Trophyless Topklasse returns as club cricket resumes

Bertus de Jong 01-07-2020

As the Netherlands slowly emerges from Coronavirus lockdown the KNCB have confirmed that Topklasse cricket can resume this coming weekend, albeit subject to certain restrictions and protocols to protect the health of players, officials and spectators (details of which are expected to be made public within the next few days), and without the prospect of relegation or an official national title to contend for.

The restrictions imposed by the Dutch government to combat the spread of COVID-19 have prevented any inter-club cricket thus far in the 2020 season, though individual clubs had begun to organise ad-hoc intra-club matches in the past few weeks.

Beginning from Sunday, however, the regular competition will continue effectively unchanged from the original schedule with regular matches being played on Sundays, treating the first half of the season as essentially written off. The initially planned 10-team double round robin format which would have seen each club play their nine rivals home and away can be fairly simply cut in half, such that each fixture will now be played either at home or away, though with only eight rounds left in the current schedule space will have to be found for one additional round to complete a nine-match per team calendar, the traditional free weekend at the end of July the obvious option.

Despite the ambition to run a “full-half” all-play-all competition, however, the 2020 season will not be accorded the status of a national championship and, as was already decided early in the year as the likely impact of the pandemic became apparent, there will be no promotion and relegation between the Topklasse and Hoofdklasse or any of the lower leagues this season. With significant international travel restrictions still in place, most Topklasse sides will be missing their overseas players, whilst a number of Dutch national team players who typically play abroad during the Dutch winter also remain outside the country, meaning several teams will be severely under-strength.

A handful of clubs are understood to have lobbied for the Topklasse itself to be replaced with a short-format league, but it seems the advocates of 50-over cricket won out in the end. Given the likely reliance of many clubs on their youth players, the value of the longer format for development was a significant consideration.

“Keeping the development of younger players in mind (longer bowling spells, more time in the middle, building an innings) played a role in the decision making, especially since most clubs are without overseas players/coaches and will rely more havily on their youth players. The national coaches/captain have also been consulted and expressed the same opinion.” -a KNCB spokesperson told Tkcricket.

It is as yet unclear when and in what form Twenty20 cricket will resume, but the board are optimistic that some form of T20 competition can be arrange. “The exact format and number of teams is not clear yet, but we’re aiming for a TK/HK T20 on Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons, with a regional based poule phase and finals day.”


Provisional fixtures for the first round of Topklasse games on Sunday July 5th are as follows. Live coverage, as always, only on Tkcricket.

ACC vs HCC at het Loopveld
VOC vs VCC at Hazelaarweg
Excelsior vs Sparta at Thurlede
HBS vs Punjab at Craeyenhout
Dosti vs VRA at Drieburg

KNCB Board lights the blue touch paper

Rod Lyall 21/09/19

Let me begin by declaring an interest: on most aspects of the Dutch competition I have strong and frequently-expressed views, and on the topic of a ten-team versus an eight-team Topklasse I was the sole dissenting voice on the Board when it decided in 2016 to move from eight to ten.

So the debate which the Board initiated last week is one with plenty of personal resonance, although the central questions affect everyone with an interest in the future of the Dutch game, and the eventual outcomes ought to be those which ensure the growth of that game, both in quantity and quality.

Club representatives took part last Wednesday and Thursday in two consultative meetings, to discuss a series of proposals from the Board:

  • to reduce the top divisions again, from ten teams to eight, probably with some form of play-offs;
  • to play top division matches on Saturdays throughout the season, instead of only in the first six weeks;
  • to restructure the Twenty20 Cup, limiting it to 16 teams;
  • to consider establishing a separate competition for ‘development teams’, essentially the second elevens of clubs with a youth section; and (most radically of all)
  • to introduce over a five-year period a set of criteria to be satisfied by any club before they would be allowed to play in the top three divisions.

    These are far-reaching and, in my view at least, mostly laudable proposals, but the fact that they received a somewhat mixed reception from the club representatives was due, not only to innate conservatism and the undoubted tendency of some to consider only what was in the interest of their own club rather than the needs of Dutch cricket as a whole, but to the fact, admitted by KNCB secretary Robert Vermeulen, that the initiative had had a ‘less than optimal’ preparation.

    The Board had established a Taskforce to review the competitions back in February, but various factors had conspired to prevent it bringing its deliberations to a coherent conclusion, and the Board had now decided that if changes were to be made, the first steps needed to be taken immediately.

    But the problem was that the arguments for change had not been fully worked out, and certainly had not been presented in advance, and many remained unconvinced about the need for change at all.

    One starting point was the increasing pressure from the programme of the national men’s team, which could affect as many as eight of the 21 or 22 playing dates next season and more in 2021, even without taking into account the potential impact of the Euroslam T20 competition, assuming that it goes ahead next year.

    That demanded, the KNCB’s interim competition manager Bart Kroesen argued, greater flexibility in the domestic competition schedule, something which could scarcely be achieved with a ten-team competition with its minimum of 18 playing dates.

    That calculation immediately leads, however, into one of Dutch cricket’s perennial debates, about whether, and to what extent, the competition can fairly be allowed to continue when national team players are unavailable to take part.

    As the demands upon those players increase the impact upon their clubs grows correspondingly, especially when the national team management seeks to limit players’ role in club matches they are released to play, as for example permitting bowlers to complete no more than five overs.

    In some cases this amounts to a contractual problem: if a player is contracted both to the KNCB and to a club, which commitment takes precedence, and will the Bond be prepared to take on the whole cost of that player if his availability for the club drops below a certain level?

    There are, from this perspective, broadly two alternatives: either the top competitions can be played only when all players are available, in which case there may be room only for 14 or so matches and the limitation to eight teams becomes essential, or it is played through with or without the members of the national team, in which case a ten-team competition is feasible but there are serious concerns about its fairness (summed up in the much-used Dutch term competitievervalsing, or distortion of the competition).

    Whether this is the right basis on which to decide the league structure is itself a matter of dispute, and one to which we shall return in a further article, but other arguments, such as the claim that the expansion to ten teams in 2016 has failed to produce the projected increase in the number of young Dutch-produced players taking part, or that the ten-team league is more or less competitive than its eight-team predecessor, either come down to highly subjective judgements or rely on evidence which the Board is not yet able to produce.

    Everyone agrees that a key objective of the domestic competition ought to be the creation of an environment in which talented young Dutch cricketers can develop and prosper, and most agree that this is not enhanced by the elimination, in order to comply with the Netherlands’ stringent anti-discrimination laws, of any check on the influx of overseas players.

    But there is less agreement about how best to achieve that objective, and a good deal of fractiousness (to put it mildly) about the Board’s apparent inability – at this stage at least –  to convert broad strategic objectives into a coherent, consistent, well-argued plan for a stable, equitable league structure.

    The previous reduction of the top leagues from ten teams to eight, in 2010, was the result of a long, comprehensive consultation process, which ran from August 2008 to March 2009, and even then some of the conclusions were immediately undermined by compromise and continuing resistance from some intransigent quarters.

    The reversal of that change in 2016 was much more ad hoc, but both bear witness to deep-seated divisions in the Dutch game, and the absence of a clear consensus on the best way forward.

    If the current Board can achieve that it will be greatest contribution to the future of Dutch cricket it could possibly make, but it may take more than a couple of meetings, or even a winter of debate, to achieve that goal.

    We will attempt, over the next couple of weeks, to contribute to the discussion by considering each of the Board’s proposals in greater detail.



Dosti ambush the champions, but Voorburg stake their claim

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.

Matt Smit
That’s hundred for Matt Smit!

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.

Round 1 Preview

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.

Season preview 2019 – Part 2

Bertus de Jong 03/05/2019

Logo HCCWith 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.

LogoExcelsiorAfter 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.

LogoHBSHBS-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.

logo VRAAfter 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.

LogoVOC2018 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.

Season preview 2019 – Part 1

Rod Lyall 30-04-19

VCCMuch 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.

LogoACCThe 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.

LogoQuickJay 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.

SpartaSparta 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.

DostiThe 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.


Punjab ruling raises questions ahead of ALV

Bertus de Jong 29/11/18

The KNCB’s Commissie van Beroep (appeals committee) ruled in favour of Punjab Rotterdam CC this week in their long-running dispute with the KNCB over questions of player eligibility. The ruling would appear to critically undermine the board’s current rules governing the participation of overseas players in the Dutch domestic competition.

The dispute originially arose early last season, precipitated by Punjab’s selection of Belgian nationals Mamoon Latif and Ali Raza, who were deemed overseas players under Article 12 of the Competitiereglement, to represent the club’s first XI in the Topklasse.

Ali Raza
Ali Raza in action for Punjab

The KNCB initially imposed a number of sanctions on the club, including awarding their match against ACC to the Amsterdam club by default, imposing a 6-point penalty as well as threatening fines. Punjab contended that as EU nationals Latif and Raza were entitled to equal treatment under EU law, and that they could not be counted toward the quota of 2 overseas players in the side, and continued to field the pair throughout the season.

The matter was first referred to the Tuchtcommissie, who in June nominally ruled in the KNCB’s favour, but scrapped the board’s competitive penalties and imposed a fine of a mere € 126 on Punjab -the lightest possible penalty – hinting that the rules themselves might not accord with Dutch or European law.

The KNCB duly appealed the decision, but last week the Commissie van Beroep sided decisively with Punjab. The CvB ruled that Article 12 of the Competitiereglemen amounted to discrimination on the basis of nationality and was consequently unlawful. Crucially, they based their ruling not on EU law but on the Dutch Algemene wet gelijke behandeling (general equal treatmenet act) thus seeming to preclude not only discrimination against EU passport-holders but any direct restriction on the basis of nationality whatsoever.

The current two-player limit for overseas players in the Topklasse applies to any non-Netherlands passport-holder with the exception of those players who have participated in a domestic league in the Netherlands in three of the preceding four years and played a minimum of 8 matches in the immediately preceding season. Lifting that restriction for EU citizens might not have caused undue disruption given that the Dutch season naturally coincides with the domestic seasons of its European neighbours, and there are moreover comparatively few cricketers in the rest of continental Europe likely to have a significant impact at Topklasse level.

This week’s ruling, however, would seem to open the door to an unlimited number of players from further afield turning out in the Dutch competition, threatening to crowd out local talent, a prospect provoking dismay on social media.

The KNCB do not appear to have been caught entirely unawares by the ruling however, and were already planning to amend the rules for the coming season; “we’ll be looking at moving to a system more in line with the approach they take in Scotland and Ireland for 2019” KNCB secretary Robert Vermeulen told TKcricket earlier this year. The board is understood to have consulted with clubs regarding potential changes to the overseas player rules even before the ruling was published last week, and is expected to present its proposals at the KNCB’s Algemene Ledenvergadering (general members meeting) scheduled for the 15th of this month.

Round 13 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 12/07/18

We’re very much over the hump now and heading rapidly toward the business end of the season with just six games to play, and the table has duly divided itself neatly in three. At the top end VOC, HBS and VRA remain very much in the running for a shot at the title, whilst defending champions Excelsior have joined former frontrunners Dosti and Sparta, together with HCC, as near-certain also-rans this time round, and Punjab, Quick and ACC look set for a nervy relegation battle.

BdJ: A win against table-toppers VOC Rotterdam might just keep Excelsior ‘20’s hopes alive another week, but given their recent run that’s the tallest of orders and the continued absence of batting linchpin and opening bowler James Hilditch won’t help their cause. VOC have looked all-but invulnerable at fortress Hazelaarweg, where a three-wicket win over VRA has been the closest they’ve come to defeat. Both Corey Rutgers and Max O’Dowd showed they were more than capable of pulling their weight for the frontrunners last week against Quick, both notching 80+ scores despite O’Dowd carrying a gluteal niggle and Rutgers a finger fractured six ways from Sunday. With skipper Pieter Seelaar’s imperious run of form showing no signs of stalling, an away match at VOC remains the toughest proposition in the league at this point.

RL: With several key acquisitions over the winter VOC were seen as a good championship bet before the campaign started, and while they took a little while to get into their stride – and despite some misfortunes with injuries – they have evolved into a formidable unit. They still have several big matches to play, and a few weeks ago this would have been one of them: after all, Excelsior were the last team to beat them, back on 19 May. But as VOC’s star has risen Excelsior’s has waned, and it would take a significant reversal of form for the defending champions to take the points back to Schiedam. The VOC new-ball pairing of Fred Klaassen and Pierce Fletcher is another of the Rotterdammers’ trump cards, and without Hilditch the Excelsior attack looks a lot less menacing.

BdJ: Should the title-holders spring a surprise, HBS Craeyenhout are currently best placed to take advantage as they head to meet bottom-placed Punjab Rotterdam at the Zomercomplex. On paper a match-up between the second-placed HBS and bottom-placed Punjab should be a fairly easy call, but then on paper the Crows’ top order ought to be delivering regular 300+ totals. Instead against HCC last week they clung on to defend 138 in an entirely unconvincing 15-run win, and Punjab’s opening pair of Stephan Myburgh and Ali Raza demonstrated that that sort of score would be unlikely to suffice come Sunday, racking up 149 runs in an unbroken partnership against Sparta at the traditionally bowler-friendly Bermweg. That said, last week HBS were facing a bowling attack featuring two of the league’s top five wicket-takers, whilst Punjab can boast not a single bowler in the top twenty, and indeed last week was the first time they managed to take all ten wickets. It will take a remarkable turnaround in form for Punjab to contain HBS’ battery of big hitters given the short boundaries at the Zomercomplex and one suspects delivering a third victory will be beyond even the powers of Raza and Myburgh.

RL: HBS, too, have settled into a winning pattern based on a powerful top five batsmen backed up by a well-balanced attack, and showed last week that even when the former fails to deliver the latter can defend a low total. Farshad Khan has been incisive since his return to the side, and together with Berend Westdijk and Wessel Coster heads a seam department capable of troubling any batting line-up. Punjab rely more on spin, and unless they can make early inroads into that HBS top order they may find themselves chasing an awful lot of leather. It is indeed hard to see Punjab upsetting one of the main title contenders, but Rohan Qadri has certainly made a difference to the side and the Rotterdammers know that every point is vital if they are to lift themselves away from the bottom of the table.

BdJ: Third placed VRA will be hoping for upsets in both the above-mentioned games, in which case a win against Sparta 1888 at the Bos could get them to second place and just one win behind VOC. The Amsterdammers’ home record may not inspire a huge amount of confidence, and continued questions over Viv Kingma’s fitness are also a concern, nonetheless they remain marginal favourites to take two points on the day. Though Sparta won the first encounter earlier in the season, the sort of cricket played at VRA is traditionally a different beast from what one sees at Bermweg. That said, the game is far from a foregone conclusion, with the hosts’ top order in patchy form and the bowling attack likely understrength. Though Sparta have stalled rather after an impressive early run, seamers Dost Muhammed and Mudassar Bukhari remain a dangerous combination, and Michael Pollard will doubtless be looking forward to a run out on the league’s best batting wicket. Though Sparta’s three consecutive defeats in the last three games have put them pretty much out of contention for the title, they remain more than capable as acting as spoilers for VRA’s hopes too.

RL: Even without Ben Cooper and Viv Kingma VRA were impressive against an injury-weakened ACC last week, with Quirijn Gunning and Haseeb Gul Mia doing the vital early damage and spinners Adeel Raja and Leon Turmaine doing the rest. If Eric Szwarczynski has definitely put his run of poor form behind him the batting, too, will have a more solid feel, and with some of the air having escaped from Sparta’s early-season balloon the home side should go into this game with plenty of confidence. Pollard is, obviously, a potential match-winner, and so too is Warren Bell, who has not so far had the impact in the Topklasse which he had during his side’s promotion-winning run last season. It should be a good tussle, with the encounter between former international team-mates Peter Borren and Mudassar Bukhari one to savour.

BdJ: Similarly HCC find themselves more-or-less safe but solidly out of contention following back-to-back losses, a position their opponents Quick Haag will nonetheless envy. Already weakened by retirements and departures, the Hanen have been plagued by injuries, illness and unavailability issues throughout the season, and now find themselves in real danger of relegation. Still groundless, they return to De Diepput for their nominal home match against their hosts again as underdogs, though HCC’s own shaky batting will give them some hope, as will the form of Quick overseas Jay Bista. The mumbaiker’s near-chanceless 124 against VOC last week consolidated his claim to the title of best player in the competition, and even the impressive collection of scalps dangling from the belts of Hidde Overdijk and Ali Ahmed Qasim are unlikely to faze him. The fitness of his fellow overseas Sean Davey remains doubtful, however, and as events last week again demonstrated it’s pretty tough to win a Topklasse match on your own.

RL: This is probably the toughest game to tip about this week, given the evident vulnerability of both sides, especially with the bat. Overdijk and Qasim can be a very effective pairing, as their demolition of Sparta demonstrated, and the dismissal of HBS for 138 should give Quick – and any other visitors to De Diepput – pause. Bista is obviously a key factor, and HCC will be hoping that Ryan Ninan, who has had a lean season so far, will rise to the challenge and have at least a great an impact on this match. They also need Tonny Staal and Bryce Street to deliver with the bat, while Quick will be looking to the experience of the likes of Geert Maarten Mol and Lesley Stokkers to give Bista the support he needs. If I were going to break the unanimity of this week’s predictions this is where I would do it, but on balance I tend to go with m’colleague and predict a home win.

BdJ: It will be a similar situation at Drieburg where hosts Dosti-United are safely ensconced in the mid-table whilst visitors ACC are barely more than one defeat away from the wooden spoon spot. A washout against Excelsior means ACC are just a hair above Quick on points average, but nonetheless they’ll be desperate to put some more distance between themselves and their relegation rivals. Though likely the more motivated of the two teams, they remain underdogs when they head across the Amstel, especially if they are again unable to field a full complement of Zulfiqars. With Dosti coming off the back of a comfortable win against (an admittedly under-strength) Excelsior and Taru Kohli still in flying form with the bat and now in the wickets as well, two points will take some getting at Drieburg.

RL: ACC have been the Jekyll and Hyde of this season’s Topklasse, and much will depend on which of the two incarnations turns up at Sportpark Drieburg. A young and inexperienced team, they are desperately dependent on a good start, and with Anees Davids back in the Dosti line-up the home side are well placed to deny it to them. Their own top order has also been inconsistent, especially on the rare occasions when Kohli has failed to deliver, but ACC’s bowling is their weaker department, and they really missed the injured Sikander Zulfiqar against VRA last week. But if Richardt Frenz and the Zulfiqars who do play stay around for a while, Dosti may need to be at their best to take the points.

BdJ’s tips: VOC, HBS, VRA, HCC, Dosti.
RL’s tips: VOC, HBS, VRA, HCC, Dosti.

Gallery | HBS vs Sparta | 01.07.2018

HBS vs Sparta 1888 at Crayenhout – 01/07/2018
scorecard | as it happened

Round 11 Preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 29/06/18

With six games scheduled for the coming weekend, attention turns to the mid-table for the eleventh round of Topklasse matches where several clubs will be looking to distance themselves from a looming relegation battle, or face must-win matches to maintain their title hopes.

BdJ: For Dosti-United the former is likely the principal concern, having sunk back into the lower half of the table after a bright start to the season. They have two chances this weekend to climb back up toward relative safety, the first a rescheduled 7th-round match against Punjab Rotterdam, currently languishing at the bottom of the pile with just a solitary win.

Dosti will start as favourites at home, but their recent slide has highlighted their dependence on league lead run-scorer Taru Kohli to post winning totals. They themselves have managed to avoid defeat only once this season without a Kohli century, and he has gone scoreless in their last two games. Yet against a Punjab attack that has yet to bowl anyone out this season another ton looks at least as likely as another duck and with three other bats having racked up 200+ runs and Mohammad Hafeez leading the wicket-taking table the Amsterdammers are hardly a one man band.

While their opponents can take heart from the return of Stephan Myburgh, the Netherlands opener is still not fully fit and may not play both games at the weekend. And Punjab have barely looked competitive without him. Myburgh remains their lead run-scorer despite having sat out four games, and despite showing some admirable fight against Excelsior last week it’s hard to argue Punjab haven’t earned their place at the bottom of the table.

RL: Having pushed Excelsior all the way last Sunday Punjab may go into this game with a certain degree of hope – if not confidence – despite their lowly position in the table. Ashan Bamunusinghe has been a slightly surprising keystone of both their batting line-up and their attack, but he and Barend Vorster have received too little support from the rest of the team. Myburgh’s battle for fitness is obviously a continuing concern, and against a Dosti outfit which is capable of much more than they have shown in recent weeks the visitors are likely to struggle.

BdJ: Punjab’s real four-pointer will come on Sunday however, when they face their nearest rivals for the wooden spoon ACC at the Zomercomplex. ACC currently have a 2 point lead over the Rotterdammers, though that may not be the case by the time they meet. Though ACC’s lamentable lack of bench strength was pointed out as a weakness before the season began, but few would have picked them as relegation contenders. They were exposed again by HBS last week however, losing by a calamitous 173 runs as they collapsed to 62 all-out. The promotion of Richardt Frenz to partner Rehmat Zulfiqar at the top of the order has paid off on occasion, but the middle order remains fragile and the tail long.

Whether Punjab have the bowling to capitalise is questionable of course, but likewise ACC’s attack has lacked for penetration at times. Devon Botha has had a creditable debut season thus far but is arguably rather wasted on Dutch wickets, and should Myburgh play one suspects he’ll enjoy himself. Given that two of the three wins these teams have between them have been built on big opening partnerships, and there’s little reason to expect different come Sunday.

RL: ACC provided Punjab with their sole victory so far, when Myburgh and Raza shared a big opening partnership at Het Loopveld back in May. Neither has repeated that form in such a sustained way since, although in the former’s case that is scarcely surprising. Both teams show the shallowness of the talent pool at the highest domestic level, raising legitimate questions about the wisdom of the ten-team Topklasse format. Yet the best of the ACC squad (most of them named Zulfiqar) would grace any team, and they have been much more prolific with the bat in recent weeks – last Sunday’s dramatic collapse against HBS excepted. This is a crucial match for both teams, and even more a must-win occasion for Punjab than for their visitors.

BdJ: Also still in the relegation mix are Quick Haag, who will be Dosti’s second opponents this weekend. If Dosti have looked dependent on Kohli thus far, Quick have been no less so on Jay Bista, who remains the only Quick bat to have passed 200 runs this season. Another side that might be said to be in a transitional phase, Quick have tested a number of youth and former second team players this season, but their depth has thus far proved as lacking as that of ACC. Though seamer Josh Davey has proved a solid signing for them and Bista’s current 3rd spot in the run aggregates probably undersells his talents, the two overseas have lacked any consistent support from the rest of the side who, Geert Maarten Mol apart, have looked an underperforming team that wasn’t too strong in the first place.

RL: This, too, is a vital match for both sides, with Quick just one win clear of ACC and Dosti currently only just ahead of Quick on points average. A mid-table position beckons for the winner, but the loser may face a nerve-wracking battle in the weeks ahead. Quick have indeed looked vulnerable for much of the season, and while a late rally spared at least some of their blushes against VRA last Sunday the collapse of the top and middle order confirms that concern. The attack, too, lacks bite and the variation provided in different ways by Henk-Jan Mol and Asief Hoseinbaks last year, and undoubtedly Dosti have the batsmen in Vinoo Tewarie, Kohli, Rahil Ahmed and Anees Davids to take full advantage.

: The league’s new front-runner VOC Rotterdam meanwhile will take on the mercurial HCC at Hazelaarweg, looking to consolidate their place at the top of the table. Though HCC will be coming off the back of a crunching win over erstwhile front-runners Sparta, the odds are against them taking two points back from Rotterdam. Given the traditionally slow and spin-friendly conditions at Hazelaarweg the Hagenaars’ principal match winners Ali Ahmed Qasim and Hidde Overdijk are unlikely to be at their most effective, whilst the conditions are expected to play in favour of VOC’s spinners Umar Baker and current MVP favourite Pieter Seelaar. Even without Max O’Dowd, Ahsan Malik and probably Corey Rutgers, the hosts head into the game with the wind in their sails and the bookies’ backing.

RL: If m’colleague’s reading of the Hazelaarweg conditions is correct, then the influence of Ryan Ninan on this match should not be under-estimated. He bowled with great control last week while Ali Ahmed Qasim was creating havoc at the other end, and is likely to find the Rotterdam environment much more to his liking. VOC’s batting was in early trouble against Dosti last Sunday, and they too needed a vigorously wagging tail to set an adequate target. I think this may be a closer game than many expect, and while the strength of their batting leads me to favour VOC on balance, it would not surprise me if the leadership of the table had again changed hands by Sunday evening.

BdJ: Tougher to call will be VRA’s return match against defending champions Excelsior ‘20, who travel to the Bos without the usual benefit of a well-established winning habit. The Schiedammers looked altogether unconvincing against bottom-placed Punjab last week, clinging on for a 19-run win to break an all-but unprecedented 2-game losing streak. Nonetheless Excelsior’s lower-middle order again showed an encouraging resilience after the bedrock pair of Ingram and Hilditch both fell cheaply, suggesting that containing or removing the pair remains a necessary but not sufficient condition for besting the title-holders.

VRA certainly have the attack to do it, though the continued side-lining of Vivian Kingma means skipper Van den Burg does not have quite the flexibility he might like should anyone have an off-day. Moreover, off-days have been rather par for the course in the VRA middle-order of late, which has yet to really live up to its potential thus far. In short, this looks like anyone’s game, and two points will likely go to whoever underperforms the least.

RL: Another of the three top-six encounters which this week’s draw offers, this match-up of two clubs who have won twenty championships between them in the past 26 years has plenty of history behind it as well as a fascinating immediate context. Excelsior struggled to reach a modest target of 177 when the sides met on 10 May, owing their victory to a fine innings from Hilditch, and neither has been completely convincing in recent weeks – or, in VRA’s case, all season. There’s an opportunity for one of the big guns – Ingram or Hilditch, Cooper, Borren or Gunning – to stamp their influence on the game, but the result may well depend on how much support they receive from the rest of their team.

BdJ: The round’s final game pits a resurgent HBS against former table-toppers Sparta 1888, who have struggled to maintain their early momentum into the mid-season. The Crows have not lost a game at home since their defeat at the hands of HCC in the third round, when Ali Qasim ran riot for the first time, and though in Dost Mohammad and Mudassar Bukhari Sparta have seamers capable of doing a similar job on HBS’ explosive top order, now that all four of Gomes, Barresi, Visée and Morgan have runs under their belt the chance of such a repetition looks more remote. Sparta have some big hitters of their own of course in Pollard and Bell, not to mention the belligerent Bukhari and Atse Buurman down the order also capable of clearing the ropes, so it’s tough to say what a safe first innings score might be.

RL: Sparta will return to Den Haag with the shadow of last week’s collapse hanging over them, but they will also remember the initial sting of Bukhari, Mohammad and Bell and the way they fought back to dismiss HCC for a fairly modest total. Especially at Craeyenhout, HBS has the most imposing top six in the competition, and Sparta’s five seamers and spinner Faisal Iqbal will need to be at their absolute best if they are to contain them. Warren Bell was very unlucky last week, and if he and Michael Pollard are able to take advantage of the Craeyenhout outfield we could be in for some prolific scoring, and the bowlers could be in for a tough time.

Bertus de Jong’s tips: Dosti, Dosti, VOC, VRA, Punjab, HBS.

Rod Lyall’s tips: Dosti, Dosti, VOC, Excelsior, ACC, HBS.