|Toss won by||Sparta I|
|Umpires||J Hilhorst – DJ Kalloe|
|Scorers||CC Schinkel – AO Smelt|
|Home Side||Voorburg I|
|Comment||Match reduced to 37 overs. Rain stopped play, Sparta 49-3 (10 overs), match further reduced to 44 overs; revised DLS target 225. Rain stopped play, Sparta 190-9 (42 overs). Voorburg win by 25 runs (DLS).|
|Points Awarded||Voorburg I 2, Sparta I 0|
|TN de Grooth*||c AF Buurman||b U Saleem||7||24||0||0|
|ML Smit||c A Raza||b JM Snoep||110||137||6||1|
|N Croes+||lbw||b JM Snoep||59||86||6||0|
|SM Nottle||not out||39||34||1||0|
|extras||(b0 lb2 w12 nb0)||14|
|TOTAL||3 wickets for||229|
|1-28(TN de Grooth) 2-152(N Croes) 3-229(ML Smit)|
|AT Fletcher||c SM Nottle||b BD Glover||0||5||0||0|
|A Raza||b ST Mulder||32||27||5||0|
|TIM de Kok||c TN de Grooth||b Y Hamid||33||49||2||1|
|G Tarr||c ML Smit||b ST Mulder||0||5||0||0|
|G Singh||c TN de Grooth||b Y Hamid||20||30||4||0|
|M Bukhari||b ML Smit||47||59||3||1|
|AF Buurman+||b C Floyd||18||40||2||0|
|JM Snoep*||st N Croes||b C Floyd||15||25||0||0|
|M Singh||b BD Glover||3||7||0||0|
|U Saleem||not out||3||4||0||0|
|MB Hoornweg||not out||1||0||0||0|
|extras||(b4 lb1 w12 nb1)||18|
|TOTAL||9 wickets for||190|
|1-0(AT Fletcher) 2-49(A Raza) 3-49(G Tarr) 4-90(G Singh) 5-100(TIM de Kok) 6-136(AF Buurman) 7-176(M Bukhari) 8-184(JM Snoep) 9-188(M Singh)|
Rod Lyall 06/05/19
The opening weekend of the 2019 Topklasse campaign turned out to be as incident-filled as some seasons might not manage in the first month, as freezing cold, intermittent rain and occasional bursts of sunshine provided the context for some thoroughly entertaining cricket.
It also revealed the true extent of the New Order created by the collapse of the KNCB’s attempts to limit the number of foreign players per team, which is less than some may have feared but still more than many will have hoped.
With three matches played on Saturday and the remaining two on Sunday, only one game proved free of the influence of Messrs Duckworth, Lewis and Stern, with ACC dismissing Amstelveen rivals VRA for 139 at Het Loopveld on Sunday and knocking off the runs in 36.4 overs for the loss of three wickets.
Here it was two local youngsters who made all the difference: seamer Aryan Kumar took four for 28 as VRA collapsed to 38 for six at one stage, and then Shirase Rasool hit a maiden Topklasse half-century, making 56 on the way to ACC’s comprehensive victory.
Top-scorer for VRA was former national captain Peter Borren, whose 81 constituted an almost single-handed attempt to rescue his side; keeper Mitch Lees, who shared in a 59-run seventh-wicket stand, was the only other player to reach double figures.
The other Sunday game was a fluctuating affair which featured contrasting unbeaten centuries by opener Adam Wiffin for HCC and Wesley Barresi for HBS.
Batting throughout his side’s innings, Wiffin made 135 not out from 128 deliveries, hitting 11 fours and three sixes. Farshad Khan claimed three wickets for HBS and Julian de Mey two, and at 135 for five it seemed as if HCC might struggle to get far past 200.
But then Matt Hay chipped in with 30 in a sixth-wicket stand of 64, and as Wiffin cut loose in the closing stages he was well supported by Ali Ahmad Qasim, and HCC finished with 246 for seven.
Qasim and Hidde Overdijk grabbed three early wickets when HBS replied, but with the target reduced to 236 from 45 overs after two brief interruptions for rain, Navjit Singh (55) shared a partnership of 138 with Barresi, who dominated the bowling from the time he arrived at the crease, hitting a match-winning 93-ball 126 not out, which included 11 fours and five sixes, and HBS took the points with eight deliveries remaining.
The closest match of the weekend was at Hazelaarweg on Saturday, where overnight rain caused the match between VOC and Dosti to be reduced to 31 overs before the start. An interruption during the VOC innings caused a further reduction to 28 overs, from which the home side made 143 for seven.
Max O’Dowd gave them a solid start with 45, and Pieter Seelaar contributed a not-out 38 from just 23 balls, while Kuldeep Diwan, one of Dosti’s four overseas players, took four for 16.
The Dosti target was adjusted to 150, and VOC appeared to have the upper hand when Rahil Ahmed and Taruwar Kohli were both dismissed by the time 20 was on the board.
But skipper Vinoo Tewarie anchored the innings with 47 not out, and with smaller contributions from Amitoze Singh and Diwan, they had reached 129 for five in 25.1 overs when further rain brought an end to proceedings.
That was just one run ahead of the DLS par score at that stage, and thus Dosti were the winners by the narrowest of margins.
Fielding a side with no fewer than six overseas players, three of them the bearers of Dutch passports, Voorburg demonstrated the power of their batting line-up by compiling 229 for three in their 47 overs, with opener Matt Smit making 110 before he fell to the final ball of the innings.The rain also brought a premature end at Westvliet, but in this case promoted side Voorburg had established an unambiguous advantage over Sparta 1888.
He shared in stands of 124 with Noah Croes (59) and 77 with Steve Nottle (39 not out), while the only successful Sparta bowlers were Joost-Martijn Snoep with two wickets and Usman Saleem with one.
Pace man Brandon Glover then removed Andrew Fletcher in the first over of Sparta’s reply, and although Ali Raza hit a brisk 32 and Tim de Kok a patient 33, and the target was eventually reduced to 225 off 44 overs after another shower, it was only former international Mudassar Bukhari who showed any real sign of keeping his side in the game.
When he was bowled by Smit for 47 to make it 176 for seven the game was effectively over, and at 190 for nine after 42 overs when the rain descended again, Sparta lost by 25 runs. The wickets were shared, with two apiece for Glover, Yasir Hamid, Stef Mulder and Clayton Floyd.
The rain had also left its mark on Thurlede, where the match between Excelsior ’20 and Quick Haag was reduced to 37 overs before the start.
Put in to bat, Quick struggled against the Excelsior attack, with West Indian international Brenton Parchment taking three for 35 on his Topklasse debut and only Geert Maarten Mol (22) among the top order showing any real resistance.
New skipper Daan Vierling (24) and Thijs van Schelven (29 not out) managed to get their side up to 146 for seven, but this never seemed likely to be enough, even in difficult conditions for batting.
At 56 for four, with key batsman Lorenzo Ingram among those back in the dug-out, Excelsior were making heavy weather of the chase, but Parchment’s 77-ball 49 was the decisive factor, and in a low-scoring game his 55-run stand with David Woutersen (31) laid the foundation for the win.
By the time Parchment fell to Van Schelven only five runs were needed, and Rens van Troost and Gijs Kroesen saw their side home by four wickets with 14 deliveries to spare.
Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/05/19
The 2019 competition opens with a split round over the Liberation Day weekend, with three matches taking place as originally scheduled on Saturday and two moved to Sunday. In a further adjustment to the normal programme, Saturday’s matches will start at 10:00 in order to allow for the observance of the national commemoration in the evening, while those on Sunday will commence at 12:00.
RL: Much attention will focus on Voorburg’s Westvliet ground, which was in its first season when the club last played in the top flight. Their guests on their return will be Sparta 1888, who made a winning start last season on their own return to top-division cricket. Saturday’s match will give us a first glimpse of Voorburg’s side, impressive as it unquestionably is on paper, while Joost-Martijn Snoep and Mudassar Bukhari will have the task of quickly moulding their reshuffled outfit into a winning combination. The return of Viv Kingma to Westvliet adds a good deal to the Voorburg attack, and it would come as no surprise if the home side take the points.
BdJ: Also expecting a winning return to the Topklasse here for VCC, who have arguably just been biding their time in the second division in the last couple of seasons to build a side capable of making an immediate impact. Even with Bas de Leede’s departure for England this Voorburg side has the look of top four contenders rather than also-rans, though Sparta’s strength is perhaps tough to guage given the personnel changes over the winter. In Fletcher and Tarr they have two batsmen with proper first-class pedigree, and should they both take quickly to Dutch conditions Sparta may yet take an early lead again this season, but such rapid adjustment has generally been rare in batsmen new to the country.
RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam will be at home to Dosti Amsterdam at the Hazelaarweg on Saturday, and despite the loss of Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker from their attack they will start as clear favourites. They were not always completely convincing last season, especially with the bat and early in the season, but they settled into a formidable combination as the campaign went on, and although the pace attack will look different they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Dosti are likely to rely heavily on their overseas players, but will also be hoping that Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed among the batsmen and Mahesh Hans, Asief Hoseinbaks and Wahid Masood among the bowlers can play a greater role. If that happens this could be an intriguing game to watch.
BdJ: Hans and the wily Mohammad Hafeez will likely be key to Dosti’s hopes of upsetting the defending champions in the season opener as they memorably did a year ago, though this time they’re taking on the title holders in their own yard, where they went unbeaten last season. It remains to be seen whether VOC persist with their tactic of preparing dry, turning wickets again now that they are a spinner lighter, but either way if Vinoo Tewarie hopes to grab two points off the better-fancied VOC in the first game again, a good start might be winning the toss.
RL: Excelsior ‘20, who entertain Quick Haag at Thurlede in the third of Saturday’s matches, will be keen to put a slightly disappointing 2018 behind them and return to the winning ways which took them to the title in the two previous seasons. Lorenzo Ingram has been joined in Schiedam by West Indian Test batsman Brenton Parchment, who has the most distinguished credentials of any of this year’s overseas players, and surrounded by a talented bunch of young players who are now three years older and more experienced than they were when they first claimed the championship, they should prove too strong for a Quick side which tailed off badly last season.
BdJ: Well word is Quick are still waiting on overseas signings Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake, who are both apparently going under the hammer at the Mumbai T20 tomorrow when Quick might prefer them to be taking the field, while both Lorenzo Ingram and Brenton Parchment have arrived in good order for Excelsior. Given Bista kept Quick afloat more-or-less single-handedly last season it would be a remarkable upset if they were to knock over a full-strength Excelsior tomorrow without him. That said, it would presumably be a major confidence boost if they managed it. Skipper-in-exile Tim Gruijters has apparently arranged for his Canterbury Country team-mate Rupert Young to fly over and bolster the Quick batting, whilst the veteran Edgar Schiferli is understood to have taken the team in hand over the winter, subjecting them to a remorseless and unrelenting fitness program, and is reportedly mulling a return to competitive cricket to continue pushing his side on the field. They are still far from favourites tomorrow, but it could just be that the 2014 champions surprise everyone this season.
RL: On Sunday ACC, with South Africans Jean Marais and Brady Barends making their Topklasse debuts, will take on VRA Amsterdam at Het Loopveld in the first of this season’s traditional derbies. The Bos-dwellers turned out to be the strongest of VOC’s challengers last year, and although they will be without Daan ter Braak this season they have the most experienced outfit of all: Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski have more than 7000 top-flight runs each, and will again provide the core of the batting. Het Loopveld, though, can be a tricky place to visit, and the Amsterdam derby in recent years has generally been a hard-fought affair.
BdJ: Het Loopveld may take some getting used to for visitors, but this VRA side have generally felt quite at home there. Last season they skittled the home side for 112 and then knocked off the runs for the loss of just two wickets in half their allotted overs, despite a 3-ball duck for Peter Borren who generally makes hay on the ACC mat. Somewhat perversely, the visiting side will be more familiar with the “conditions” at ACC than two of the home side’s key players, with Marais and Barends likely having little experience on artificial pitches. That said, VRA are traditionally slow starters in the Topklasse and will be without Quirijn Guinning, who took 2-17 in the team’s last encounter at het Loopeveld.
RL: The other Sunday game pits HBS against HCC at Craeyenhout. The only first-round match which pits two teams from the top half of last season’s table against one another, this promises to be an absorbing duel. With New Zealander Zak Gibson and South African Zac Elkin joining Sharn Gomes at Craeyenhout HBS promise to be at least as strong as they were last year, while HCC will have Gibson’s compatriot Matt Hay joining Ryan Ninan to support their crop of young locally-produced players, led by allrounder Hidde Overdijk, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee in the batting and Ali Ahmed Qasim among the bowlers.
BdJ: HBS carry form and home advantage into their opening fixture after the match-up was belatedly relocated, and are firm favourites on paper. Despite the loss of Jaron Morgan, the Crows only look to have got stronger over the off-season, whilst HCC have put their faith in their maturing cohort of youth players. Word is that Ninan will not in fact be back at all for HCC this season, and indeed he was absent for both their warm-up matches. Heavy defeats in both suggest HCC’s young side has yet to really find their feet under new skipper Tonny Staal, and they will either need everything to click for them if they are to take home 2 points from Craeyenhout or Ali Ahmed Qasim to put on a repeat of his performance at the crows’ nest from last season.
Rod Lyall’s tips: Voorburg, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.
Bertus de Jong 03/05/2019
With a youthful looking squad and an absent Jonathan Vandiar, HCC were more-or-less targetting a mid-table finish last season, and got it. The side is a year older this time round, and may revise their expectations upwards somewhat, even if rumours of Vandiar’s return proved only half-true (that is to say, he’s back in the country but headed to Punjab Rotterdam).
Bryce Street, the seam all-rounder brought in as Vandiar’s replacement, did an admirable job last season filling those considerable shoes with 649 runs at 41 and 23 wickets, and the addition of 21 year-old left-handed opener Adam Wiffen, who comes across from Worcestershire and has already drawn the attention of national team coach Ryan Campbell, means HCC’s top-order looks a deal stronger than last summer.
With two young overseas signings and the retirement of skipper Mark Jonkman over the winter,HCC will be reliant on the increasing maturity of youth graduates Hidde Overdijk and Tonny Staal, both now 23 and hovering around the fringes of national selection, and u-19s bat Boris Gorlee. Staal, returned from a season at Balcatta CC in Perth Grade Cricket, will be the league’s second-youngest captain, and if rumours that overseas spinner Ryan Ninan’s is in doubt prove accurate, HCC’s leadership group will look very young indeed.
Should Ninan stay away, HCC’s slow-bowling options will also be limited to part-timers or fringe players, though even without Jonkman the seam section of Qasim, Bijloos, Overdijk and Street is an enviable one. Consecutive defeats in their two warm-up matches against VRA and Excelsior do not augur well, however. A slow start last season left them fighting an uphill battle all Summer, and Staal’s side have no more time to settle in. There’s plenty of young talent at de Diepput, but they’ll need to hit the ground running if they are to mount a serious challenge this season.
After two championships on the trot in 2016 and 2017, Excelsior ‘20 finished a disappointing 4th last season, 5 wins behind VOC at the top of the table. A comparatively quiet season (by his standards) for star overseas Lorenzo Ingram rather exposed the Schiedammer’s reliance on the Jamaican left-arm spinning all-rounder, especially in terms of batting. Ingram’s tally of 611 runs was more than 200 clear of the next contributor, Tim Etman. The likely absence this season of opening bowler and lower-order trouble-shooter James Hilditch, who has been roped in as Assistant coach for the national team, is also likely to put more pressure on the young core of the side to step up this season.
That said, the signing of former West Indies test bat Brenton Parchment, probably the most eye-catching acquisition of the season will likely do more than a little to shore up the batting. Joost Kroesen’s unbeaten 80 in a warm-up against Hermes also suggest he may have put a disappointing 2018 behind him, and skipper Tom Heggelman also has runs under his belt heading into the season opener against Quick Haag.
Umar Baker arrives from VOC to share in Ingram’s slow-bowling duties, whilst Parchment is also capable of sending down some serviceable off-spin. Heggelman meanwhile leads a sprightly but occasionally expensive pace attack further comprising Sohail Bhatti, Gijs Kroesen and Rens van Troost, and will at least be spoiled for options when cycling through his attack.
With the addition of Parchment and Baker the Schiedammers arguably have a stronger side than they did in either of their championship seasons, but last season it was above all the failure of the promising youngsters in the side to kick on that cost them a shot at defending their title. Good seasons for one or both of their Jamaican overseas will likely be enough to keep them in contention this time round, but the Thurlede faithful will be hoping above all that their maturing youth cohort come into their own this season.
HBS-Craeyenhout’s big-hitting top order couldn’t quite carry them into Topklasse title contention last year, despite Sharn Gomes, Wesley Barresi, Toby Visee and Jaron Morgan all crossing 500 runs in the season. Even with the departure of Morgan the top order remains the most intimidating in the league, however, and with Western Province opener Zac Elkin coming in to play foil to the ever explosive Visee at the top of the order the batting may even have gained a degree of stability.
New Zealand under-19s seamer Zak Gibson also joins the Crows, taking some pressure off spearhead Berend Westdijk who will likely be skipping a few games this season owing to work commitments. With Farshad Khan and Wessel Coster coming off the back of solid seasons, the HBS pace attack looks in good shape, whilst the spin attack comprising Wesley Barresi (who has taken to his new role as off-spinning all-rounder with all the zealousness of a convert) paired with the ever more impressive Julian de Mey looks equally sound. With allrounders Navjit Singh and Ferdi Vink also impressing last season, there’s no obvious weak links in this HBS side.
After claiming the national T20 title last season, the Crows were disappointed to discover that qualification for the new European Championship competition hinged on final Topklasse standings. It’s not out of the question that they’ll make doubly sure of their place in the next edition by the simple expedient of winning both this time round.
After two seasons in a row as runners-up, VRA will be looking to end their seven-year title drought this season. They fell short by just one win last time round, and again a slow start to the season was in part to blame as opening losses to Quick and Excelsior left them playing catch-up for much of the season. They’ll be looking for a stronger start this time round, though with only a single serious warm-up against HCC ahead of the season opener against ACC on Sunday they risk again going in under-cooked.
They did bet HCC comfortably however, with rather unheralded overseas signing Brandon Graber bagging four wickets. South African seamer Graber comes in to replace the departing Vivian Kingma (who was largely sidelined by injury last season) and is one of a number of somewhat low-profile additions to the VRA roster that nonetheless look to have shored-up a side that often struggles with player availability, with Englishmen Matt Lake, Graeme Scott and Thomas Long also joining the side.
Headed the other way is opening bat Daan ter Braak, who won’t be returning for another season. His departure leaves a 600+-run gap in the batting and whilst new skipper Emile van den Burg would doubtless be delighted if Lake were to fill it, VRA will likely be looking first to the veteran Eric Szwarczynski to bounce back from a disappointing 2018 and cover the shortfall. Given a batting line-up that also includes Ben Cooper and former captain Peter Borren, VRA need not rue ter Braak’s departure unduly if the senior players deliver.
Borren will doubtless have a role to play with the ball too, though with Graber, Quirijn Gunning and Haseeb Gul in the side as front-line seamers and a solid spin section in Adeel Raja and Leon Turmaine he will hope to have more competition for the VRA lead wicket-taker title than he did last season. All told the Amsterdammers head into 2019 with a balanced side and a deeper bench than they have in the past couple of years, and going one better this time round is far from out of the question.
2018 champions VOC Rotterdam will have to mount their title defense without the services of new-ball spearhead Freddy Klaassen, the left arm quick having been picked up by Kent over the winter. The loss of their lead wicket-taker inevitably takes some of the sting out of the VOC seam attack, with more responsibility falling on the shoulders of Dirk van Baren, Bobby Hanif and newcomer Ashiqullah Said, as well as Pierce Fletcher, especially at the death.
VOC have never been over-reliant on pace however, their unbeaten home record at the spin-friendly Hazelaarweg last year largely built around the slow-bowling trio of Umar Baker, Max O’Dowd and skipper Pieter Seelaar. With Baker departing for Thurlede, O’Dowd and Seelaar will be all the more crucial to VOC’s fortunes both with bat and ball.
Together with keeper Scott Edwards, O’Dowd and Seelaar provided the bulk of VOC’s runs last season. VOC will hope that Corey Rutgers (the trio’s former analyst with the national side and VOC’s main overseas player) will be able to contribute more from the top of the order after a shattered finger rather limited his effectiveness last season.
As much as the absence of Klaassen, it is the strengthening competition that poses the biggest obstacle to a successful title defense for VOC – with their nearest rivals bagging some judicious signings and newcomers VCC arriving in the top division with an intimidating roster – but bar Klaassen the principle components of last season’s success remain in place.
|Toss won by||ACC I|
|Umpires||RJ Akram – WPM van Liemt|
|Home Side||ACC I|
|Comment||Match reduced to 46 overs|
|Points Awarded||ACC I 2, Sparta I 0|
|SM Zulfiqar*||c G Tarr||b M Bukhari||10||0||0||0|
|RU Zulfiqar||b U Saleem||22||0||0||0|
|SR Rasool||c AT Fletcher||b TIM de Kok||29||0||0||0|
|SA Zulfiqar||c A Raza||b U Saleem||11||0||0||0|
|JL Marais+||lbw||b M Bukhari||38||0||0||0|
|MA Raza||c AF Buurman||b M Bukhari||10||0||0||0|
|BL Barends||b M Bukhari||9||0||0||0|
|JM Mulready||b M Bukhari||16||0||0||0|
|S Potdar||not out||7||0||0||0|
|A Kumar||lbw||b M Bukhari||0||0||0||0|
|A Zaidi||run out||1||0||0||0|
|extras||(b1 lb2 w15 nb0)||18|
|TOTAL||10 wickets for||171|
|1-18(SM Zulfiqar) 2-58(SR Rasool) 3-69(RU Zulfiqar) 4-88(SA Zulfiqar)5-127(MA Raza) 6-128(JL Marais) 7-144(BL Barends) 8-159(JM Mulready) 9-159(A Kumar)10-171(A Zaidi)|
|TIM de Kok||6||0||25||1||–||–|
|RS Tasawar Iqbal||1||0||8||0||–||–|
|AT Fletcher||lbw||b A Kumar||26||0||0||0|
|G Tarr||c MA Raza||b A Kumar||24||0||0||0|
|TIM de Kok||b SM Zulfiqar||2||0||0||0|
|M Bukhari||c SA Zulfiqar||b MA Raza||16||0||0||0|
|AF Buurman+||c JL Marais||b A Kumar||6||0||0||0|
|A Raza||c SA Zulfiqar||b SM Zulfiqar||7||0||0||0|
|JM Snoep*||lbw||b SM Zulfiqar||0||0||0||0|
|M Singh||b SM Zulfiqar||22||0||0||0|
|U Saleem||c MA Raza||b BL Barends||5||0||0||0|
|RS Tasawar Iqbal||c&b SM Zulfiqar||1||0||0||0|
|MB Hoornweg||not out||3||0||0||0|
|extras||(b0 lb1 w14 nb3)||18|
|TOTAL||10 wickets for||130|
|1-41(G Tarr) 2-63(TIM de Kok) 3-74(AT Fletcher) 4-86(AF Buurman) 5-93(A Raza) 6-96(JM Snoep) 7-104(M Bukhari) 8-111(U Saleem) 9-124(RS Tasawar Iqbal) 10-130(M Singh)|
Rod Lyall 30-04-19
Much of the initial interest in this year’s Topklasse competition will focus on promoted side Voorburg, returning to the top flight after a nine-year absence.
They lost just one match on their march to the Hoofdklasse title last season, and despite the absence of young international allrounder Bas de Leede, now in England with the MCC Young Cricketers, all the indications are that they will be stronger this year, and that they could even challenge for the Topklasse championship itself.
At the heart of their selection are four South Africans, two of them bearers of a Dutch passport and already members of Ryan Campbell’s national squad.
They are seamer Brandon Glover, who took 17 wickets at an average of 6.06 last year, and slow left-armer Clayton Floyd, whose 28 wickets at 13.61 contributed a good deal of the attack’s cutting edge.
He will share the new ball with Viv Kingma, who returns from injury and from VRA showing every sign of wanting to shake up opposing batsmen. Steffen Mulder, the only surviving member of the 2009 Voorburg side unless Tim de Leede decides to take his bat out of the cupboard one more time, will no doubt bowl his share of seamers as well.
With leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain, another member of the Dutch squad, to match Floyd’s left-arm spin Voorburg look to have a balanced and menacing attack.
And that’s without taking into account the contribution of South African brothers Matt and Nicholas Smith, whose main contribution is likely to be with the bat. Left-hander Matt hit 467 Hoofdklasse runs at an average of 116.75 in just seven matches last season before being forced out with a knee injury, and this year he will be joined by Nicholas; both have plenty of experience of club cricket in England, and can be expected to cause problems for opposing bowlers.
The side will again be captained by former Dutch international Tom de Grooth, and with keeper Mohit Hingorani and Australians Noah Croes and Steve Nottle also on their players’ list, Voorburg will be one of the teams to watch as the competition gets under way.
The South African influence will again also be strong at ACC, who will be hoping to improve on a very disappointing 2018 campaign.
Their new recruits are 26 year-old Boland batsman-wicketkeeper Jean Marais and 30 year-old North-West allrounder Brady Barends, who will bring some maturity to what is still a very young and inexperienced outfit.
The Zulfiqar presence will still be of great importance to the side, although Asad has moved to Punjab Rotterdam; elder brother Rehmat, one of the most improved players in the Topklasse last year, will still have skipper Saqib and the other remaining triplet, Sikander, alongside him in the team, even if it is unclear how regular an appearance will be made by their evergreen father Ahmed.
Above all, it’s consistency that the Amsterdammers will be looking for from their three remaining Zulfiqars: all have proved the ability to make big scores and to take crucial wickets from time to time, but their importance to the side is all the greater because of the club‘s commitment to a youth policy, and means that they need to come off more regularly than they were able to do last year.
There will be hope, too, that the younger brigade of Aryan Kumar – arguably the most successful of the group to date – Areeb Shoaib, Jamieson Mulready, Shirace Rasool, Ammar Zaidi and Shreyas Potdar will make significant progress this season, and that some at least of them will hold their own on the demanding Topklasse stage.
It’s not as if ACC don’t have more experienced players on their books: Bas van der Heyde topped the Second side’s batting averages last year, and with the likes of Rehan Younis and Steven de Bruin also potentially available, the opportunity is there to field a more balanced side.
Half-filling a side with teenagers is a laudable commitment to the future, but it only has real value if they are able to rise to the challenge.
Jay Bista, the leading run-scorer in the Topklasse last season with 854 at an average of 47.44, is back at Quick Haag, where he will be joined by his countryman Prathamesh Dake, a seam-bowling allrounder who is something of a T20 specialist in his native Mumbai.
Sean Davey has reportedly moved to Ajax Leiden, and with seamer Imran Khan out through injury the club’s rebuilding phase looks set to continue. But the abandonment of the KNCB’s restriction on overseas players means that Namibian Pieter Groenewald could move up from the Seconds to strengthen the Topklasse side.
Otherwise, it looks as if Quick might need to rely on the mixture as before, with Jeroen Brand, Lesley Stokkers, Thijs van Schelven and Geert Maarten Mol, all of whom have played for the national side at some point, among the more familiar names and faces; it remains to be seen whether last season’s successful coup of persuading Edgar Schiferli to return to the colours will be repeated this year.
Keeper Daan Vierling made good progress last season, posting a maiden Topklasse half-century, and Bob van Gigch is another veteran who is always ready to demonstrate that he is still capable of making a contribution in the top flight.
Rogier Rooda and Stefan Ekelmans have yet to establish themselves as fully-fledged members of the side, and they may well find youngsters like Teun Landheer and Tycho de Mooij breathing down their necks.
Visitors to Nieuw Hanenburg will find one major difference this season: the outfield, the butt of more than its fair share of jokes over the years, has gone, as Quick have followed the example of neighbours HBS and laid a brand-new astroturf surface. Whatever one may think about artificial outfields, it seems likely to offer better value for one’s strokeplay than its predecessor sometimes did.
Sparta 1888 made a promising start on their return to the top flight last season, but then fell away and had to be content with seventh position.
There’s been something of a reshuffle at the Bermweg, with Michael Pollard, Warren Bell, Craig Ambrose and Faisal Iqbal all moving on, to be replaced by 25-year-old Wellington batsman Andrew Fletcher and 18-year-old South African wicketkeeper-batsmen Garnett Tarr, as well as by spinner Manminder Singh, batsman Chandan Kumar, and the hard-hitting Ali Raza moving from Hermes-DVS, Excelsior ‘20 and Punjab respectively.
Fletcher will fill the spot vacated by Pollard, and much will depend on his ability to made consistent runs, the core around which Sparta can build significant totals.
That said, with former internationals Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman still on the strength, and Belgium’s Raja Saqlain added to the squad, Sparta will doubtless be a force to contend with, especially at home.
Spearheaded by Bukhari but also featuring solid performances from skipper Joost-Martijn Snoep, Dost Muhammad, young Max Hoornweg, Usman Ishfaq and Usman Saleem, it was the attack which largely kept the Capelle side clear of the relegation zone last season, and apart from the departure of Bell that will be unchanged.
The least altered of all the squads appears to be Dosti’s. They will sorely miss Mohammad Hafeez, the leading wicket-taker and top of the bowling averages in 2018, who has moved on to Punjab.
But as against that, they have Taruwar Kohli, Anees Davids and Amitoze Singh all on their books again, and this year there is nothing in the rules to prevent all three playing at once; last season Singh proved an invaluable replacement when Kohli returned to India.
Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need more consistency from its local players, not least Tewarie himself. He and Rahil Ahmed have struggled to build major innings, and although they made 378 and 336 runs respectively last year, Kohli needs more support from both of them.
Kohli and Davids are also central to the attack, and will be even more so without Hafeez. Here, however, the pace of Wahid Masood proved useful last season, and the advent of Asief Hoseinbaks to share the spin burden with Mahesh Hans also gave a better-balanced look to the attack.
One of Dosti’s greatest problems, though, is the relative thinness of their squad: they rely heavily on their overseas players and a small number of locals, and they have not been able to find new players to help lift them back to their title-winning form of four years ago.