A change of format and a change of venue made no significant difference to the outcome when Zimbabwe took on the Netherlands in the first of two T20 Internationals at Rotterdam’s Hazelaarweg on Sunday, with Pieter Seelaar’s men again the decisive winners.
The tourists brought in Ryan Burl and Chris Mpofu to the side which had played in the two ODIs in Deventer, dropping Ainsley Ndlovu and Tendai Chatara, while for the home side Paul van Meekeren and Bas de Leede returned at the expense of Viv Kingma and Saqib Zulfiqar; this meant that coach Ryan Campbell gave a T20I debut to paceman Brandon Glover.
Hamilton Masakadza again won the toss, and this time invited the Dutch to bat first, and he was almost immediately rewarded with the wicket of the always-menacing Tobias Visée, caught off Sean Williams from the final ball of the opening over.
But then Max O’Dowd, switching effortlessly into T20 mode, and Ben Cooper went after the bowling with a vengeance, adding 81 runs from 42 deliveries in an onslaught from which Zimbabwe never really recovered.
Mpofu’s dismissal of O’Dowd for 30 triggered a mini-collapse, with Bas de Leede and then Cooper, who had made a fine 28-ball 54, departing in the space of nine balls with the addition of only six runs, and this was probably Zimbabwe’s best moment in the game.
But at 93 for four Roelof van der Merwe joined Wesley Barresi at the crease, and this pair steadied the Dutch innings with a fifth-wicket stand of 44, made from 34 deliveries before Mpofu again secured the breakthrough by dismissing Barresi.
With five overs now left Van der Merwe moved into top gear and, ably supported by Scott Edwards, he went from 31 to 75 off just 19 further deliveries, facing in all 39 blls, hitting eight fours and three sixes and taking his side to an imposing 199 for six.
Williams and Sikandar Raza were the most economical of the Zimbabwean bowlers, but Van der Merwe’s effort meant that the tourists were faced with scoring at ten an over throughout their innings.
They started briskly enough, but when Solomon Mire was trapped in front by Van der Merwe and his captain followed four balls later, caught behind by Edwards off Glover, Zimbabwe were again in early trouble.
Craig Ervine again proved their best hope, hitting a string of boundaries which kept the run rate in touch with what was required, while Brendan Taylor played his part by keeping him on strike.
Seelaar broke the partnership, which had risen to 63 off 42 deliveries, by removing Taylor for 13, and in the next over Glover struck the crucial blow, Seelaar taking the catch to dismiss Ervine for a 37-ball 59, which included six fours and three sixes.
111 were still needed, from 55 deliveries, but from here the Zimbabwean innings fell apart; Fred Klaassen accounted for Sikandar Raza, Peter Moor and Donald Tiripano, Glover picked up Burl, and Seelaar had Kyle Jarvis stumped by Edwards to claim his 250th wicket for the Netherlands across all formats, only the fifth Dutch bowler to reach this milestone.
As the wickets fell the scoring rate declined, so Zimbabwe were still 49 adrift when, with the penultimate delivery of the scheduled 20 overs Klaassen removed Tiripano.
It had been another fine display by a determined Dutch side, with three wickets apiece for Glover, Klaassen and Seelaar, backed up by excellent fielding and catching.
The sides meet again on Tuesday, with Zimbabwe desperately needing a win to avoid a whitewash in the four-match, two-format series.
(Photo: ICC/Getty from CWCQ 2018)