Another split weekend, and a clear leader in prospect

Rod Lyall 11/5/18


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

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

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

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

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

45-Hilditch-playsfrom-the-b
James Hilditch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Scorecard | Quick vs Dosti | 10.05.18

 

Quick Haag I Vs Dosti United I
1-Innings Match Played At Nieuw Hanenburg, DH, 10-May-2018, Topklasse
Dosti United I Win by 138 runs
Round 2
Toss won by Quick Haag I
Umpires AND van den Dries – P Muthucumaru
Scorers JWM Krulder – R Seetal
Home Side Quick Haag I
Points Awarded Dosti United I 2, Quick Haag I 0
Dosti United I 1st Innings 209/10 All Out (Overs 50)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
VAB Tewarie* lbw b JG Bista 18 45 3 0
RI Ahmed+ c&b JG Bista 40 62 5 1
TS Kohli c JG Bista b GMC Mol 27 37 4 0
M Hafeez not out 64 75 5 0
Vimal Tewarie lbw b GMC Mol 7 13 1 0
A Davids c TJB Landheer b GMC Mol 9 17 1 0
M Hans c TJB Landheer b GMC Mol 7 23 0 0
S Ghori c D Vierling b SB Davey 2 7 0 0
Asief Hoseinbaks run out SB Davey/D Vierling 0 5 0 0
W Masood b MI Khan 14 14 0 1
Arief Hoseinbaks c D Vierling b JA Brand 1 3 0 0
extras (b1 lb5 w13 nb1) 20
TOTAL 10 wickets for 209
FOW
1-44(VAB Tewarie) 2-74(RI Ahmed) 3-97(TS Kohli) 4-114(Vimal Tewarie) 5-137(A Davids) 6-162(M Hans) 7-170(S Ghori) 8-171(Asief Hoseinbaks) 9-200(W Masood) 10-207(Arief Hoseinbaks)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
MI Khan 9 1 31 1 2 1
JA Brand 5 0 24 1 3
SB Davey 10 1 35 1 1
JG Bista 10 1 53 2 1
GMC Mol 10 1 38 4 6
MB van Schelven 3 0 13 0
LW Stokkers 3 0 9 0
Quick Haag I 1st Innings 71/10 All Out (Overs 29.2)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
JG Bista c RI Ahmed b A Davids 19 32 1 1
LW Stokkers c A Davids b W Masood 11 16 1 0
SB Davey b W Masood 0 7 0 0
GMC Mol lbw b M Hans 7 14 1 0
RR Rooda b M Hafeez 6 18 0 1
JA Brand* lbw b M Hafeez 5 18 0 0
D Vierling+ st RI Ahmed b M Hafeez 5 18 0 0
MB van Schelven c A Davids b M Hafeez 4 17 0 0
S Ekelmans c M Hafeez b Asief Hoseinbaks 3 17 0 0
TJB Landheer lbw b M Hafeez 0 5 0 0
MI Khan not out 2 14 0 0
extras (b0 lb0 w9 nb0) 9
TOTAL 10 wickets for 71
FOW
1-30(LW Stokkers) 2-30(JG Bista) 3-30(SB Davey) 4-44(GMC Mol) 5-49(RR Rooda) 6-50(JA Brand) 7-64(MB van Schelven) 8-66(D Vierling) 9-67(TJB Landheer) 10-71(S Ekelmans)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
A Davids 6 1 23 1 1
Asief Hoseinbaks 4.2 1 14 1
W Masood 5 2 4 2
M Hafeez 8 1 13 5 2
M Hans 5 0 14 1 2
Arief Hoseinbaks 1 0 3 0

Ascension Day programme gives Topklasse an early lift

Rod Lyall 09/05/18


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Surprises galore as the Topklasse gets under way

Rod Lyall 07/05/18


The glorious unpredictability of cricket was fully in evidence on a sun-drenched opening weekend of the Topklasse season, as sides which had often been remoulded over the winter battled for early advantage.

The one constant was a first-day win for defending champions Excelsior ’20, who cruised to an eight-wicket victory over Punjab Rotterdam at Het Zomercomplex. The home side did well to reach 231, recovering from 147 for seven after Stef Myburgh had got them off to a quickfire start with a 30-ball 35 which included four fours and two sixes.

Thereafter Excelsior’s bowlers worked their way through Punjab’s batting, until Assad Saleemi and Mohammad Latif turned things round with an eighth-wicket stand of 80, 58 of them coming from Latif, who hit four sixes in an aggressive 54-ball innings.

But the champions were untroubled in chasing down this target, Tim Etman and Roel Verhagen getting them off to a strong start with an opening stand of 82, and Etman going on to make 62 before he was the second to depart with the score on 115.

James Hilditch now joined Lorenzo Ingram at the crease, and the two overseas players added 117 in an unbroken third-wicket partnership, Ingram just missing out on his century with an undefeated, 108-ball 95, including seven fours and five sixes, while Hilditch contributed a steady 39.

Early speculation about who Excelsior’s main rivals might be was thrown into confusion elsewhere, not least in the Amsterdamse Bos, where VRA were bundled out for 124 by Quick Haag in just 39.2 overs.

Only Ben Cooper (51) was able to make a significant contribution, with skipper Emile van den Burg and last man Viv Kingma the only others to reach double figures. Newly-arrived overseas player Jay Bista and left-arm spinner Thijs van Schelven picked up three wickets apiece, for 23 and 12 runs respectively.

Quick made heavy weather of their reply, as VRA’s international new-ball pairing of Quirijn Gunning (two for 30) and Viv Kingma (three for 28) claimed five wickets between them, Sean Davey leading the way for the Hanen with 39. When Davey departed the total was 86 for five, and VRA fought hard all the way. But Stefan Ekelmans and Mart Spruit were able to see their side home to a tense two-wicket win.

Sportpark Bermweg
Topklasse cricket comes to Bermweg

Sparta 1888, on their return to the top flight, may have been without two key players in Riaan Jeggels and Warren Bell, but they nevertheless proved too strong for HCC at Sportpark Bermweg, fighting back convincingly after the visitors, after electing to bat, had reached 111 for one at 30 overs.

The base for this platform was built in an opening stand of 75 between Bryce Street and Tonny Staal, and after the latter departed, bowled by Joost Martijn Snoep for 39, Street and Boris Gorlee continued to bat with concentration and discipline. Two moments of poor judgement undid the good work, however: first Street, on 45, ran himself our looking for an impossible single, and then Gorlee, who had made 35, tried to hit Usman Saleem over the top and was caught at mid-on.

That swung the game Sparta’s way, and HCC could only reach 176 for nine in their remaining overs. Seamers Mudassar Bukhari, Dost Muhammed and Usman Saleem all bowled well at the back end, ensuring that the target was a more modest one than had seemed likely earlier in the day.

HCC fought hard when Sparta replied, and with Ali Ahmed Qasim the pick of the bowlers they did their best to contain the home side’s batsmen. But it was wickets they needed, and an uncharacteristically quiet innings of 23 from Bukhari and a solid 45 from Tim de Kok ensured that Sparta stayed in touch with their target.

It was New Zealander Michael Pollard, however, who took the game away from the Hagenaars, unleashing some splendid cover drives in an undefeated knock of 55 and sharing in a valuable fourth-wicket partnership of 52 with Faisal Iqbal, and Sparta secured their six-wicket victory with almost four overs to spare.

At Craeyenhout, ACC were once again greatly indebted to the Zulfiqar family for their 18-run win against HBS. Skipper Saqib and triplet brother Sikander each made 51 and elder brother Rehmet contributed 37, Ali Raza chipping in with 31 not out as the Amsterdammers reached 233 for eight.

It might have been more but for three run-outs, while of the HBS bowlers Wesley Barresi was the most successful with two for 34.

233 is not a massive total on the artificial outfield at Craeyenhout, but ACC’s defence of it was led by young Aryan Kumar, who removed both the dangerous HBS openers, Barresi and skipper Tobias Visée by the time 32 runs were on the board.

Sharn Gomes again proved his value to his side by making 64 at almost a run a ball, but with Sikander Zulfiqar taking three for 20 and Kumar claiming another to finish with three for 47, it was ACC who ultimately prevailed. Rehmet Zulfiqar’s dismissal of Gomes with 38 still needed, only three wickets remaining at that point, was the decisive moment, and HBS finished 19 short of their target.

A remodelled VOC Rotterdam are another of the fancied sides in this season’s Topklasse, but they encountered Dosti United’s Taruwar Kohli in supreme form when they made the trip to Sportpark Drieburg on Sunday.

The Indian batsman made a chanceless unbeaten 115 in his side’s total of 246 for three, coming from 133 balls with ten fours and a six, and he was ably assisted by Rahil Ahmed, whose 70 contributed to a second-wicket stand of 142 after VOC skipper Pieter Seelaar had won the toss and put the home side in.

It was always going to be a formidable task, and although Corey Rutgers got his new side off to a decent start with 41, VOC were never really on top. Seelaar (36) and Ahsan Malik Jamil (27) kept them in the hunt with a dogged fifth-wicket stand of 70 against a disciplined Dosti, but the asking rate continued to grow, and when Seelaar holed out on the midwicket boundary trying to create some much-needed momentum it started an avalanche of wickets.

Five wickets fell in the space of ten deliveries without the addition of a run, and despite some late resistance from Bobby Hanif and Pierce Fletcher, the innings closed on 165, giving Dosti aa 81-run victory. Mohammad Hafeez finished with four for 29, while Kohli capped a memorable day with three for 11.

The campaign will resume on Thursday, with a full round of matches on the Ascension Day holiday.

Scorecard | Dosti vs VOC | 06.05.18

Dosti United I Vs VOC I
1-Innings Match Played At Sportpark Drieburg, 06-May-2018, Topklasse
Dosti United I Win by 81 runs
Round 1
Toss won by VOC I
Umpires PGHA van Giezen – ML Hancock
Scorers R Seetal – F van Lent
Home Side Dosti United I
Points Awarded Dosti United I 2, VOC I 0
Dosti United I 1st Innings 246/3 Closed (Overs 50)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
VAB Tewarie* lbw b FJ Klaassen 4 14 0 0
RI Ahmed+ c SA Edwards b FJ Klaassen 70 117 1 3
TS Kohli not out 115 133 10 1
M Hafeez c SA Edwards b MAA Jamil 34 30 3 1
A Davids not out 8 6 1 0
Vimal Tewarie dnb
M Hans dnb
W Masood dnb
Asief Hoseinbaks dnb
Arief Hoseinbaks dnb
S Ghori dnb
extras (b3 lb4 w8 nb0) 15
TOTAL 3 wickets for 246
FOW
1-13(VAB Tewarie) 2-155(RI Ahmed) 3-228(M Hafeez)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
FJ Klaassen 10 3 42 2 1
P Fletcher 6 0 33 0 5
MAA Jamil 10 2 53 1 1
BW Hanif 8 0 47 0 2
UF Baker 4 0 22 0
PM Seelaar 7 1 22 0
JD Schoonheim 3 0 12 0
MP O’Dowd 2 0 8 0
VOC I 1st Innings 165/10 All Out (Overs 45.1)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
SA Edwards+ b W Masood 14 33 2 0
CL Rutgers c Vimal Tewarie b M Hafeez 41 77 4 0
ZDA van Baren lbw b M Hans 20 32 3 0
MP O’Dowd c Vimal Tewarie b M Hafeez 8 9 1 0
PM Seelaar* c Arief Hoseinbaks b TS Kohli 36 44 2 1
MAA Jamil c Vimal Tewarie b M Hafeez 27 46 1 0
JD Schoonheim c Asief Hoseinbaks b TS Kohli 0 1 0 0
FJ Klaassen c M Hans b TS Kohli 0 2 0 0
UF Baker c RI Ahmed b M Hafeez 0 4 0 0
BW Hanif c M Hans b Arief Hoseinbaks 3 9 0 0
P Fletcher not out 7 15 1 0
extras (b1 lb1 w7 nb0) 9
TOTAL 10 wickets for 165
FOW
1-40(SA Edwards) 2-73(CL Rutgers) 3-83(MP O’Dowd) 4-83(ZDA van Baren) 5-153(PM Seelaar) 6-153(JD Schoonheim) 7-153(MAA Jamil) 8-153(UF Baker)9-153(FJ Klaassen) 10-165(BW Hanif)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
A Davids 7 2 23 0
M Hans 7 0 32 1 1
Asief Hoseinbaks 10 0 37 0 1
W Masood 7 1 25 1 1
M Hafeez 10 1 29 4 2
TS Kohli 3 0 11 3 1
Arief Hoseinbaks 1.1 0 6 1 1

Round 1 Preview

Rod Lyall 04/05/18


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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