Sikandar Raza’s all-round effort blitzes the Dutch

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - JUNE 20: Sikandar Raza of Zimbabwe celebrates after hitting the winning runs during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier Zimbabwe 2023 match between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands at Harare Sports Club on June 20, 2023 in Harare, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Former Dutch national coach Peter Drinnen used to lament his charges’ capacity to excel for half a game, either the batting or the bowling performing well, only to be let down in the other innings.

There can have been few more dramatic illustrations of that than in the Netherlands’ opening game of this World Cup Qualifier when, put in to bat, they posted 315 for six, their highest-ever ODI total against Full Member opposition, only to turn in a below-par effort in the field and lose by six wickets with nearly ten overs left.

Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza, who had done more than most to prevent the Dutch from posting an even bigger score by taking four for 55, thought at the break that 315 was about par, while former Dutch and Australian international Dirk Nannes, now a commentator, suggested that they were 20-30 short.

It was certainly true that on an absolute road of a pitch they needed to bowl and field well, and the fact was that they did niether.

They had gone into the game with four spinners and two-and-a-half seamers, omitting both Viv Kingma and Ryan Klein, but the pitch offered no more help to spin than it did to seam, and the batters were in the ascendancy all day.

Vikram Singh and Max O’Dowd got things rolling with an opening stand of 120 at nearly six an over before O’Dowd, having reached 59, chopped a Sikandar Raza delivery into his stumps, and in the off-spinner’s next over Wesley Barresi tried a reverse sweep and was also bowled.

Singh had reached his own half-century, and he and Edwards now embarked upon a third-wicket stand which produced another 96 runs in 16 overs, Singh going on to his highest ODI innings with 88.

Then, however, he holed out to Wellington Masakadza on the midwicket boundary, a third wicket for the admirable Raza, triggering a partial mid-order slump which saw Bas de Leede and Teja Nidamanuru depart in quick succession.

The innings briefly hung in the balance, but Edwards, whose fifty had come from just 49 deliveries shortly after Singh’s dismissal, and Saqib Zulfiqar proceeded to add 59 at better than a run a ball, and when Edwards was bowled by Richard Ngarava, having also bettered his previous ODI highest with a 72-ball 83, the total was on 297 with two overs remaining.

Saqib, who finished with an unbeaten 34, and Logan van Beek added another 18 and the total of 315 equalled the Netherlands’ highest in ODIs, made against Bermuda in 2007.

Ngarava had bowled consistently well for his two for 40 from nine overs and Masakadza also gave good support, but it was Raza’s effort which had prevented the scoring from getting totally out of hand.

Edwards was initially unable to take the field when Zimbabwe replied, O’Dowd taking over the captaincy and debutant Noah Croes coming in as replacement keeper, and at first it seemed as if the home side might have trouble gaining any momentum against Aryan Dutt and Van Beek.

The total was just 14 after five overs, but once Craig Ervine settled the boundaries started to flow, and the Dutch bowlers proved quite unable to stem them.

They were not helped by indifferent fielding: Croes spilled a sharp chance from Joylord Gumbie in the second over, diving across in front of Singh at first slip, and that was just the first of at least five chances which went down in the course of the innings.

The ground fielding, too, left something to be desired, although on the positive side of the balance sheet Clayton Floyd, who had dropped Ervine when he had made 32, took a superb catch off Singh, diving forward at midwicket, to remove him immediately after he had reached 50.

But Zimbabwe were well ahead of the asking rate, going at around seven an over, and although Edwards, now back in charge, continued to rotate his bowlers, the boundaries continued to accumulate.

Shariz Ahmad gave his side a little hope, bowling Gumbie for 40 and then getting Madhevere caught by Floyd at short third man, but at the other end Sean Williams had raced to a 28-ball fifty.

He was now joined by Sikandar Raza, who began plundering the bowling even more rapaciously, and the pair added 80 for the fourth wicket in just ten overs before Williams, having gone on to 91 from 57 deliveries, mistimed a pull shot off De Leede and was caught by Nidamanuru at deep backward square.

Raza was at this point on 45, and with Zimbabwe needing 59 from 16 overs and Ryan Burl at the other end, he launched a full-on onslaught, so effectively that 43 came from one three-over period, including three successive sixes off the unfortunate Shariz.

He was dropped by O’Dowd on 86, but by this time the momentum was unstoppable, and in the 41st over he belted Van Beek for two sixes, the second of them taking him to a 54-ball 102, including six fours and eight sixes, and Zimbabwe to their six-wicket victory.

The figures of the seven Dutch bowlers told the story: Singh had bowled well enough, but 33 came from his five overs, and Floyd was the most economical with none for 42 from seven.

But on an ideal pitch for batting there was no penetration, and insufficient control to impede a rampant Zimbabwean top order.

There will be plenty for the Dutch management to think about as they prepare to meet the USA on Thursday.

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