Round 4 preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 05/05/23

We’re just two weeks into the season but already the table looks to be splitting in half, with the top and bottom ends of the table separated by a huge gulf in net run rate, if not yet points. While Voorburg are clear at the top thanks only to having got an extra game in, the gap between them and ACC at the bottom already looks nigh-insurmountable. With a couple of catch-up games from Round 1 this Sunday giving up seven games total this weekend, there’s a every chance we’ll have a good idea who’ll be challenging for the title and who’s headed to the relegation battle barely a fortnight after the first ball was bowled.

BdJ: When frontrunners Voorburg head over to Craeyenhout to take on the beleaguered HBS they’ll have a decent chance at extending their lead at the top. As expected, the Crows’ batting has looked reliant on Walbrugh and Barresi, and the bowling has lacked for any real penetration. Voorburg meanwhile brushed aside Salland and then Excelsior for their second and third emphatic wins last week, Shariz Ahmad has been making hay, taking eleven wickets over the weekend. The showing of seamer Sajjad Kamal, up from the twos, suggests there’s plenty of depth in the VCC ranks, while Mees van Vliet also looks to have found some rhythm for his new club. VCC don’t quite have the batting depth or pace menace of previous seasons, but have looked arguably a stronger side. There’s been signs of promise in the new crop of youngsters at HBS, Swapnil Patel’s debut fifty in their opener stands out, but it would take something remarkable for them to deny Voorburg a fourth consecutive win.

RL: Barresi looked in really good nick during the Pro Series match on Wednesday, and HBS will need him and Walbrugh to be firing on all cylinders if they are to have a realistic chance of upsetting rampant Voorburg. But Michael Levitt and Noah Croes have done enough already to show that they are major assets in the Westvliet club’s top order, and the hard-pressed HBS attack will need to find additional incisiveness if they are to put their visitors under pressure. Voorburg are already looking like nailed-on top-six candidates, while HBS will need to raise their game considerably if they are to have any chance of avoiding a place in the bottom four.

BdJ: Similarly VOC Rotterdam will start as overwhelming favourites when they welcome Salland to Hazelaarweg. To say the VOC top order is in form would be an grotesque understatement. In their last three innings, one of which was cut short by rain, VOC have piled on north of 750 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets. Salland, meanwhile, have lost twice as many wickets for half as many runs so far this season. Fair to say we’ve not yet seen the best of their two new overseas, batter Finn Raxworthy and seamer Fraser Bartholomew, and if the pair find their feet Salland shouldn’t be total pushovers, especially at Hazelaarweg where their array of spinners may find assistance. VOC’s middle order may also be vulnerable if they Salland can get into them, but getting past the top three looks a challenge.

RL: It was Salland’s victory at the Hazelaarweg last season which was crucial to VOC missing out on the top half of their group table, and neither side will have forgotten that in the end the Deventer side finished four points ahead of their hosts. The advent of Lane Berry has given extra power to the Rotterdammers’ top order, though, and that in turn lightens the pressure on players like Tim de Kok and Burhan Niaz. And the way Arnav Jain and Max Hoornweg hot-knifed their way through the ACC batting last Sunday suggests that the Salland top five will need to be at their best to give their side any chance. Even when Piyarange Ottachchige and Venkat Ganesan put on 90 against Voorburg on Saturday, however, the batting collapse which followed reinforced the sense that Victor Lubbers’s team may struggle to reproduce last year’s relegation-avoiding performances.

BdJ: A third such fixture sees unbeaten Sparta 1888 take on winless ACC at ’t Loopveld, and again there’s been little to suggest an impending reversal of fortunes. ACC were abject last week against both Punjab and VOC, especially the latter. At the very least they’ll need more consistent contributions from their two South African pros, Thomas Hobson and Heino Kuhn (and ideally from Dosti refugees Ahmed and Hans) if they’re to avoid a similar outcome against Sparta, who look genuine top-table contenders this year. An experienced and in-form seam attack in Malik, Ahmadi and Bukhari, all of whom are also capable of contributing with the bat, lend the Spartans a look of stability they previously lacked. With the addition of Ferguson and Clark alongside the reutrning Garnett Tarr, who was in the runs against Punjab last week, Sparta have a deep batting line-up that looks capable of putting up serious totals, and it would take a whiplash-inducing turnaround at ’t Loopveld to deny them the points on Saturday.

RL: What the man said. Sparta are quite literally a different team this year, albeit still built around the familiar ex-international pairing of Ahsan Malik and Mudassar Bukhari, and while ACC were somewhat unfortunate on Sunday to come up against O’Dowd and Edwards in full cry, the have done little to suggest that they aren’t heading towards a battle to avoid relegation. Het Loopveld is a ground which traditionally favours the bowlers, but Sparta’s powerful batting line-up could nevertheless prosper there, and the home side’s attack, which did well against HBS in the rained-off opening-day fixture, will need to reproduce that form if they are to keep Sparta’s total within bounds. But it’s the Amsterdammers’ batting which gives greatest cause for concern, and skipper Kuhn will be looking for much more solid performances from his top six to make the side more competitive.

BdJ: VRA will also be looking to preserve an unbeaten record when they head down to Rotterdam to take on Punjab. The Amsterdammers have generally enjoyed their trips to the Zomercomplex, winning their previous three encounters there convincingly. They are, of course, now without long-serving skipper Peter Borren, who particularly enjoyed Punjab’s short boundaries. But successor Leon Turmaine has impressed in the role thus far, and has been known to cash in with the bat at the Zomercomplex himself. Likwise Johan Smal and Vikram Singh have gone well there recently, though the latter has picked up another injury in Wednesday’s Pro Series match and is unlikely to feature, Teja Nidamanuru will doubtless be looking forward to a return to his old home ground. That said, while Punjab’s 1-1 record this season arguably flatters their actual performance (their one win has come against ACC and they looked in trouble against VOC before the rain came) it perhaps also undersells their potential. Despite the loss of Vandiar, Myburgh and Nidamanuru Punjab had looked menancing in pre-season, and the performance of Mohammad Riaz last week at least suggests there’s more to the club than just Zulfiqars.

RL: The return of Shoaib Minhas and the arrival of Aaliyan Mahmood, Mohsin Riaz and Muhammad Shafiq has added a good deal to Punjab’s resources, and once they have settled into the side they seem likely to be a force in the top half of the table. But then so do VRA, whose cohort of younger players is well balanced by the experience of Turmaine, Johan Smal and Jack Balbirnie. It would not be a surprise, then, if these teams were to remain in contention all the way to August, and Saturday has the hallmarks of a genuine four-pointer. Defeat by Sparta on Sunday showed that Punjab are some way short of their title-winning form of two years ago, while VRA have looked much more convincing in their two-and-a-half games so far. Even without Vikram Singh the Amsterdammers will go into this important encounter as favourites.

BdJ: Excelsior will need to bounce back quickly from their loss to VRA and shellacking at the hands of VCC last weekend, as a home defeat to HCC would leave them in a near-inescapable hole. Certainly HCC look eminently beatable, despite cruising to victory over Salland last week they’ve not looked the part of defending champions thus far. Rather, HCC this season are something of a rarity – a side that looks like it could end up in either half of the table come the cut-off. Three new acquisitions have nonetheless impressed, Ratha Alphonse slotted in nicely at top of the order since moving from Kampong, behind only the prolific Vandiar in the runs for his new club. Daniel Doram also looks a more-than-useful replacement for the injured Tim Pringle. Having gathered substantial first class experience with Leeward Islands since he was last in the Netherlands a decade ago, the tall left-arm spinner is already back on the national selectors’ radar. Doram’s return to these shores means that, together with Clayton Floyd, HCC can still count on 20 overs of quality left-arm spin. Excelsior of course have ten of their own thanks to the stalwart Lorenzo Ingram, but the veteran will need more support from the rest of the side both with bat and ball if Excelsior are to turn their season around.

RL: Early-season form suggests that there will be room for one of these two sides in the top six but possibly not both, and this is accordingly the most significant match of the round – and the most difficult to predict. Key factors may be how the HCC top order cope with Excelsior overseas player Michael Hart, who bowled very well against VRA, and correspondingly how Excelsior deal with Doram, who bowled very well indeed in Wednesday’s Pro Series game. With 32 runs in six innings between them Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee have had a rough start to their campaign for the defending champions, and they will be hoping to do much better here. But Excelsior remain a better side than they have been able to show until now, and with Tom Heggelman now the most experienced captain in the competition it would be unwise to write them off just yet. We’ve been desperately short of tight matches so far, but we might just get one here.

BdJ: Finally a couple of do-overs from Round 1 are on the schedule for Sunday, though VRA and HBS have both apparently managed to push back their catch-up games by a week owing to the departure of Netherlands A for England depriving them of a player or two. Punjab vs VOC and Sparta vs Excelsior will be going ahead though, and VOC and Sparta both look in good shape for a four-point weekend. While VOC were starting cold in their opener two weeks ago they’re quite the opposite now, and Sparta’s overseas have likewise had time to settle in. That said you’d expect at least an upset or two at some point. The season sure could use some.

RL: The form book certainly indicates that VOC and Sparta will start as strong favourites in these replays, assuming that this time the weather allows a result, although the Sparta-Excelsior game was the most evenly-poised when it was abandoned a fortnight ago. The Schiedammers’ attack would need to reproduce that effort to give their side a chance here, while Sulaiman Tariq will know that his bowlers will need to do much better against O’Dowd and Co. than they were able to achieve first time round. If there is a surprise on Sunday it seems more likely to be at the Bermweg, but then, the essence of a surprise is that it comes when you’re not looking for it.

BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, VOC, Sparta, VRA, HCC; VOC, Sparta.
RL’s picks: Voorburg, VOC, Sparta, VRA, Excelsior; VOC, Sparta.

VOC take it to the Max; Shariz bags another five

Rod Lyall 01/05/2023

The weekend’s feast of near-walkovers continued on a sunny Sunday as several sides powerfully asserted their claims to be front-runners for slots among the Topklasse top six, if not for the play-offs in August and a possible title.

The most decisive victory of the day came at Het Loopveld, where VOC Rotterdam hammered hapless ACC to the tune of 260 runs.

Much of the mayhem was caused by Dutch international opener Max O’Dowd, who clubbed a career-best 186, made from just 157 deliveries and including eight fours and eleven sixes; after taking a relatively sedate 52 balls to reach fifty, and bringing up his century from 116, he needed only another 41 to add the final 85, repeatedly bombarding the pavilion with powerfully-struck sixes.

He was ably assisted by Lane Berry, who contributed a stylish 35 before holing out to long off off the bowling of the hard-working Aryan Kumar, and then by Scott Edwards in a third-wicket stand of 205 which only ended with O’Dowd’s dismissal just two balls from the conclusion of the innings.

Edwards’s 74 not out, which displayed his full range of audacious shot-making and some very enterprising running, came from 60 deliveries with five fours and two sixes.

VOC’s other Max, pace bowler Hoornweg, now proceeded to rip through the top of the ACC batting order, claiming three for 14 from five overs, while Arnav Jain took two for 19 at the other end and the home side subsided to 26 for five.

Only Ammar Zaidi, batting at nine, was able to achieve double figures, and with Asief Hoseinbaks taking three for 9 and Burhan Niaz and Jelte Schoonheim picking up one apiece ACC were all out for 61 in just 22.5 overs.

The other outstanding individual effort of the day was at Westvliet, where Shariz Ahmad took five for 17, bringing his figures for the weekend to eleven for 30 in 17.4 overs and enabling Voorburg to dismiss Excelsior ’20 for just 90.

Lorenzo Ingram top-scored for the Schiedammers with 20, and although he removed Musa Ahmad when Voorburg replied, Noah Croes (47 not out) and Sybrand Engelbrecht (19 not out) saw their side to an eight-wicket victory with more than 27 overs to spare.

The most significant result was perhaps Sparta 1888’s 59-run defeat of Punjab Rotterdam at Sportpark Bermweg, an outcome which signalled strongly that this Sparta side is capable of mounting a serious challenge for the play-offs.

Sulaiman Tariq took two early wickets after Sparta won the toss and batted, but then Garnett Tarr’s 41 and 72 from Mudassar Bukhari laid the foundation for their total of 211 for eight; Khalid Ahmadi’s 26-ball cameo for 34, 24 of them from sixes, kept the momentum going, and only Sikander Zulfiqar’s three for 8 in three overs prevented the target from being even greater.

It proved to be big enough, however, as Ahsan Malik’s four for 35 and Ahmadi’s four for 42 cut through the Punjab batting, only an unbeaten 91 from Mohsin Riaz, batting at three, enabling his side to reach 152 before he ran out of partners; there were four ducks among the top and middle order, two of them golden.

Joining VOC and Sparta on two wins out of two – and two points behind Voorburg who have played a game more – were VRA Amsterdam, who secured a seven-wicket victory over HBS Craeyenhout in the Amsterdamse Bos.

Put in by Leon Turmaine, HBS owed their total of 203 for seven very largely to a fourth-wicket stand of 86 between Tayo Walbrugh (42) and Wesley Barresi (47); both were eventually removed by Turmaine himself, who finished with two for 39.

Without openers Shirase Rasool and Vikram Singh, both of whom were carrying injuries, VRA might have been in trouble when Swapnil Pote removed Jack Balbirnie early, but Aryan Dutt (59) and Johan Smal (72) put the home side back in control and Teja Nidamanuru and Tyler van Luin completed the job.

At De Diepput HCC posted their first win of the season, beating Salland by 124 runs.

Opener Ratha Alphonse, who had fought a lone battle against VOC on Saturday, enjoyed the support of Jonathan Vandiar this time, as the pair put on 161 for the second wicket.

Alphonse made 57, and after he had departed Vandiar went on to complete his ninth Topklasse century and his sixth for HCC, finishing with a 114-ball 109 which included eight fours and six sixes.

Hidde Overdijk struck four sixes in a brisk 33, but Fraser Bartholomew hit back for Salland, taking four for 43 as the home side reached 278 for eight.

Overdijk then removed both openers to put Salland on the back foot, and although most of the top order got a start only skipper Victor Lubbers with 46 was able to resist for a prolonged period and with spinners Clayton Floyd and Daniel Doram collecting two wickets apiece and Overdijk finishing with three for 34 Lubbers’ side were all out for 154.

Centuries for Rasool and Berry as the sun shines

Rod Lyall 01/05/2023

The sun shone brilliantly on Saturday, the first day of a Topklasse double weekend, and after the miserable opening to the season the previous week some batters at least were able to take advantage of the conditions and get themselves among the runs.

Anyone hoping for tense, exciting cricket, however, would have been bitterly disappointed, for the disparities within the competition which had been hinted at before the rain ruined the first round were now fully in evidence.

The nearest thing to a competitive game was at Thurlede, where VRA Amsterdam beat Excelsior ’20 by a mere 86 runs.

The Amsterdammers got off to a great start after Tim Etman had put them in, Shirase Rasool and Vikram Singh putting on 87 for the first wicket and Johan Smal then helping Rasool to take the total to 196 for one.

Singh’s contribution was 35 and Smal’s 56, but when Niels Etman returned to remove Smal and Rasool, immediately after reaching his third Topklasse century, fell to Tom Heggelman, it was left to Teja Nidamanuru and Tyler van Luin to build on this platform.

They added exactly 50, but then there came a flurry of wickets as the middle and lower order hit out in the closing overs, six falling for the addition of only 15 runs as VRA closed on 265 for nine.

There were three wickets apiece for Heggelman and Lorenzo Ingram, but the pick of the bowlers was Michael Hart, whose figures of one for 54 did less than justice to the quality of his effort.

Van Luin, Aryan Dutt and Eduard Visser then combined to reduce Excelsior to 71 for five, and despite some resistance from Niels Etman (37) and from Hart, last man out for 69, the home side were dismissed for 179, Visser claiming four for 41 and Van Luin three for 18, while Dutt was again a model of control, conceding just 22 from his ten overs.

The highest total of the day came at Craeyenhout, where Sparta 1888 ran up 330 for nine against a somewhat threadbare HBS attack.

Ali Raza performed one of his smash-and-grab raids, hitting a 16-ball 34 to get his side into top gear, but the real basis of their score was a second-wicket stand of 130 between Sam Ferguson (57) and Garnett Tarr (95).

Will Clark, the other member of Sparta’s trio of overseas players, contributed 58 to follow up his half-century the previous week, while Kyle Klein was the most successful of the HBS bowlers with three for 68.

Ahsan Malik then claimed two early wickets as HBS replied, and although Tayo Walbrugh made 46 and there were thirties from Kyle Klein and Nic Adendorff the Crows could only manage 186, Joost Kroesen removing both of the latter and running through the tail to finish with five for 32, his best-ever Topklasse figures.

VOC Rotterdam’s overseas player Lane Berry confirmed the promise he had shown in the rained-off game at Punjab with a fine 124 against HCC at the Hazelaarweg, anchoring his side’s total of 254 all out with stands of 95 with Scott Edwards (40) and Tim de Kok (43) and setting up a comfortable 149-run victory over the defending champions.

Jan-Wieger Overdijk eventually had him caught, and removed De Kok, Pieter Seelaar and Burhan Niaz into the bargain to finish with four for 47, and there was a wicket for Daniel Doram, drafted into the HCC squad as a late replacement for the injured Tim Pringle.

The Lions had no real answer against VOC’s attack, Jelte Schoonheim picking up three wickets for 20 early on and Asief Hoseinbaks three for 14 later, and the innings ended on a disappointing 105.

Voorburg cruised to an easy victory over Salland at Het Schootsveld, Shariz Ahmad securing his best Topklasse figures with six for 13 from ten overs and Sajjad Kamal picking up the rest with four for 24 as the Deventer side collapsed from 90 without loss to 135 all out in the space of barely twenty overs.

Piyaranga Ottachchige (51) and Venkat Ganesan (39) had given them a record-breaking start, but once they had gone the rest had no answer to Shariz and Kamal, and although Elam Bharathi battled valiantly, taking all four Voorburg wickets that fell, 38 from stand-in captain Musa Ahmad and an unbeaten 47 from little brother Shariz ensured that the visitors completed their win with almost twenty overs to spare.

It was a similar story at Het Zomercomplex, where Punjab Rotterdam’s attack ran through ACC, bowling them out for 124.

Thomas Hobson’s 55 was the only significant contribution to the ACC total, with Saqib Zulfiqar taking three for 16 for Punjab and Sulaiman Tariq, Aliyaan Mahmood and Mohammad Shafiq collecting two wickets apiece.

Pienaar Buys gave the Amsterdammers some hope with two quick wickets, but Sikander Zulfiqar and Shoaib Minhas steadied the ship for Punjab, their unbroken stand of 62 seeing them to a seven-wicket victory.

Round 2 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyalll 25/04/23

While the April weather got the best of round one, with Voorburg versus HCC the only fixture that managed to beat the rain, the forecast looks somewhat more promising for the first of what now looks likely to be several doubled-up rounds this coming weekend. The four washed-out match from last Saturday will likely be replayed on Sunday the 7th, by which time we ought to have three more rounds on the board and a fair idea of how the season’s shaping up. For now though it’s still all to play for.

BdJ: Having closed out a convincing 8-wicket win over the defending champions on Saturday, Voorburg will be looking to extend their early lead when they make the trip out to Deventer to take on Salland on Saturday. Though the abbreviated match against HCC didn’t give us much to go on, it’s fair to say the bowling unit at least looks in decent shape, with the four man seam section all bagging at least one wicket and the twin leggies looking good before the rain came. The diminutive target meant the batting wasn’t truly tested, though if Salland can’t improve on last week’s performance that may be be the case again come Saturday. Salland’s batting was never their strength of course, and their bowlers didn’t get a chance to try to defend the handful of runs they’d scraped together. Both Venkat Ganesan and Victor Lubbers showed some admirable obstinacy with the bat, but they will need more from their overseas than a pair of first-ball ducks if they’re to get points on the board on Saturday.

RJL: If this Voorburg has a weak spot, it’s fair to say that HCC didn’t find it last week, and there was little in Salland’s effort in Amstelveen to suggest that their chances of doing so are any better. That said, conditions in the Bos – and everywhere else – were hardly ideal for cricket last Saturday, and on their own turf Victor Lubbers’ outfit may be able to put up a more sustained performance. But with Noah Croes looking to be in ominous form and Michael Levitt clearly capable of playing big innings, the Deventer-based side will need to fire on all cylinders if they are to treat their home supporters to a win. They showed occasionally last season that they are capable of springing a surprise, and in the end they stayed up comfortably enough, but it would be a brave prediction to anticipate anything other than a Voorburg victory here.

BdJ: Though VRA will be frustrated to miss out on the points against Salland, they’ll nonetheless have taken plenty of encouragement from their performance with the ball last Saturday. Southpaw spearhead Ashir Abid proved incisive with the new ball, while the offpin combination of Aryan Dutt and Leon Turmaine looked a potent one, Dutt barely going for a run an over and Turmaine bagging three wickets on his debut as captain. They may have a tougher job when they arrive at Thurlede of course, though Excelsior ‘20’s batting line up looks both shorter and more fragile than it has in seasons past. The Schiedammers will draw some encouragement from newcomer Michael Hart’s showing with the new ball alongside Niels Etman, though they will be hoping he can also replicate his predecessor Brett Hampton’s contributions with the bat last season.

RJL: Tom Heggelman’s side has long been better than the sum of its parts, due in no small measure to the captain’s own contributions with both bat and ball as well as his canny tactical sense. Whether that will be enough to overcome a VRA side which showed every sign last week of shrugging off the departure of Peter Borren is another matter, and the Amsterdammers’ visits to Thurlede have had an extra edge since the days when they seemed to take turns in claiming the championship. Two well-balanced attacks will provide serious tests for the opposing batting line-ups, both of which will be looking for decent starts from their seasoned opening pairings of Roel Verhagen and Tim Etman for the home side and Vikram Singh and Shirase Rasool for the visitors. VRA look to have more fire-power in the middle order, but much may depend on whether Hart is able to impose himself with the bat. This one is, especially in our current state of knowledge (very little), too close to call.

BdJ: The big news at Bermweg last week was of course the evident non-retirement of both Mudassar Bukari and Ahsan Malik, meaning Sparta 1888’s line-up looks more formidable that might have been expected. Bukhari’s measure innings at number four alongside an impressive debut for William Clarke suggests the Spartan top six could be a force this season, despite being reduced to 13-3 on Saturday as Mahmoon Latif, second overseas Sam Ferguson and the returning Garnett Tarr all fell cheaply. They’ll likely have an easier time at Craeyenhout against a rather green HBS attack hollowed out by departure and retirements, though they will still need to contain the Crows’ potentially dangerous batting line up. Tayo Walbrugh and Wes Barresi both failed at ACC last week but they’re unlikely to stay quiet for long, and an impressive outing for debutant Swapnil Pote suggests HBS may have deeper reserves than some suspected.

RJL: Sparta certainly look like a much stronger side on paper than that which has often struggled to stay up in recent seasons, but the question may be how well that group of talented – and in some cases, very experienced – individuals cohere as a team. There was some evidence pointing in both directions in the abortive game against Excelsior, but we should get a clearer idea from their visit to Craeyenhout to take on an HBS side which seems – again, on paper – to be heading in the opposite direction. Batting at ‘t Loopveld is admittedly never a straightforward proposition, especially on a damp early-season morning, and the Crows can be expected to give a much better account of themselves on their own astroturf in front of their own support. Failures by both Walbrugh and Barresi don’t come along very often, and Sparta will want to see the back of both of them to give themselves a decent chance of two very significant points.

BdJ: Despite the rain precluding a result, VOC Rotterdam will also have been reasonably pleased with their efforts last Saturday, even if only three players were called upon to do anything. Max O’Dowd looked to be cruising toward another Topklasse century when the rain came, and new opening partner Arnav Jain supported him ably to see of the threat of the new ball. Lane Berry’s Topklasse debut was also more than encouraging, a brisk unbeaten 59 off 45 balls suggesting plenty more runs to come. The re-jigged top order allows skipper Scott Edwards to assume the floating role he plays so well for the Dutch, and may serve well in countering HCC’s spin threat (that is to say, Clayton Floyd) when they welcome the Lions to Hazelaarweg. VOC’s chief concern on Saturday (and likely through the season) will be their bowling, specifically how to deal with the threat of Jonathan Vandiar, who alone of HCC’s line-up looked in good nick against VCC.

RJL: Having faced five Dutch internationals at Voorburg last week, the defending champions will have to take on two more in O’Dowd and Scott Edwards on Saturday, along with the already-menacing Berry, and they are entitled to feel that the draw has done them few initial favours. Their own international batters, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee barely got a start and Hidde Overdijk, although he gave Vandiar some support, was also unable to impose himself on Voorburg’s outstanding attack. Their own bowling looked steady rather than incisive, albeit with the odds atacked against them, but Daniel Crowley bowled an encouraging spell, enough to suggest that he could be a useful new-ball partner for Overdijk. Whether VOC’s bowling unit will measure up to the power of their top order remains uncertain, but they will face a genuine test against an HCC line-up which has a lot more to offer than it was able to show against Voorburg.

BdJ: Finally ACC head down to the Zomercomplex to take on a Punjab side that looked rather stuck for ideas against VOC last week. In the absence of Salarazai and Said the Punjab attack rather lacks for firepower this season, and though Sulaiman Tariq remains a canny operator both with the ball and as skipper, the problem of how to deal with Thomas Hobson and Heino Kuhn in the ACC middle order remains a thorny one. The simplest option may simply be to out-hit them of course, and Punjab have shown in pre-season that even without the likes of Myburgh and Vandiar they are more than capable of racking up big scores. The early running suggests ACC’s chief bowling threat looks to be their slow-bowling section, and how well the ACC spinners can contain Punjab in spite of the grounds dimensions may prove decisive on Saturday.

RJL: ACC are another outfit which seems to have dealt itself an improved hand over the winter, with Heino Kuhn in a key leadership role and the arrival of Rahil Ahmed and Mahesh Hans from Dosti. They will, of course, miss Mees van Vliet, their leading wicket-taker last season, but Joseph Reddy looked like a useful new-ball partner for Aryan Kumar; the test will be whether they are able to make early inroads into a Zulfiqar-heavy Punjab top order which also now includes the undoubted skills of the returning Shoaib Minhas. We don’t yet know what the ACC batting line-up will actually look like, but even in the reduced state of the Punjab attack they are likely to face a stern test at ‘t Zomercomplex. Again, not easy to pick this one, but in the end home advantage and greater experience as a unit may tell in Punjab’s favour.

BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, VRA, Sparta, VOC, Punjab

RL’s picks: Voorburg, Excelsior, Sparta, VOC, Punjab.

Scorecard | Sparta vs Excelsior | 22.04.23

Sparta I Vs Excelsior 20 I
1-Innings Match Played At Sportpark Bermweg, Capelle a/d IJssel, 22-Apr-2023, Topklasse
No result
Round 1/1
Toss won by Excelsior 20 I
Umpires MA Din – E Ruchtie
Scorers AO Smelt – EM Heggelman
Home Side Sparta I
Comment Rain stopped play, Sparta 92-3 (28 overs), match reduced to 38 overs. Rain again stopped play, Sparta 143-5 (34.4 overs).
Sparta I 1st Innings 143/5 (Overs 34.4)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
M Latif c LT Ingram b NT Etman 0 2 0 0
SR Ferguson+ c TJ Heggelman b M Hart 3 25 0 0
G Tarr   b NT Etman 7 10 1 0
M Bukhari not out   50 96 3 0
WJ Clark c M Hart b UF Baker 54 63 6 0
J Kroesen c LT Ingram b M Hart 11 14 0 0
AAJ Malik dnb          
K Ahmadi dnb          
Manminder Singh dnb          
JM Snoep* dnb          
N Ibrahimkhil dnb          
extras   (b1 lb1 w14 nb2) 18      
TOTAL   5 wickets for 143      
1-0(M Latif) 2-8(G Tarr) 3-13(SR Ferguson) 4-110(WJ Clark) 5-143(J Kroesen)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
NT Etman 6 2 21 2
M Hart 5.4 0 19 2 4
RWA van Troost 3 0 27 0 3 1
GG Kroesen 8 0 34 0 3
LT Ingram 8 3 19 0
TJ Heggelman 2 0 7 0
UF Baker 2 0 14 1
Excelsior 20 I 1st Innings
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
TC Etman dnb          
RTF Verhagen+ dnb          
M Hart dnb          
TJ Heggelman* dnb          
LT Ingram dnb          
LA Kroesen dnb          
SL van Troost dnb          
RWA van Troost dnb          
UF Baker dnb          
NT Etman dnb          
GG Kroesen dnb          
extras   (b0 lb0 w0 nb0) 0      
TOTAL   0 wickets for 0      
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb

Voorburg the only winners on a wet opening day

Rod Lyall 23/04/2023

What started out as the Match of the Day turned out to be the match of the day, as the repeat of last year’s Grand Final between Voorburg and HCC at Westvliet was the only game to get a result, the other four rained off at various points during a miserable opening afternoon.

That Voorburg were able to claim the points was in part a tribute to the efforts of the ground staff and the quality of the covers, not to mention the persistence of the umpires and captains, but the Voorburgers had laid the foundations of their victory during the 27 overs which could be bowled before the rain arrived.

The bowlers never let up from the moment Ratha Alphonse edged Viv Kingma to Michael Levitt at second slip, and only Jonathan Vandiar looked really comfortable against the pace of Kingma and Ryan Klein, the seam of Karl Nieuwoudt and Sajjid Kamal, and the spin of Shariz Ahmad and Philippe Boissevain.

Vandiar’s uncharacteristically patient 47, though punctuated by moments of blazing aggression, enabled his side to 107 for six, but Voorburg were solidly on top, reflected in the fact that when, after an interruption of several hours, the game could resume, the home side were given a target of 98 from 22 overs.

That never seemed like to be a problem, and although HCC managed to pick up two wickets, Noah Croes and Sybrand Engelbrecht saw their side home with four and a half overs to spare.

Generally bowlers were on top on a damp and overcast day, but there was an exception at Het Zomercomplex where VOC Rotterdam, put in to bat by Punjab captain Sulaiman Tariq, raced to 177 for one in just 28.4 overs.

Max O’Dowd hammered an 84-ball 91 not out which included ten fours and four sixes, sharing first a stand of 81 with Arnav Jain and then adding another 94 from 76 deliveries with VOC’s new overseas player Lane Berry, who marked his Topklasse debut with an unbeaten, 45-ball 59.

The only captain who took the risk of batting first on winning the toss was Salland’s Victor Lubbers, who saw his side reduced to 89 for seven by VRA Amsterdam in Amstelveen by the time they were rescued by the weather.

Ashir Abid started the rot by removing Piyaranga Ottachchige and Finn Raxworthy with consecutive balls in the first over, and although German international captain Venkat Ganesan and Lubbers himself put up some resistance, adding 69 for the third wicket, new VRA skipper Leon Turmaine’s three for 22 winkled out the middle order, Aryan Dutt finally dismissing Ganesan for a dogged 46.

On the other side of Amstelveen HBS Craeyenhout also struggled with the bat, reaching 148 for six against ACC at Het Loopveld before the rain intervened.

Tayo Walbrugh was trapped in front by Joseph Reddy in the second over, and despite a solid 60 from Swapnil Pote on his Topklasse debut with wickets falling regularly at the other end the HBS innings never really got going.

Off-spinner Mahesh Hans claimed three for 28 on his first outing with his new club, and with 44 overs bowled before the rain arrived ACC were clearly in the box seat when the game was called off.

The match at the Bermweg was a little more evenly poised, with home side Sparta 1888 on 143 for five against Excelsior ’20 Schiedam  in the 35th over after a brief resumption between intervals of rain.

Niels Etman and Michael Hart had reduced them to 13 for three, but Mudassar Bukhari and Will Clark turned things round with a fourth-wicket partnership of 97, and there was time for Clark to reach a maiden Topklasse half-century and for Bukhari to pass fifty for the 37th time before it was decided to call it a day.

So eight of the clubs will need to try again on 7 May, the first of the three dates allocated for replaying rained-off matches in the first phase of the competition.

Preview 2023: Voorburg miss De Leede, bigger changes at HCC

Rod Lyall 18/04/2023

After the anticlimax of last season’s grand final defeat Voorburg go into the new season without their former captain Bas de Leede, but champions HCC face much bigger changes as they set about defending their title.

De Leede, of course, has moved to Durham to join Ryan Campbell’s squad, but his loss will be at least partially balanced by the advent of 19-year-old South African Michael Levitt, and the return of Noah Croes, not to mention the arrival of Ryan Klein from HBS.

Levitt, who began his Dutch season with two centuries over the Easter weekend, made 795 runs for Stanmore in the Middlesex Premier League last year and, as a Dutch passport holder, may be of considerable interest to the national coaches.

As for Croes, he last played for Voorburg in 2019, when he made over 500 runs in the club’s first season back in the Topklasse, but since then he has become a regular in Melbourne University’s first-grade side as well as playing for Didsbury in the Cheshire Premier League in England.

Klein will join a pace attack which already includes fellow Dutch international Viv Kingma, although Logan van Beek will be resting in New Zealand for the first part of the season, perhaps creating room for another recruit, promising youngster Mees van Vliet, who has transferred from ACC, while Voorburg also have plenty of seam cover in their stalwarts Stef Mulder and Ali Ahmed Qasim.

The side will be captained by Sybrand Engelbrecht, who will be part of a batting line-up which includes another Dutch international in opener Musa Ahmad, as well as Levitt and fellow South African Karl Nieuwoudt, along with wicketkeeper Mohit Hingorani.

Having fallen at the final hurdle in each of the last two seasons – gallingly, after leading from gun almost to the tape last year – Voorburg will be hoping that this squad will be good enough to take them to their second championship, their first and only triumph to date having been in 2001.

A rather different dynamic is at work at De Diepput, where it is probable that fewer than half of last year’s championship team will represent the Lions this season: Reinier Bijloos and Olivier Klaus have retired, Damian Crowley and Yash Patel will be unavailable, Felix Bennett will be playing in England, and the club has recently been informed that Tim Pringle will be resting an injury for the whole of this New Zealand winter.

That being so, HCC will be enormously relieved that they have secured the return of Jonathan Vandiar, who demonstrated in his ten matches for Punjab last year that he has lost none of his destructive power: he averaged 83, and added three centuries to the five he scored during his spell at De Diepput in 2016-17, and he now has 2360 runs at an average of 67.43.

De Diepput’s proportions are even more bijou than those at ‘t Zomercomplex, especially square of the wicket, and Vandiar can be expected to take full advantage.

Patel’s absence will be covered by the arrival of Ratha Alphonse from relegated Kampong Utrecht, while Adriaan Verbeek will join HCC from ACC.

Also new to the defending champions will be South Africans Daniel Crowley, the younger brother of Damian, and 18-year-old Phillip Opperman.

But HCC are likely to rely even more than they have in the past on skipper Boris Gorlee, his predecessor in that role Tonny Staal, allrounder Hidde Overdijk, and left-arm spinner Clayton Floyd, all of whom have some experience in the national side.

Henrico Venter will doubtless support Overdijk in the seam attack, where he will need a new opening partner with the retiral of Bijloos, and Floris de Lange may get more opportunities in the first team with the changing of the guard.

The same goes for Overdijk’s younger brother Jan-Wieger, and a trio of Trijzelaars, Daniël, Justin and Piet-Jan, while there may be opportunities as well for young Teun Kloppenburg, son of former international Feiko.

But one more thing is certain: 2023 will be a season of rebuilding at De Diepput as the club celebrates 145 years of its existence.

Topklasse Fantasy Cricket Returns

cricxiBowing to whelming popular demand, CricketXI and TKcricket are delighted to announce the return of Topklasse Fantasy Cricket for the 2023 season.

Pit your managerial wits against your friends and team-mates, test your Topklasse knowledge against the self-styled experts.

Submissions for teams and leagues are now open over at CricketXI. Entry is entirely free, the trophy for the global winner is a rather fancy hat. (Hat currently believed to be in the custody of Mr RC Campbell, county Durham)

Have we missed any signings, retirements or transfers? Get in touch and let us know.

2023 Preview: Change at VRA, continuity at Excelsior

Rod Lyall 13/04/2023

With nearly two-thirds of the national titles between them since the turn of the millennium, neither VRA Amsterdam nor Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will have been happy with their mid-table position last year; Excelsior last won the championship in 2019, while VRA have to track back to 2011 for their last victory.

And there will be a massive hole in this season’s Topklasse: the one left by Peter Borren’s return to New Zealand over the winter.

With 8786 runs at an average of 36.16, 348 wickets at 25.24 and 194 catches in his 315 matches for VRA, Borren is literally irreplaceable, but he has left behind a legacy of some young players who have already proved their worth in the top flight and who will now need to fill as much of that gap as they can.

Leon Turmaine will take over the captaincy (a fourth area in which Borren will be missed), and he will be looking to international stars Vikram Singh, Aryan Dutt and Teja Nidamanuru (transferred from Punjab) to form the core of the side.

The squad will also be strengthened by the arrival of 24-year-old Australian allrounder Tyler van Luin, a left-handed batter and right-arm fast medium bowler who is one of the key players in the Queanbeyan side in the ACT first-grade competition, and who has also played in the ACT representative side.

Turmaine will be hoping that Singh and Shirase Rasool are able to open together more regularly than was the case last season, but with Van Luin and Nidamanuru to follow, along with Luke Scully, Jack Balbirnie and Dutt, the top order has a more solid look than it did last year.

It will be interesting to see how Van Luin is able to team up with left-armer Ashir Abid, one of the crop of youngsters fostered by Borren over recent seasons.

Singh, too, demonstrated in Johannesburg that he is capable of developing into a serious allrounder, and with the spin options of Dutt, Turmaine himself, Balbirnie, Nidamanuru and the 17-year-old Udit Nashier, captain of the national Under-18 side, the skipper will have plenty of bowling resources at his disposal.

Excelsior’s young guns who won them that 2019 title now have several more years’ Topklasse experience behind them, Roel Verhagen, Tim Etman and Rens van Troost having played more than 130 top flight matches apiece.

So has long-serving overseas Lorenzo Ingram, who has made 4962 runs for the club at 47.26 and taken 136 wickets at 18.77; it’s a fair bet that he will complete the double of 5000 runs and 150 wickets before stumps are drawn for the last time in August.

Captain Tom Heggelman also has double milestones in his sights, with 2980 runs at 16.37 and 189 wickets at 21.45 from his 273 games, and Tim Etman too only needs 25 runs to reach 3000.

Excelsior have lost Joost Kroesen to Sparta, but his younger brothers Gijs and Luuk are still in the squad, and there are two more younger brothers in the mix as well: left-arm seamer Niels Etman proved a more than useful new-ball exponent last year, while Stan van Troost will be looking to cement his place in the middle order.

Also missing from this season’s line-up is overseas Brett Hampton, but the Schiedammers have found a very promising successor in Michael Hart, a 24-year-old Western Australian who is yet another from the state to come to Thurlede, following in the footsteps of Wayne Andrews, Tim Zoehrer, Murray Goodwin and several more.

Hart has taken 330 first-grade wickets for his Subiaco-Floreat club with a best of seven for 47, and compiled over 3700 runs, and he is likely to make a significant contribution to the side’s challenge for a top-six spot.

So with Tim Etman and Verhagen to start, Ingram, Hart, Heggelman and either Luuk Kroesen or Stan van Troost, Excelsior will have a pretty impressive top six, while the seam attack of Niels Etman, Hart and Rens van Troost, backed up by the spin of Ingram and Umar Baker, will cause plenty of problems for opposing batters.

2023 Preview: Sparta, ACC look for improvement

Rod Lyall 08/04/2023

The two sides that finished closest to relegation last season, ACC and Sparta, have both had some significant gains over the winter, and will be hoping to stay well clear of the drop this time round.

Sparta will be without Samit Gohil, whose batting often seemed to the only thing standing between the Capelle side and relegation last season, but they will be delighted to see the return of South African Garnett Tarr, who made 632 runs at 39.91 in 2021 and may again be the mainstay of the top order.

Joost-Martijn Snoep’s side will also be reinforced by the arrival of two New Zealanders, both from Central Districts: William Clark, a former New Zealand Under-19 international is a right-handed batter and medium pace bowler, while opener Sam Ferguson reportedly combines seam bowling with leg breaks and googlies.

The Spartans have further picked up Joost Kroesen from Excelsior, and his arrival at the Bermweg will add add extra substance to the middle order as well as providing another bowling option with his leg spin.

There were rumours towards the end of last season that Mudassar Bukhari might be thinking of calling a halt to his outstanding career, but with those four acquisitions he may feel that he will be able to play under less pressure than he has in the past couple of years, and there is no doubt that Snoep would welcome his aggressive batting and hostile bowling, both of which are still capable of turning games.

Wicketkeeper-batter Ali Raza is another who was below his best last year, and he too could bat with more freedom if the rest of the batting pulls its weight; no-one in the Topklasse can be more devastating when he is in the mood.

Khalid Ahmadi and former international Ahsan Malik both took 28 wickets last season, Malik’s average of 15.50 marginally better than Ahmadi’s 17.00, and both will be crucial to Sparta’s chances of moving up the table.

Add in Manminder Singh and Nasratullah Ibrahimkhil, together with Bukhari and the two New Zealanders, and Sparta will have an attack capable of putting most sides under pressure.

ACC, too, will welcome back a familiar face in Heino Kuhn, who played three seasons at Het Loopveld between 2011 and 2014, making 1547 runs at 61.88 in his 32 matches.

Now 39, Kuhn has made over 10,000 first-class runs for a variety of South African sides and for Kent, and he will bring massive experience to ACC’s young Topklasse outfit.

Thomas Hobson will be back, and the Amsterdammers have picked up two players from relegated side Dosti, in wicketkeeper and opening batter Rahil Ahmed and off-spinner Mahesh Hans; both have been among the better players of the long-struggling Drieburg club, and their experience will give ACC a welcome boost.

Other newcomers at Het Loopveld will be South African Pienaar Buys, until recently director of cricket at Grace College High School, and New Zealander Zac Konlechner.

The other overseas players from last year, Robin Smith and Robert Ackermann are not returning, but Kuhn, Hobson, Buys and Konlechner, not to mention Ahmed and Hans, will provide plenty of substance alongside Anis Raza, the reliable Devanshu Arya, and ACC’s crop of youngsters, Shreyas Potdar, Aryan Kumar, Ammar Zaidi and Zinesh Master.

In what is likely to be an intensely competitive Topklasse this season, both these clubs have put themselves in a position to earn themselves another year in the top flight.