Friday’s second ODI between the Netherlands and Zimbabwe was as tense and enthralling as the first had been one-sided, and it took until the final over for the issue to be decided in the hosts’ favour.
It also required them to post the highest successful chase in their ODI history, and it brought them the reward of being only the second Associate to win a multi-match series against a Full member.
It was a different Zimbabwe team which fronted up at Het Schootsveld on Friday: the personnel were the same, but the resolution was infinitely greater than it had been two days earlier. The Dutch, by contrast, made two changes, giving ODI debuts to Saqib Zulfiqar and Brendan Glover at the expense of Bas de Leede and Paul van Meekeren, but the purpose and determination remained the same.
The Zimbabwe innings was marked by three contrasting half-centuries, which between them enabled the tourists to post a challenging 290 for six despite the early loss of Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire.
Brendan Taylor took up where he had left off on Wednesday, racing to fifty in 47 balls as he shared a third-wicket stand of 83 with Craig Ervine before falling to Pieter Seelaar for 51 two balls later.
Ervine was initially much more circumspect: he took nineteen deliveries to get off the mark, but once he settled he was particularly severe on the Dutch spinners, all but three of his eight fours and all three sixes coming off the slower bowlers.
The twenty overs bowled by Zulfiqar, Seelaar, Roelof van der Merwe and Wesley Barresi, indeed, yielded 147 runs for two wickets, and none of them was able to contain the aggression of Ervine or his partner Sikander Raza for long.
Ervine went on to make 84 from 107 balls before holing out rather tamely to Tobias Visée at extra cover, a first ODI wicket for Glover, but Raza continued to brutalise the Dutch attack until the end, hitting five fours and as many sixes in an unbeaten 52-ball knock of 85 which took Zimbabwe’s total from the mediocre to the seriously challenging.
Fred Klaassen was again the best of the bowlers with two for 53, while Glover made a decent entry into the ODI arena with one for 37 from his ten overs.
There were the usual fireworks from Visée when the hosts replied: he played some outrageous shots, even by his standards, as he made 41 of an opening stand of 46 in seven and a half overs before being bowled by Tendai Chatara.
Max O’Dowd, like Zimbabwe’s Taylor, carried on as he had on Wednesday, in his case pushing the ball around for ones and twos, punctuated by the very occasional boundary. But that’s a role he plays to perfection, and this time he got the total to 167 before he was fifth out for 59, having supported briefer, more aggressive cameos from Ben Cooper and Wesley Barresi.
This was now the point around which the game turned: with 17 overs left 124 were still needed, as Scott Edwards joined Van der Merwe at the crease.
Four of the five wickets had fallen to slow left-armer Sean Williams, but once Van der Merwe went after his next over, hitting him for six and taking ten of the twelve runs that came from it, he disappeared from the attack, somewhat inexplicably never returning as the Dutch began to take control.
Instead Masakadza relied on his seamers, but they were able to make little impression as Van der Merwe and Edwards added 62 at a run a ball for the sixth wicket, the former taking just 45 deliveries to reach his half-century before being caught behind off the splendid Donald Tiripano, again the most impressive of the Zimbabwean seamers.
It was now 229 for six, and 62 were still needed off the final seven overs.
With Edwards well set, this was the cue for an extraordinary knock from skipper Seelaar, who took two deliveries to get a sight of the ball and then proceeded to smash a series of boundaries, hitting five fours and a six in three overs of mayhem.
42 runs came from those three overs and by the time Seelaar departed, having made 32 from fifteen deliveries, only ten were needed from the last two, and the match was effectively over.
Fred Klaassen knocked the ball about with great freedom, and two balls into the final over, with Edwards still there on an unbeaten 44, the game ended rather tamely on a wide.
But it had been a spirited performance by a confident Dutch side, and it had been a highly competitive match that would have graced this or any other World Cup.