Phase 2: Round 3 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 06/08/22

Four rounds to go in the second phase of this unique, outsized edition of the Topklasse, and once again the league is set to be consumed in another Eindrangschikking controversy, as it was discovered that the playing conditions specify total points rather than points average as the prime determinant of ranking, contrary to what official points tables have said all season, and everyone involved had assumed. The change hurts HCC and HBS in the top half, and especially ACC in the lower, though by pure luck does not mean any club is actually playing in the wrong half. Nor does the change put anyone entirely out of the running for the finals play-offs or top-flight survival, though there’s a couple of clashes this weekend that could leave some teams playing for pride, with VRA and Dosti needing wins over Punjab and Sparta respectively to keep their seasons alive, while Salland could put their top flight survival beyond doubt.

BdJ: Voorburg could also all-but seal their spot at the top of the table if they continue winning streak away at HBS Craeyenhout, and on current form any other result would be a surprise. Tayo Walbrugh’s imperious form and the expected return of Gavin Kaplan makes it tough to count the Crows out at home of course, especially given the struggles of VCC’s attack at Punjab last week, but HBS lack the batting depth of Punjab, and other than Walbrugh few of their top order have made consistent runs (or indeed appearances) while Voorburg’s top order are in fine form, Andre Malan and Musa Nadeem both striking unbeaten centuries last week and Bas de Leede showing his class against the touring Blackcaps. For HBS a win would go a long way toward securing a top four finish, though even on home (astro)turf downing the favourites remains a tall order.

RL: Difficult to disagree with any of that, although one might add that HBS have potential trump cards in the batting of Wesley Barresi and the bowling of the brothers Klein, while Voorburg also have the luxury of a pace attack which includes Logan van Beek and Viv Kingma alongside De Leede and valuable leg-spinners in Shariz Ahmad and Philippe Boissevain. In other words, this game between the two top sides could well feature ten present or former Dutch internationals as well as some outstanding overseas players, and it’s hard to imagine a better advertisement for the top flight of Dutch domestic cricket.

BdJ: For HCC this Sunday’s match against Excelsior ‘20 is effectively, if not quite arithmetically a must-win match if they’re to have any hope of a double shot at making the final, and more realistically pretty key to both sides hope of involvement in the finals play-offs. Both sides had their games rained out last week, HCC with barely a ball bowled against VRA and Excelsior as they looked in a solid position batting first against HBS. Fresh in the minds of both teams, however, will be the drubbing Excelsior gave HCC in the shorter format on T20 finals day. HCC’s batting has looked indifferent at best in both formats since the break, while Excelsior’s top order have all had rather more time in the middle. Brett Hampton especially has been in fine form with bat and ball, though with two international left arm spinners HCC arguably have the tools to counter him. They have to find a way past Lorenzo Ingram first of course, and though Excelsior’s local bats have been making runs too one suspects those two will be the wickets the Lions will be hunting for.

RL: After a remarkable run of dominant form early in the season Zac Worden has been markedly less prolific in recent games, making 95 runs in his last four innings, and HCC will need him to get back to his best if they are to have a real chance of squeezing into the top four. The fact remains, though, that they have one of the most effective attacks in the competition with an outstanding balance of seam and spin, and one which certainly has the potential to test Excelsior to the full. Dependent as they are on Ingram and Hampton, the Schiedammers have plenty of experience behind them, and they always look a better side when Tom Heggelman is in it, even though he has now devolved the captaincy to Roel Verhagen. This, too, looks like a very even encounter, but it’s one which HCC can afford to lose much less than their visitors, and that might make all the difference.

BdJ: The washout against HCC last week all but ended VRA’s hopes of a top four finish, and their match away at Punjab this week, like all their remaining games, is a must-win if they are to have any hope of sneaking into the play-offs. VRA have done rather better than many expected to make the top half at all, and a late surge to the top four would be a quite remarkable result after an inconsistent season. The departure of Johan Smal for the last few matches of Phase 2 makes it all the more unlikely, and an upset away at Punjab all the more necessary. Punjab nonetheless have reason to worry given their attack’s lack of penetration last week, and the VRA middle order’s past record of cutting loose at the Zomercomplex.  With absolutely nothing to lose, VRA will at least be the less nervous side on Sunday.

RL: We’ve talked a good deal here about the comparison between Punjab’s title-winning form last year and their less impressive performances this season, and it remains a somewhat enigmatic question. They have gained enormously from the arrival of Vandiar and to a lesser extent Jappie, but that doesn’t entirely compensate for the reduced impact of the four Zulfiqars, and the relative toothlessness of the bowling against Excelsior and Voorburg when defending big totals is a real source of concern. For VRA, a win here is an absolute necessity, and Peter Borren’s mercurial side unquestionably has the capacity to exploit any weaknesses in their opponents; it would, though, be a major surprise, and logic suggests that Punjab will make sure of the points.

BdJ: Down in the lower half of the table Salland’s  position has only become stronger, with nearest rivals ACC demoted to third place. ACC will doubtless be hopping mad about the shambles, but will have to contain their frustration as a loss at home to Salland could now drop them right into the relegation zone. Overseas Hobson and Smith have kept them out of immediate danger thus far this season, with the aid of Mees van Vliet’s ever growing tally of wickets, and support from skipper Raza was enough to set up a surprise win over VOC in their Phase 2 opener. Netting nul points from a washout vs Dosti has put them back in trouble however, while Salland are on something of a roll, having knocked over the Cooper-reinforced Kampong last week. Following the dictum that when it rains, it pours, Salland adding to ACC’s woes this Sunday looks a more than fair possibility.

RL: The presence of their German contingent has pretty much taken Salland to safety, and if they turn out again on Sunday they may well be able to guarantee the Deventer club a second season in the top flight. On the other hand, the Amsterdammers have been a much stronger force with Hobson and Smith, and the progress of Van Vliet and Shreyas Potdar have also been significant factors in their season so far. The issue of the regulations apart, the endgame could well be evolving into a tussle between ACC and Kampong to finish third in the pool and thus clear of relegation and this match, like the one at Maarschalkerweerd, is potentially crucial in that scenario.

BdJ: One of the few clubs likely to be happy with the change will be the otherwise luckless Kampong who see their hopes of climbing out of the top three improve marginally, and a win at home against VOC could shift the odds still further in their favour. They are now just two points behind ACC with a superior net run rate, though barring another late change in tie-breaking the latter is unlikely to matter in this case. VOC’s demolition of Sparta last week does suggest they have woken up to the danger they remain in, though of course the new ranking order has diminished that somewhat. A win over Kampong could put them pretty close to safe on ten points, at least out of significant danger of direct relegation.

RL: Having beaten Punjab and HCC in the first phase, Kampong can approach this key encounter in a positive frame of mind, and all the more so as Tom Cooper slots into their line-up in place of Pite van Biljon. They will, of course, need to neutralise the threat of Max O’Dowd, Scott Edwards and Pieter Seelaar, but if Kertan Nana and Alex Roy bowl at their best they could put the VOC top order under pressure. But the Rotterdammers remain, at least on paper, the strongest side in the relegation pool, and they will start as favourites here.

BdJ: Finally at the do or die (and probably die either way) end of the table, the winless Dosti welcome Sparta to Drieburg. The game probably represents the hosts’ best chance of breaking their long winless streak, with Sparta looking entirely out of sorts, senior bowlers Bukhari and Malik short of wickets and Samit Gohil still failing to fire. Sparta managed just two wickets in two games since the break and were twice bowled out for double figures, while Dosti looked briefly competitive against Kampong and were going remarkably well in the brief passage of play the rain allowed against ACC last week. Another loss would almost certainly spell the end of the Amsterdammers’ stint in the top flight, an eventuality which has looked increasingly inevitable for years now.

RL: Two dire batting performances have left Sparta in real trouble near the foot of the table, and even with Bukhari, Gohil and Malik in their side they have become favourites to occupy one of the two automatic relegation spots. Victory over Dosti is a <i>sine qua non</i> if they are to avoid that fate, and it’s a brave call to tip a win for Mahesh Hans’s side. But as m’colleague observes, this is Dosti’s best chance of breaking that duck, and they began their short-lived game against ACC last week as if they had discovered a new, if slightly desperate, sense of purpose. None of this week’s games is easy to call, but having been stung in the past I’m guessing that Sparta will pass the character test and take the points back to Capelle.

BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, Excelsior, VRA, Salland, VOC, Dosti.
RL’s picks: Voorburg, HCC, Punjab, ACC, VOC, Sparta.


Scorecard | VRA vs HCC | 31.07.22

1-Innings Match Played At Amstelveen (VRA), 31-Jul-2022, Topklasse
No result
Round C6
Toss won by HCC I
Umpires MA Din – ML Hancock
Scorers KA Holdsworth – K Pattiselanno
Home Side VRA I
VRA I 1st Innings 5/0 (Overs 2)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
V Singh not out   1 10 0 0
SR Rasool not out   4 2 0 0
Z Khan dnb          
J Balbirnie dnb          
PW Borren* dnb          
A Dutt dnb          
J Smal dnb          
MB Lees+ dnb          
U Nashier dnb          
LA Turmaine dnb          
A Abid dnb          
extras   (b0 lb0 w0 nb0) 0      
TOTAL   0 wickets for 5      
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
HC Overdijk 1 0 5 0
RR Bijloos 1 1 0 0
HCC I 1st Innings
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
ZA Worden dnb          
AJ Staal dnb          
BHG Gorlee* dnb          
DG Crowley dnb          
HC Overdijk dnb          
TJG Pringle dnb          
YJ Patel+ dnb          
C Floyd dnb          
F Bennett dnb          
J-WM Overdijk dnb          
RR Bijloos dnb          
extras   (b0 lb0 w0 nb0) 0      
TOTAL   0 wickets for 0      
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb

Voorburg beat the rain – and Punjab

Rod Lyall 01/08/22

Successive bands of rain disrupted the Topklasse schedule on Sunday, but the three matches which reached a conclusion served to clarify some of the outstanding issues, if not conclusively then to a very definite degree.

The most significant outcome was at Het Zomercomplex, where leaders Voorburg pulled off a notable ten-wicket victory over defending champions Punjab Rotterdam.

Punjab had, for the second week in a row, posted a formidable total, this time putting on 312 for seven, and whereas their 281 against Excelsior last week had been dominated by Jonathan Vandiar’s mammoth innings, this was much more of a combined effort: Rushdie Jappie (19) and Steph Myburgh (41) contributed an opening stand of 60, and then Asad Zulfiqar and Vandiar added 154 for the third wicket in just 23 overs.

Vandiar missed out on another hundred, falling to Andre Malan for a 79-ball 88 which included ten fours and four sixes, and after Asad went for a more restrained 65 the lower order chipped in to get the total past 300.

All Voorburg’s bowlers suffered, Logan van Beek the most economical with one for 44 from his ten overs.

The reply had barely started when there was a rain delay, and Voorburg were set a revised target of 240 from 33 overs, at a rate of 7.27 per over.

Last season Punjab built their title campaign in large measure on a parsimonious attack, but as Excelsior had demonstrated a week ago, they are currently much less effective at staunching the flow of runs, certainly once opposing batters are settled.

This Musa Ahmad and Andre Malan, Voorburg’s openers proceeded to do, and the reply quickly gained momentum, the leaders reaching their target without loss in just 27.3 of the available overs.

Malan was particularly brutal, reaching his century from just 78 deliveries and, once he had passed this milestone, smashing Saqib Zulfiqar for four consecutive sixes; in all he faced 84 balls for his unbeaten 131, which included 14 fours and seven sixes.

Musa had gone along more quietly, but then, on 82 and with 18 needed, he hit Yasir Usman for three sixes to reach an 82-ball century with the winning blow, having struck 12 fours to go with those three sixes.

The win preserves Voorburg’s unbeaten record in the championship pool, and with four games to go they seem virtually certain, not only to finish in the top two but also to go into the finals at the head of the table, thus ensuring home advantage in the play-offs.

The other two games in the pool were abandoned, the match at Thurlede after Excelsior ’20 had reached 175 for five in 39.5 overs against HBS Craeyenhout, thanks to a fourth-wicket stand of 81 between Roel Verhagen (70) and Joost Kroesen (46), while only two overs were possible in the Amsterdamse Bos, where VRA Amsterdam reached 5 without loss against HCC before proceedings came to an end.

The relegation pool match between Dosti Amsterdam and ACC at Sportpark Drieburg managed just four overs, Rahil Ahmed and Waqas Raja reaching 41 without loss for the home side, Raja belting 23 from eight deliveries before the rain set in again.

The other two games in this pool, however, did reach a conclusion, wins for Salland Deventer against Kampong Utrecht at Het Schootsveld and for VOC Rotterdam against Sparta 1888 at the Hazelaarweg significantly reducing any residual fears of relegation the victors may have been suffering.

For Sparta and Kampong, by contrast, the anxiety will have increased: Sparta, dismissed for 83 after collapsing to 61 all out against Salland last week, are now in serious danger of finishing in the bottom three, and potentially occupying one of the two automatic relegation spots.

Pierce Fletcher and Burhan Niaz reduced them to 7 for three inside four overs, and although Samit Gohil (18) and Mudassar Bukhari (21) brought about a partial recovery, Arnav Jain’s three for 20 ran through the lower middle order, and then Max O’Dowd (35) and Scott Edwards (32 not out) made short work of knocking off the runs in just 7.5 overs.

Kampong were reinforced by the advent of Tom Cooper for their journey to Deventer, but despite 53 from Cole Briggs and 36 from Cooper the Utrecht side collapsed from 93 for three to 134 all out, Venkat Ganesan doing much of the damage with five for 37.

Ganesan then hit a 24-ball 32 when Salland replied, but with Alex Roy taking three early wickets the home side had to work hard to reach their fairly modest target, Pasan Ottachchige’s 58 not out turning the innings around after they had lost five wickets for 85.

Ottachchige was supported by Reinder Lubbers in an unbroken stand of 50, and Salland took the points with 16 overs to spare.

Excelsior put down a marker as Voorburg and HBS squeeze home

Rod Lyall 25/07/22

A magnificent century from Brett Hampton on Sunday enabled Excelsior ’20 to chase down Punjab Rotterdam’s imposing total of 281 and gain a crucial advantage over their rivals as the battle for final-four places got under way in earnest.

Equally significantly, HCC and VRA Amsterdam, potential challengers to Excelsior and Punjab, both lost hard-fought matches and saw their pathway to the finals become a little bit narrower.

Put in to bat, Punjab lost Steph Myburgh to the first ball he received, but they were rescued by Jonathan Vandiar, whose 141, made from 136 balls and including 16 fours and four sixes, was his first for the club and his sixth – and highest – in the Dutch top flight.

Coming in with the score on 4, Vandiar saw his side through to 236 before his was the sixth wicket to fall, and then lesser contributions from Asad Zulfiqar (33) and Yasir Usman (31 from 16 deliveries) enabled Punjab to set the biggest total of the day.

Niels Etman and Hampton claimed four wickets apiece for Excelsior, at a cost of 63 and 51 runs respectively.

Vandiar’s knock left Excelsior with a huge task, but Tim Etman led the chase with a brisk 38, and then Lorenzo Ingram and Hampton produced a fourth-wicket stand of 107, of which Ingram’s share was 39, to keep their side ahead of the required rate.

Ingram eventually became the first of three victims for Teja Nidamanuru, but now Hampton took over, reaching his maiden Topklasse century in just 75 deliveries and going on to make an unbeaten 142 from 95, hitting 17 fours and seven sixes, and hammering Excelsior to a four-wicket victory with an improbable eight overs to spare.

Leaders Voorburg stayed ahead of the pack with a three-wicket win over HCC at De Diepput, but they made heavy weather of chasing a modest target after they had dismissed their hosts for 123.

Tim Pringle top-scored for HCC with 25, while young leg-spinner Shariz Ahmad achieved his first five-wicket haul in the top flight, taking six for 18 in 9.5 overs.

At 68 for five Voorburg seemed to be flirting with defeat, but skipper Bas de Leede held things together with a dogged, 144-ball innings of 53 not out, and although Hidde Overdijk and Reinier Bijloos picked up three wickets apiece the leaders squeezed home with 16 deliveries to spare.

The strangest match of the day was at Craeyenhout, where VRA collapsed to 83 for eight inside 12 overs against HBS, Ferdi Vink taking five for 32, but were rescued by a record-breaking ninth-wicket stand of 143 between Johan Smal and Leon Turmaine.

It was the highest partnership for the ninth wicket ever recorded in the Dutch top flight, surpassing Tim de Leede and Mike Vroom’s 107 for Voorburg against VRA at the old Duivesteijn ground in 1994, and Smal posted a maiden Topklasse century before he was run out for 113.

Turmaine went on to make 55, and the VRA innings ended on 258.

It might have been enough, but opener Tayo Walbrugh responded with his third hundred of the season, making 142 not out from 132 deliveries with 14 fours and four sixes.

Wickets kept falling at the other end, however, the next best contribution Kyle Klein’s 28, and with four overs left the Craeyenhout side still needed 53 to win with four wickets remaining.

Supported by Manjinder Singh, Walbrugh was equal to the challenge, and although he lost Singh with seven runs required he saw HBS home with four balls to spare.

There was a dramatic turnaround in the relegation pool as well, where Dosti Amsterdam appeared to be on course for their first win of the season at 97 for two after restricting Kampong Utrecht to 177 all out at Maarschalkerweerd.

Without seamer Alex Roy the Kampong attack seemed to be struggling, but once Pierre Jacod had removed Amitoze Singh for 43 and opener Waqas Raja for 27 the Dosti innings fell apart, Jacod taking four for 6 in six overs and Usman Malik four for 30 as the Amsterdammers lost their last six wickets for just 14 runs.

Earlier, Touseef Ahmad had taken four for 34 for Dosti to give his side a chance, but Cole Briggs’s 51 and a solid 41 from debutant Stijn Bakker enabled Kampong to set a total which eventually proved too much for the bottom-placed side, who now need a miracle if they are to avoid relegation.

There was no turnaround at the Bermweg, where Salland Deventer seized the initiative against Sparta 1888 and never surrendered it, dismissing the Capelle side for 61 in 31 overs and needing only 8.5 overs to complete a nine-wicket victory.

Victor and Reinder Lubbers began the rout, Victor claiming the vital wicket of Samit Gohil and finishing with two for 10 from seven overs, but most of the damage was done by Gul Ahmed Nasir with five for 13 in nine overs, Elam Bharathi chipping in with two for 20, including the scalp of Mudassar Bukhari.

Venkat Ganesan then ensured maximal net run rate advantage for Salland with a 27-ball 41 not out to complete one of the season’s most comprehensive victories.

The win enabled Salland to move to the top of the pool ahead of VOC Rotterdam, who lost at home to ACC, but more importantly, it took them another two points clear of the threat of relegation.

ACC, too, will have been relieved to collect the points at the Hazelaarweg, chasing down VOC’s 203 to win by three wickets.

Max O’Dowd top-scored for the Rotterdammers with 71 and skipper Tim de Kok made 35, but De Kok’s opposite number Anis Raza claimed three for 34 and there were two wickets apiece for Devanshu Arya, Aryan Kumar and Thomas Hobson as ACC did well to restrict VOC’s menacing batting line-up to a comparatively modest total.

Robin Smith got their reply off to a lively start with a 29-ball 44 which included five fours and three sixes, but it was Hobson’s more restrained 64 which was the foundation of his side’s win, he and Raza (47) sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 94 which tilted the game definitively in ACC’s favour, despite Matt Smit’s spell of four for 48 for VOC.

Phase 2: Round 1 preview

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 22/07/2022

After a prolonged five-week break in deference to the international schedule, the Topklasse returns to action this Sunday. With the field split into championship and relegation pools, six teams will be chasing a top four finish in the upper half of the table, jockeying for position ahead of the finals playoffs, while the bottom six will be looking to secure safety from demotion to the Hoofdklasse by means of a top three finish in the relegation pool.

Each team will play the three teams in their pool from the other side of the draw in home and away fixtures, having carried phase one points through from the matches played against the other teams to have wound up in the same half of the table. Consequently some teams will have earned a considerable head-start for Phase 2 while others, through bad luck or poor results will start with a marked handicap.

BdJ: Of the teams contending for the championship, HBS Craeyenhout will start with four points to their tally, two wins ahead of VRA Amsterdam, who they will welcome to the Hague on Sunday. HBS will also start with a degree of momentum on their side, the top order looking in fine touch during the T20 competition that continued through the break, though exactly which members of said top order will be available come Sunday is not yet clear. VRA will welcome back skipper Peter Borren and opener Vikram Singh from national duty as assistant coach and reserve opener/keeper in Zimbabwe, albeit without any game time between them. They will also be without South African rookie Eddie Visser, who departed after the first half of the season. A trip to Craeyenhout first up is thus a tough assignment for VRA, who can ill afford to drop any points if they’re to claw their way to the top four.

RL: Add to the mix of factors complicating the transition from the first phase to the second the impact of Dutch visa requirements, and things are less straightforward than they might appear. Written off by some before the competition started, VRA have done well to reach the championship play-offs, but they will need to perform more consistently than they have so far (probably to the tune of winning at least five out of six games) to have a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals. For HBS, Wesley Barresi will doubtless be one of those looking to catch the eyes of the national selectors, and he would particularly relish doing so against his old club. A well-balanced outfit, the Crows will certainly start as favourites, but VRA have the players to cause an upset.

BdJ: Also on four points each are Punjab Rotterdam and Excelsior ‘20, who will meet at the Zomercomplex on Sunday. Punjab rather unexpectedly crashed out of the T20 competition with losses to Rood en Wit and Sparta last week, despite the arrival of Jonathan Vandiar and Rushdi Jappie, but will be further reinforced by the return of Stephan Myburgh and Teja Nidamanuru from national duty. On short format form the Schiedammers look the favourites going in, but Punjab have depth and home advantage on their side, as well as a day off before the match while Excelsior will have a T20 quarter final to deal with.

RL: It’s not only in the T20 cup that Punjab have been slightly underwhelming this year: despite the advent of the admirable Safiullah Salarazai in the attack (leading the way with 20 wickets at the break) they have been a good deal less dominant than they were last season, and opposing sides have not been confronted by a solid phalanx of Zulfiqars as they were on the Rotterdammers’ march to their first title. Tom Heggelman’s side, on the other hand, had to come through a tough three-way battle to reach this point, and the return of Brett Hampton has clearly given them both a renewed cutting edge with the ball and additional hitting power in the middle order. Heggelman himself continues to take wickets, and if openers Tim Etman and Roel Verhagen can give their side a good start against Punjab’s excellent bowling unit this could be a very interesting match indeed.

BdJ: Frontrunners Voorburg CC will have to do without the services of Janneman Malan and Delano Potgieter from now on, but the arrival of Andre Malan and return of the international contingent will nonetheless make them favourites when they arrive at De Diepput to take on HCC. The hosts will doubtless have a point to prove, however, not least Clayton Floyd who will be looking to reassert his place in the national side after being passed over in favour of team-mate Tim Pringle. Similarly VCC opener Musa Nadeem would probably like to send a message to national selectors as much as his former team-mates, conversely if HCC’s Tonny Staal intends to remind the national set-up of his existence and a match against a VCC side featuring a handful of internationals is a fine opportunity. VCC’s own Viv Kingma will also be thinking along similar lines of course, and may well get the chance if the workloads of Van Beek and De Leede are being managed.

RL: Voorburg have carried pretty much all before them so far, and remain firm favourites to take their first title since 2002. Whatever adjustments they have to make to the composition of their eleven are unlikely to cause any appreciable weakening, although they will no doubt miss Potgieter’s all-round contribution. HCC, on the other hand, arguably under-performed in the first phase, and have the potential to match their visitors with both bat and ball. Alongside the established seamers Reinier Bijloos, Hidde Overdijk and Ollie Klaus, Henrico Venter has added a fourth seam option, while in Floyd and Pringle they have outstanding, and contrasting, left-arm spinners. The batting may be more of an issue, though here too they have plenty of firepower, and it will be fascinating to see how they deal with Voorburg’s almost wholly international attack. With De Diepput’s diminutive dimensions square this could prove a spectacular encounter.

BdJ: Down in the relegation scrap Kampong CC will be looking to set right the injustices dealt them by the vagaries of the format when they take on the winless Dosti at Utrecht. Having seen most of their points evaporate at the phase-change, Kampong face an uphill battle if they are to secure their top-flight survival. Dosti are in a still-worse position, though one more of their own making. Both sides scored a surprise win during the T20 competition, Dosti besting VRA and Kampong downing VCC in low-scoring games, but neither will have a quarter-final to distract them from the business at hand at the weekend.

RL: Down but not yet irrevocably out, Dosti were showing faint signs of a resurgence before the break, and will have been heartened by that T20 victory over VRA. But Kampong will be driven by the knowledge that however rough the hand they may have been dealt by the format, it is their results against weaker sides which have landed them where they are, and that beating their weaker rivals is the key to their escaping the automatic relegation zone, and of at the very least earning a play-off against the Hoofdklasse champions. If they play to their potential they could do better than that, but it will need to start with a strong performance here. In Alex Roy, Saurabh Zalpuri, Pierre Jacod and Robert van der Harten they have home-grown talent which has proved itself entirely able to prosper at this level, and they should get this phase off to a winning start.

BdJ: Salland CC are in the enviable position of having taken all six of their points through from Phase 1, but can ill afford to rest on their laurels. Current form suggests they will have a tough time adding any more points to that tally, certainly away against Sparta 1888 on Sunday, against whom they lost heavily in both their T20 encounters. While Sparta’s season has not gone as hoped, Salland have at times struggled to even get 11 men on the field, especially when their German contingent is unavailable. A win at Bermweg would put them two wins clear of potential relegation, but would certainly be the upset of the week.

RL: Salland’s cause has been helped by the fact that the hapless Dosti were in their first-phase pool, and that VOC, whom they beat in one of the upsets of the season, failed to make it into the championship pool. Their current standing is undoubtedly somewhat flattering, and it’s hard to disagree with m’colleague’s assessment that they are likely to start as underdogs, not only here, but throughout the rest of the programme. Sparta, of course, have had problems of their own, and although they looked a much better side after the arrival of Samit Gohil, they remain very dependent on the performances of the talismanic Mudassar Bukhari and his fellow former international Ahsan Malik.

BdJ: A trifle tougher to call will be VOC Rotterdam’s phase 2 opener against ACC, to be played at Hazelaarweg as VOC get their home games out of the way so the preparations can begin in time for the Pakistan series. At least some if not all of ACC’s South African trio of Hobson, Smith and Ackermann are understood to be sticking around for Phase 2, but VOC will also be at close to full strength as Edwards and O’Dowd slot back in at the top, while Pieter Seelaar has been easing his way back into the game during the T20 competition. Whether all three will play both their T20 quarter final on Saturday and the following day against ACC is not guaranteed, but on home turf the Bloodhounds are likely favourites either way.

RL: VOC start the second phase in an enviable position, only their stumble against Salland costing them a perfect record. They look to be far and away the strongest side in their pool, and it will be interesting to see how they approach the rest of their fixtures. They have the opportunity to use them creatively, and it would be good to see young Siebe van Wingarden, for example, who has bowled only 29 overs so far, given greater responsibility with the ball. ACC’s own youth contingent has begun to flourish under the protective cover of their overseas players, with both Shreyas Potdar with the bat and Mees van Vliet with the ball beginning to come into their own. ACC are capable of springing a surprise here, but VOC are more likely to emerge with the points.

BdJ’s picks: HBS, Punjab, VCC, Kampong, Sparta, VOC.

RL’s picks: HBS, Excelsior, VCC, Kampong, Sparta, VOC.

Excelsior ’20 vs VOC at Thurlede|Round 10|11.06.2022

Excelsior beat VOC to take final top-six spot

Rod Lyall 12/06/22

The structure of this season’s expanded Topklasse competition may not be to everyone’s liking, but the final round of Phase I matches on Saturday delivered plenty of interest, with the final placings in Group B in doubt almost to the end.

With the destination of Group A sides in the second phase already settled, most of the tension was located in Group B, where on Saturday morning three teams were still in contention for the two available places in the Championship pool alongside group leaders Voorburg.

By half past five one of the contenders, VRA Amsterdam had lost to Voorburg, but they had done enough to ensure that regardless of the outcome of the match between Excelsior ’20 Schiedam and VOC Rotterdam they would finish in the top three of the group.

The winners of that latter game would leapfrog over them into second place, while the losers would be heading into the Relegation pool, and at that stage the match was delicately poised, with Excelsior on 130 for three chasing VOC’s total of 213 for eight.

Excelsior’s seam attack had earlier done well to contain the VOC batting line-up, which had collapsed to 87 for five before 35 from Tim de Kok, 38 from Burhan Niaz and an unbeaten 35 from Pieter Seelaar, batting in an unaccustomed spot at nine, enabled them to post a score which they had some prospect of defending.

At 85 for three there seemed to be a chance that Excelsior were in trouble, but Lorenzo Ingram now took over, sharing a useful stand of 56 with Tom Heggelman and then adding another 73 in company with Brett Hampton, carrying his side to a six-wicket victory and into the Championship pool.

Ingram ended on 86 not out, made from just 80 deliveries, and Hampton had 31 not out as Excelsior won with two overs to spare.

At Westvliet, Voorburg skipper Bas de Leede’s 111-ball 81 was the foundation of his side’s 231 for seven against VRA, Aryan Dutt taking three for 38 for the Amsterdammers.

VRA knew that even if they lost a margin of less than about 115 would be sufficient to see them into the top three, but when Delano Potgieter and Karl Nieuwoudt reduced them to 21 for four inside nine overs that suddenly appeared a remote secondary target.

Voorburg had rested internationals Viv Kingma and Logan van Beek in advance of next week’s Super League series against England, but such are their resources that they scarcely seemed to miss them, and although the VRA middle order recovered sufficiently to get the deficit under 100, Udit Nashier making 38, Peter Borren 28 and Mitch Lees a hard-hitting 25-ball 36, Ali Ahmad Qasim ran through the tail for figures of three for 46, and the Amsterdam side were all out for 159.

In the remaining Group B game, in Deventer, Salland too had a shaky start chasing Dosti Amsterdam’s meagre 103, two wickets for Asief Hoseinbaks and a run out reducing them to 17 for three, but Sahir Naqash (49 not out) and Victor Lubbers (41 not out) then steered their side to a seven-wicket victory.

Earlier, Victor and his brother Reinder had had Dosti on the ropes at 39 for five, and then Hashim Khan picked up four for 23 to complete the demolition work.

The two points from this game may well stand Salland in very good stead in the relegation battles to come.

Crucial points in the struggle to avoid relegation were also at stake at the Bermweg, where Kampong Utrecht were looking to secure a first win against one of their rivals at the lower end of the table, home side Sparta 1888.

After bowling their side into a potential winning position against ACC last Monday, only to see the match rained off, the Kampong attack quickly seized the initiative after Sparta had elected to bat, and with Alex Roy collecting three early wickets, including that of the prolific Samit Gohil, Sparta soon found themselves on 45 for five.

Faisal Iqbal fought a rearguard action with his side’s top score of 29, but they were all out for 102, Tushar Sharma completing what Roy had started with three for 14 in the closing stages.

Ahsan Malik again created early pressure when Kampong replied, taking three for 30, but Pite van Biljon made an unbeaten 26-ball 47, and with Pierre Jacod contributing 17 not out the Utrecht side completed a six-wicket win with more than 28 overs to spare.

At the other end of the Group A table HBS Craeyenhout made sure of finishing on top with an impressive 85-run victory over defending champions and long-time group leaders Punjab Rotterdam.

Their total of 285 for five, the second-highest of the season to date, was mostly due to a second-wicket stand of 122 between Tayo Walbrugh and Wesley Barresi; Walbrugh narrowly missed out on a third century of the season when he was leg-before to Safiullah Salarazai for 94, but Barresi went on to post his eleventh top-flight hundred and his third for HBS, making a 119-ball 113, with eleven fours and two sixes, before he was out three deliveries before the end.

Salarazai came in for some punishment, but finished with three for 67.

It soon became evident that the chase was beyond Punjab, and although Jonathan Vandiar contributed 37 and there were smaller contributions from Saqib and Sikander Zulfiqar, they were dismissed for 200 in 44.4 overs; Julian de Mey claimed three for 39 and Ferdi Vink, cleaning up at the end, three for 35.

At De Diepput HCC consolidated their third position with a comfortable eight-wicket victory over ACC, dismissing their visitors for 123, Tim Pringle taking four for 23, and knocking off the runs with more than 25 overs to spare, Zac Worden making 41 and Tonny Staal 38 not out.

Rain settles Group A, but Group B still up for grabs

Rod Lyall 07/06/22

The bad weather which had mercifully stayed away from the Topklasse this season finally intervened on Monday, all six matches being abandoned as the Pentecost holiday spoke with tongues of rain rather than fire.

The cancellation of the entire programme took with it Sparta 1888’s last slim hope of reaching the top three in Group A, leaving them four points behind HCC with just one match left to play.

HCC’s match against HBS Craeyenhout was one of two abandoned without a ball being bowled after HBS had won the toss and elected to field; at the Hazelaarweg in Rotterdam proceedings didn’t even get that far, persistent rain eliminating any thought of playing the vital game between VRA Amsterdam (notionally the home side) and VOC Rotterdam.

That wash-out, together with the abandonment of Excelsior ‘20’s match against Dosti Amsterdam at Sportpark Drieburg after the Schiedam side had reached 249 for four in 45 overs, left the three-way tussle for two places in the Championship pool hingeing on next Saturday’s final round, when Excelsior will be at home to VOC and VRA will travel to Westvliet to take on group leaders Voorburg.

The winners of the Excelsior-VOC match will be guaranteed one of those two spots, but unless VRA are able to beat Voorburg, who have lost only once so far this season, the remaining place will be determined by net run rate, where VRA currently enjoy an advantage of 0.331 over VOC and a marginally greater one over Excelsior.

As far as the actual cricket goes, Excelsior made a good start against Dosti, Tim Etman (53) and Roel Verhagen (63) putting on 106 for the first wicket, and then Lorenzo Ingram contributed an unbeaten 51, his first fifty of the season, sharing an unbroken stand of 68 with Joost Kroesen before the heavens opened.

It was a similar story at Westvliet, where Musa Ahmad (54) and Janneman Malan shared an opening stand of 125 for Voorburg against Salland, Malan going on to post his maiden Topklasse century and remaining on 113 not out when the players were driven from the field with Voorburg on 219 for two in 42.3 overs.

A curious feature of this game was that Salland fielded 69-year-old former Dutch captain Steven Lubbers alongside 14-year-old debutant Fasih Ullah, surely the greatest age difference within a top-flight side since the beginnings of the Dutch competition in 1891.

Back in Group A, Punjab Rotterdam and Sparta 1888 may have set another kind of record, the players being driven from the field three times in the space of four overs before more persistent rain brought their efforts to an end.

Punjab had managed to get off to another of their quick-fire starts in that time, Steph Myburgh hitting three fours and two sixes in a 14-ball knock of 26 not out, out of a total of 37 without loss.

The most absorbing, and ultimately frustrating, tussle of the day was in the vital bottom-three match between Kampong Utrecht and ACC at Maarschalkerweerd, where the Utrecht side had succeeded in pegging back a brisk start by their visitors and had reduced them to 110 for five in 30 overs before the match was abandoned.

Opener Thomas Hobson was still there on 51 not out, however, and although the Kampong attack appeared to have gained the upper hand the game, of vital importance to both sides in the relegation battles to come, was delicately poised when the elements took control.

First loss for Voorburg as Group B battle stays tight

Rod Lyall 30/05/22

The glorious – or for some, traumatic – uncertainty of the Topklasse was fully evident in the past week, with all six teams in Group A winning either on Ascension Day or on Saturday, while in Group B Voorburg’s unbeaten run was finally brought to an end by VOC.

HBS Craeyenhout briefly moved to the top of Group A with a five-wicket victory over Kampong Utrecht on Thursday, but then lost that advantage again on Saturday with an 83-run defeat at the hands of Sparta 1888, for whom Samit Gohil made a splendidly-composed 102.

Sharing a third-wicket stand of 107 with Mudassar Bukhari (42), Gohil steered Sparta to a total of 247, and with Khalid Ahmadi and Joost Martijn Snoep taking three wickets apiece HBS could only manage 164 in reply.

Gohil had come close to a maiden Topklasse century two days earlier, but his 93 out of a total of 219 was not enough to beat ACC, for whom Thomas Hobson made 122 as the Amsterdammers closed out a four-wicket victory with just three balls to spare in a thrilling finish.

ACC then had to face Punjab Rotterdam, and were shot out for just 55 in 24.3 overs, a sensational spell from Safiullah Salarazai slicing through the top of the innings and Ashiqullah Said then finishing off the lower order; Salarazai had figures of five for 12 and Ashiqullah four for 9.

Punjab, perhaps intent on improving their net run rate, flirted with disaster in their reply, losing six wickets as they knocked off the runs in 14.3 overs, Robin Smith taking three of them at a cost of 23 runs.

It  was, though, an important comeback for Punjab, who had suffered a second successive defeat on Thursday, this time at the hands of HCC; given the way in which the playing conditions operate this was a more serious loss for the defending champions, since the points seem certain to be carried through to the competition second phase.

After their usual rapid-fire start Punjab were pegged back by Henrico Venter’s parsimonious ten-over spell, which conceded just 16 runs, and with Floris de Lange taking three for 37 and Clayton Floyd four for 25, the Rotterdammers were dismissed for 171.

Tonny Staal’s 81-ball 75 was the foundation of HCC’s reply, and although Sikander Zulfiqar claimed four for 30 the Lions cruised to a five-wicket victory with 18 overs to spare.

It was a very different story at De Diepput on Saturday, when Kampong posted their second win of the season by shooting HCC out for 74 after they had themselves made 164.

Star of the show was Kampong’s Kertan Nana, who took five for 21 in eight overs of superb seam bowling, and he was backed up by Alex Roy with three for 29.

Earlier, Roy’s unbeaten 37 had made an important contribution to the Kampong total after Pite van Biljon had made a hard-hitting 37; Tim Pringle took three for 18 for HCC and Hidde Overdijk three for 33.

These topsy-turvy results leave Sparta with the faintest of outside chances of displacing HCC in the top three of the group: for that to happen, they would need to beat Punjab and Kampong in their final group matches, while they must hope that HCC lose to both HBS and ACC, with sufficient margins to reverse a substantial net run rate deficit.

The situation is very different in Group B, where three teams – VRA Amsterdam, VOC Rotterdam and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam– are fighting for two places in the top three who go through to the Championship pool, along with leaders Voorburg.

VOC gave themselves a real chance on Saturday when, having beaten Salland in Deventer on Thursday, they inflicted a first defeat of the season on Voorburg.

Burhan Niaz and Arnav Jain seized the initiative early against Voorburg, reducing the leaders to 39 for four, and although Delano Potgieter fought back with 65, the innings ended on 153.

Max O’Dowd then made an unbeaten 84 to steer VOC to a five-wicket victory, sharing a stand of 54 with Jain after their reply had seemed to falter at 100 for five.

Against Salland on Thursday it had been O’Dowd’s opening partner Scott Edwards who had made the winning contribution with 87 as VOC chased down the home side’s 185 for nine, to which Talha Khan had contributed 53 and Sahir Naqash 60 not out; Niaz was again among the wickets with three for 27 while former Voorburg overseas Matt Smit, making his first appearance in VOC colours, took three for 25.

The only other side to win twice in three days was Excelsior, who overcame a spirited challenge from close rivals VRA before travelling to Deventer for a routine win over Salland.

Peter Borren took three for 23 for VRA and Jack Balbirnie three for 8 as Excelsior posted 201, Brett Hampton carrying the Schiedammers from 122 for five with a hard-hitting 45.

VRA were in early trouble at 42 for four, but a stand of 98 between Aryan Dutt (62) and Johan Smal (58) put them back on track until Tom Heggelman removed both of them, claiming two more to finish with four for 46.

At 173 for nine it seemed to be all over, but Mitch Lees and last man Ashir Abid worked the total up to 195, just seven short, before a controversial run-out decision gave Excelsior a narrow and very important victory.

There was no such tension in Excelsior’s defeat of Salland on Saturday: Heggelman’s four for 29 and Hampton’s three for 16 were instrumental in the home side’s dismissal for just 110, and Excelsior needed only 21.3 overs to complete an eight-wicket win, Tim Etman making 62 not out and Lorenzo Ingram an unbeaten 42.

Dosti Amsterdam remained the only side without a win, going down by nine wickets to Voorburg on Thursday after being dismissed for 117, but they put up a much more spirited fight against VRA on Sunday before losing by four wickets.

Potgieter and Stef Mulder did most of the damage for Voorburg, each taking three for 14, and then Musa Nadeem Ahmad hit a 55-ball 66 not out to ensure victory in 21.4 overs.

Against VRA, however, a 96-run stand for the third wicket between Vinoo Tewarie (66) and Amitoze Singh (57) enabled Dosti to reach 218, Jack Balbirnie taking four for 53, before Peter Borren, slotting in as an opener, belted a 43-ball 63 which included five fours and five sixes.

That put VRA in the box seat, and with Luke Scully contributing 38 and Balbirnie 46, both at a run a ball, they completed the win with 13 overs to spare.

Scorecard | Excelsior vs VRA | 26.05.22

Excelsior 20 I Vs VRA I
1-Innings Match Played At Thurlede, Schiedam, 26-May-2022, Topklasse
Excelsior 20 I Win by 6 runs
Round B7
Toss won by VRA I
Umpires N Bathi – ML Hancock
Scorers EM Heggelman – KA Holdsworth
Home Side Excelsior 20 I
Points Awarded Excelsior 20 I 2, VRA I 0
Excelsior 20 I 1st Innings 201/10 All Out (Overs 43.4)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
TC Etman   b E Visser 30 36 4 1
RTF Verhagen+ lbw b A Dutt 20 32 2 0
TJ Heggelman* c L Scully b LA Turmaine 32 52 6 0
LT Ingram c V Singh b PW Borren 17 34 1 1
NT Etman   c&b LA Turmaine 16 15 2 0
J Kroesen   b PW Borren 20 35 2 0
BR Hampton c E Visser b J Balbirnie 45 42 2 3
SL van Troost c J Smal b PW Borren 1 4 0 0
SG Shankar lbw b J Balbirnie 4 2 1 0
RWA van Troost c V Singh b J Balbirnie 7 10 1 0
R Heinsbroek not out   0 0 0 0
extras   (b0 lb1 w8 nb0) 9      
TOTAL   10 wickets for 201      
1-33(TC Etman) 2-70(RTF Verhagen) 3-101(TJ Heggelman) 4-122(NT Etman)
5-122(LT Ingram) 6-185(J Kroesen) 7-188(SL van Troost) 8-192(SG Shankar)
9-201(BR Hampton) 10-201(RWA van Troost)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
A Abid 9 0 43 0 1
E Visser 7 0 29 1 2
J Smal 2 0 10 0
A Dutt 8 1 30 1 2
V Singh 2 0 13 0 1
PW Borren 7 1 23 3 2
LA Turmaine 5 0 31 2
U Nashier 2 0 13 0
J Balbirnie 1.4 0 8 3
VRA I 1st Innings 195/10 All Out (Overs 41.5)
Batter Fielder Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
V Singh c SG Shankar b NT Etman 7 6 1 0
E Visser c RTF Verhagen b NT Etman 0 1 0 0
L Scully+ c SG Shankar b NT Etman 11 10 1 1
A Dutt c RTF Verhagen b TJ Heggelman 62 87 8 1
J Balbirnie lbw b BR Hampton 9 16 2 0
J Smal c SL van Troost b TJ Heggelman 58 48 11 0
U Nashier c SG Shankar b TJ Heggelman 3 8 0 0
PW Borren* c RTF Verhagen b TJ Heggelman 0 4 0 0
MB Lees not out   22 35 2 1
LA Turmaine c LT Ingram b BR Hampton 6 15 0 0
A Abid run out LT Ingram/RTF Verhagen   6 22 0 0
extras   (b0 lb1 w9 nb1) 11      
TOTAL   10 wickets for 195      
1-1(E Visser) 2-17(V Singh) 3-18(L Scully) 4-42(J Balbirnie) 5-140(J Smal) 6-149(U Nashier) 7-159(PW Borren) 8-161(A Dutt) 9-173(LA Turmaine) 10-195(A Abid)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
NT Etman 6.5 1 20 3
TJ Heggelman 10 2 46 4
BR Hampton 9 0 40 2 2
LT Ingram 10 1 35 0 2
R Heinsbroek 2 0 20 0 3
RWA van Troost 4 0 33 0 2 1