Joost Kroesen keeps Sparta top as HBS break their duck

Rod Lyall 19/05/2023

One of the most extraordinary escape acts in the history of the Dutch competition and a record-breaking partnership which enabled bottom-placed HBS to claim their first points of the season enlivened an Ascension Day programme on Thursday which was never less than absorbing.

Chasing VRA’s 228 for eight at the Bermweg, leaders Sparta 1888 appeared to be down and out when Ashir Abid, Tyler van Luin and Eduard Visser had reduced them to 64 for six, but Joost Kroesen had other ideas.

Supported first by Ahsan Malik in a seventh-wicket stand of 76 and then by a hard-hitting cameo from Khalid Ahmadi, who belted four sixes in his 21-ball 36, Kroesen steadily turned the game around, and when Ahmadi fell to Visser only 31 runs were needed from from 39 deliveries.

Now it was captain Joost-Martijn Snoep’s job to help Kroesen see the side home, and so effectively did they tackle their task that Sparta completed their unlikely two-wicket victory with an over to spare.

Kroesen finished on 88 not out, the highest of his career, made from 120 balls with six fours and two sixes, ensuring that Sparta remained on top of the table with three Phase 1 matches remaining.

Earlier, Aryan Dutt’s 40-ball 55 on his return from injury had injected some much-needed urgency to a VRA innings which had never quite taken off against a steady Sparta attack, most of the top order getting a start but not really capitalising; Malik and Mudassar Bukhari had bowled effectively if without success with the new ball, and it was Ahmadi who did much of the damage, taking five for 47.

Level with Sparta on points but just behind them on net run rate, Voorburg largely owed their five-wicket victory over ACC at Het Loopveld to Shariz Ahmad’s googlies and Michael Levitt’s unbeaten, run-a-ball 105, which saw them home after Joseph Reddy and Mahesh Hans had reduced them to 58 for four.

Shariz had been instrumental in bowling ACC out for just 158, taking four for 36 to bring his season’s tally to 18 wickets at an average cost of 10.17, only Heino Kuhn playing a significant innings with 54.

Then Levitt and skipper Sybrand Engelbrecht dug the visitors out of trouble with a fifth-wicket stand of 94, of which Engelbrecht contributed 21, and Levitt finished it off with almost ten overs to spare.

At Craeyenhout, HBS had a nightmare start against Salland, losing two wickets by the time six runs were on the board, but they were rescued by a stand of 222 between Tayo Walbrugh and Wesley Barresi, the highest-ever for any wicket for the Crows.

Barresi was eventually dismissed for 115, made from 114 deliveries with 15 fours and a six, while Walbrugh completed his third century in four innings before departing for 103, from 111 balls with ten fours and one six.

Salland’s bowlers fought back well after they had gone, keeping the total to 293 for nine, but that was always like to be too many, even on Craeyenhout’s artificial outfield.

Swapnil Pote did the early damage, Kyle Klein picked up three for 48 and Julian de Mey cleaned up the middle and lower order as Salland were dismissed for 166, only skipper Victor Lubbers’ 47 offering any prolonged resistance.

Any relief that HBS might have felt at their first victory was somewhat mitigated by the fact that Excelsior ‘20, just above them at the foot of the table, also had a much-needed win, beating VOC Rotterdam by four wickets at the Hazelaarweg.

Max O’Dowd made 46 for the home side and Lane Berry a 56-ball 61, but Niels Etman struck back with four for 41, and VOC were all out for 217.

They might have hoped that that would be enough, but Excelsior went methodically about their chase, Luuk Kroesen, back in an opening role, laying the foundations with a patient 40.

Lorenzo Ingram contributed 37, his best score of the season so far, and then Michael Hart and Stan van Troost brought their side to the brink of victory before Van Troost was run out just 16 short of their target.

Hart, however, was still there, finishing on 62 not out as Excelsior won with 11 balls to spare.

At Het Zomercomplex, HCC did well to bowl Punjab out for 142, Hidde Overdijk taking three for 33 and Clayton Floyd and Patient Charumbira picking up two wickets apiece; a dogged not-out 26 from Sikander Zulfiqar was Punjab’s highest score in a disappointing effort.

But they struck back with the ball, only opener Ratha Alphonse looking at all comfortable with 32 as Saqib Zulfiqar worked his way through the middle order, no-one else making 20, but the defending champions eventually struggled over the line to win by three wickets.

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