An outstanding effort by the Netherlands’ five-man pace attack at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday set up the side’s first victory of the Super 12 phase as they dismissed Zimbabwe for 117 and went on to win by five wickets with two overs to spare.
There were some nervous moments towards the end as four wickets fell for 26 runs with the target well within view, but a second-wicket partnership of 73 between Player of the Match Max O’Dowd and Tom Cooper had created the necessary platform, and Bas de Leede – back in the side after his injury on Sunday – and Roelof van der Merwe were able to see their side home.
The real heroes, though, were the bowlers, who restricted the Zimbabweans to 20 for three in the powerplay after Craig Ervine had won the toss and elected to bat and then held their nerve even when Sikandar Raza launched a powerful counter-attack.
Fred Klaassen conceded just four runs in his first two overs, while after Paul van Meekeren had secured the initial breakthrough by yorking Wessly Madhevere Brandon Glover chipped in with the wickets of Ervine himself, caught behind by his opposite number when he skied a lifting delivery, and of Regis Chakabva, trapped in front by the final ball of the powerplay.
It was Sean Williams who initiated the counter-attack, pulling Van Meekeren to the midwicket rope and then unleashing a lovely cover drive off Logan van Beek, but then Raza took over, taking fourteen off a Glover over including the first of three sixes as he targeted the short midwicket boundary.
The pair added 48 runs from 36 deliveries before Williams pulled Van Meekeren into the hands of O’Dowd at deep midwicket, but the turning point of the innings came when Raza tried to loft De Leede into the stands, mistimed the shot, and was brilliantly caught by Klaassen at long on.
He had made 40 from 24 deliveries with three fours to go with his three sixes, and with his departure Zimbabwe’s chances of setting a challenging target effectively disappeared.
That made it 92 for six, and further wickets for Van Meekeren, who finished with three for 29 and was perhaps a little unfortunate not to claim the Player of the Match award, De Leede (two for 14), Klaassen (one for 17) and Van Beek (two for 17) saw the innings close on 117 with four balls remaining; Glover had two for 29, and Van der Merwe bowled a solitary over of spin.
The decision to drop Tim Pringle in order to make room for a fifth quick bowler had been thoroughly vindicated, all the pace men maintaining impeccable line and length.
The Dutch lost Steph Myburgh early, caught by Ryan Burl at point after he had got things moving by hammering Richard Ngarava onto the cover-point rope for a perfectly-judged six, but with just a run a ball needed for the win O’Dowd and Cooper were able to take their time adjusting to the conditions, and although O’Dowd repeatedly played and missed at Tendai Chatara in particular, he was able to avoid getting an edge.
Cooper settled in quicker on a ground he knows very well, taking a four and a six off Blessing Muzarabani, and gradually O’Dowd too began to assert himself, lofting Williams for six over extra cover and flicking Chatara for a one-bounce four in front of square, so that only 59 deliveries were needed to compile their 73-run stand.
As the Dutch cruised towards their target Ervine called on Luke Jongwe, and he duly got the breakthrough as Cooper pulled him to Madhevere at deep midwicket and departed for a 29-ball 32.
His dismissal gave Zimbabwe new hope, and when Ngarava removed Colin Ackermann in the next over the Dutch were on 91 for three and 27 were still needed.
Jongwe was unable to repeat his success, however, and a messy 15th over, which included two wides and a beamer which led to an O’Dowd boundary off the free hit, yielded 17 runs in all, O’Dowd bringing up his second half-century of the tournament from 45 deliveries.
But then he was caught by Milton Shumba off Muzarabani, and when Edwards fell to Ngarava in the next over two were still required as Van der Merwe joined De Leede.
There was time for a moment of slapstick as De Leede came down the wicket to Williams, missed, and was on his way to the dugout before he realised that keeper Chakabva had fumbled the ball and failed to complete the stumping.
And four balls later he did connect, lofting the spinner back over his head for the winning boundary.
It had been a while coming in more senses than one, but after the disappointment against Bangladesh in Hobart and the severe tests against India and Pakistan it was a thoroughly deserved victory.
Bizarrely, they still have an outside chance of finishing fourth in the group and qualifying for the next tournament: all they have to do is beat South Africa on Sunday and hope that India beat Zimbabwe and Pakistan lose to both the Proteas and Bangladesh.
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