

As the ongoing mess threatened to overshadow the final phase of the Topklasse entirely, both clubs, in consultation with the KNCB, mutually agreed it would be best to withdraw.

In a statement on the club website VOC explained: VOC and HCC jointly discussed the situation surrounding the abandoned match. This was both desirable and necessary as it became clear this that the replay … had not been established in accordance with the regulations. Following consultations – and taking into account the interests of cricket in the Netherlands – VOC and HCC jointly decided to withdraw from potential participation in the playoffs.

HCC likewise issued a statement, saying, As a club we have certain norms and values. The unrest generated by the match against VOC is sufficient cause for us to withdraw from further participation in the play-offs. With this we hope that peace will return to cricket. We would like to emphasize that we consider it of great importance that we continue to maintain friendly and sporting ties with all clubs and hope by means of taking this step to demonstrate those intentions.

Playoffs Schedule

Sunday August 29th: Preliminary Final – Punjab Rotterdam vs Voorburg CC

Saturday September 4th: Semi Final – Loser Preliminary Final vs VRA

Sunday September 5th: Grand Final – Winner Prelim Final vs Winner Semi Final

HCC under fire as image of offensive, racially-tinged team slogan emerges

Bertus de Jong 24/08/21

HCC have come under fire after the emergence a photograph, obtained by TK cricket, of the Hague club’s match-planning white board in the side’s dressing room ahead of their 17th round Topklasse match against Punjab Rotterdam. The whiteboard was discovered by Punjab players following the conclusion of the match on Sunday August 8th. Together with the team selection and a series of tactical goals for the match in question, the slogan “Let’s back each other, stick together and Beat the Behenchods! [sic]” appears, the latter being an obscenity in Urdu and Hindi loosely translating as one who has sex with his sister.

The photo in question

A little over a week ago HCC controversially left the field and refused to continue their match against VOC Rotterdam after VOC batsman Dirk van Baren allegedly directed a racial slur at the HCC wicketkeeper Yash Patel. HCC then successfully appealed after the KNCB awarded the game to VOC, the Commissie van Beroep determining that the match must instead be replayed. VOC declined to contest the rescheduled game last Sunday, citing concerns over the risk of further escalating tensions.

The emergence of the photograph leaves HCC open to charges of hypocrisy, and calls into question the sincerity of their stand in regards the VOC match. The teams match against Punjab was itself not without controversy at the time, as HCC’s improbably slow over rate in the final phase of the rain-affected match prompted suggestions that they were attempting to avoid likely defeat by forcing an abandonment. In the event Punjab went on to win the game regardless, leaving HCC needing a single point to ensure progression to the playoffs.

The awarding of the VOC fixture to HCC meant that as things stand HCC are set to progress to the playoffs, either in second or in third place – the exact final standings being the subject of another unrelated controversy regarding the precedence of tie-breakers in the competition. Should they be awarded second place it would set up a rematch with Punjab Rotterdam in the preliminary final on Sunday.

HCC Chairman Jan Nuijten told TKcricket “HCC takes this matter very seriously, and issue has been discussed with the team who are preparing their apologies to offer to Punjab. It is regrettable that this matter has emerged publicly before these could be made, though the chairman has already offered his apologies in a personal capacity. While the white board was intended only for internal use and was not intended to be seen by or directed at the opposition, nonetheless the use of such language is unacceptable and not in the Spirit of Cricket.”

The KNCB declined to comment on the situation at this time.

Preview Round Nothing

Bertus de Jong & Bertus de Jong 21/08/21

nb. the first half of this preview was written prior to the announcement of VOC’s withdrawal from the match in question.

Well the circumstances leading to this orphaned match are not uncontroversial, but the Commissie van Beroep have in their ineffable wisdom decreed that last weeks aborted game between HCC and VOC Rotterdam must be replayed before we can get to the business of the playoffs, so having scrapped our preview for those games we’re left with this final league phase encounter at de Diepput as the day’s only game.

BdJ: Realistically, given the forecast and the difficulty of getting de Diepput to dry out in reasonable time, the expected rain is likely to be the decisive factor tomorrow. A washout would give HCC the single point they’ve been after for the last couple of weeks to make the top four and leave VOC rueing missed opportunities. Should we get a game in however, the hosts are well placed to claim their playoffs spot by traditional means. VOC will of course be without Dirk van Baren, who despite an inconsistent summer has put in some crucial performances under pressure this season, and likely without skipper Pieter Seelaar, whose fitness stuggles have reportedly returned. Their absences leave the VOC batting card looking a little thin, though in a shortened game (which is likely the most we can hope for) they still have the top-order hitting power in Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards to take advantage, while the returning Corey Rutgers has been in superlative form since shedding the responsibility of marshalling our neighbours to the South and VOC’s remaining middle order bats are arguably better suited to shorter contests. That said, HCC’s home advantage will likely prove a significant factor even in an abbreviated match. Their attack remains the league’s most balanced, and while the HCC batting lacks the hitting power of their opponents they make up for it in depth. The most probable outcome tomorrow remains a wash-out, which would see VOC eliminated and HCC claiming fourth place behind VRA by virtue of the latter’s total league phase win-count (or, equally likely, third place by virtue of the KNCB’s entirely arbitrary attitude toward the priority of tie-breakers). The Board’s limited understanding of the rules of their own competition likewise make it difficult to predict what an HCC victory would imply; according to the rules that have been in force all season they would finish in third place behind VCC – again on the basis of the latter’s superior win-count – but it’s equally possible they will be adjudged to have finished in second on the basis of a superior net run rate, head to head record against VCC, tasseomancy or the dictates of a monkey with a Ouija board. A convincing VOC win meanwhile would put them unambiguously in third ahead of VRA on most traditional metrics, while a close win ought to leave them in fourth but at this point who knows?

BdJ (2 hours later): VOC have just announced they’re not going to play the game that likely would have been washed out anyway, and are conceding the points to HCC. As a moral stand it is marginally less convincing than that of their intended opponents last week, but barring another bizarre and baseless decision from the game’s administrators it is likely to prove decisive. What this means is that we now have a weekend without any Topklasse cricket at all for absolutely no good reason, and HCC are through to the playoffs, in third position according to the actual rules but quite possibly in second place because “reasons”. So the farcical close to the league phase continues, having left us with four playoff contenders but relatively little idea of what order they might be in or why. Next weekend will see Punjab and VRA take on VCC or HCC in the preliminary final and de facto quarter final respectively, but the two will likely have to wait on a decision from the board as to which tiebreaker they intend to apply this week before finding out who their opponents will be. We’ll bring you news of that decision as soon as we get it. In the meantime we imagine that you, dear readers, like all of us at TK, will be on edge of your seats.

BdJ’s pick: Rain.

BdJ (2 hours later)’s pick: Nonsense.