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.
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.
|Toss won by||HCC I|
|Umpires||HKG Jansen – P Muthucumaru|
|Scorers||A Smelt – K Pattiselanno|
|Home Side||Sparta I|
|Points Awarded||HCC I 0, Sparta I 2|
|BE Street||run out M Bukhari/F Iqbal||45||78||1||1|
|AJ Staal||b JM Snoep||39||69||3||0|
|BHG Gorlee||c JM Snoep||b U Saleem||35||55||1||0|
|R Ninan||lbw||b F Iqbal||12||23||1||0|
|HC Overdijk||b U Saleem||2||7||0||0|
|MBS Jonkman*||b M Bukhari||13||18||1||0|
|LJF Lagas+||run out MA Pollard||6||27||0||0|
|T Peters||not out||4||14||0||0|
|JZ-X van Kessel||run out TIM de Kok/AF Buurman||1||1||0||0|
|AA Qasim||lbw||b D Muhammed||0||1||0||0|
|RR Bijloos||not out||8||9||1||0|
|extras||(b1 lb1 w8 nb1)||11|
|TOTAL||9 wickets for||176|
|1-75(AJ Staal) 2-111(BE Street) 3-132(R Ninan) 4-142(BHG Gorlee) 5-142(HC Overdijk) 6-161(MBS Jonkman) 7-164(LJF Lagas) 8-165(JZ-X van Kessel) 9-165(AA Qasim)|
|TIM de Kok||3||1||9||0||–||–|
|CP Ambrose||c LJF Lagas||b MBS Jonkman||2||24||0||0|
|M Bukhari||c BE Street||b R Ninan||23||58||3||0|
|TIM de Kok||lbw||b AA Qasim||45||73||4||0|
|MA Pollard||not out||55||68||5||2|
|F Iqbal||c T Peters||b R Ninan||29||39||3||0|
|AF Buurman+||not out||13||15||1||1|
|extras||(b0 lb2 w8 nb0)||10|
|TOTAL||4 wickets for||177|
|1-13(CP Ambrose) 2-55(M Bukhari) 3-95(TIM de Kok) 4-147(F Iqbal)|
|JZ-X van Kessel||2||0||15||0||5||–|
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.