Inspired Zim clinch series decider

Zimbabwe fans turned up in their numbers to cheer the national cricket team as they secured a victory against Netherlands at Harare Sports Club yesterday. Pic: Zimbabwe Cricket

ZIMBABWE rode on the vociferous support from the bumper crowd, which thronged Harare Sports Club as they cruised to a dominant seven-wicket victory against the Netherlands in the series-deciding World Cup Super League One Day International (ODI) yesterday.

After the opening two matches of the series went right to the final ball with Netherlands holding their nerve to win the first match before Zimbabwe did the same in the second, another nail-biting series was expected in the series decider.

Playing in front of a capacity crowd, which was cheering on every run and wicket with passion, the Chevrons put on their best display of the series with both bat and ball to clinch a 2-1 series win against a good Dutch side.

The platform for Zimbabwe’s win was set by the bowlers. After Netherlands won the toss and surprisingly chose to bat first, Sean Williams led a superb bowling display by the hosts by claiming three wickets as Zimbabwe restricted Netherlands to a gettable 231 for nine in their allotted overs.

In reply, Zimbabwe never looked like throwing it away. Led by entertaining half-centuries by Gary Balance and Wessly Madhevere, Zimbabwe cruised to 235 for three in 41.4 overs to win with a massive seven wickets with 50 balls to spare.   

The impressive display in the series decider should be a confidence booster for Zimbabwe ahead of the qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Cup in India from June to July.

It could have been worse for the tourists if Zimbabwe had backed their accomplished bowling display with some good work in the field, but like in the first two matches of the series, the hosts’ fielding was atrocious as they put down crucial catches.

Opener Max O'Dowd top scored for Netherlands with 38 off 43 balls and was one of the three Dutch batsmen to perish in the 30s along with Colin Ackerman (37) and captain/wicketkeeper Scott Edwards (34).

Williams was the most impressive Zimbabwe bowler, capturing three wickets for 41 runs in 10 overs, including those of Ackermann and Edwards as they looked to accelerate their innings.

Zimbabwe’s run chase got off to a solid start as openers Wessly Madhevere (50) and Craig Ervine (44) shared a dominant 96-run opening partnership stand.

After initially getting off to a watchful start, the pair entertained the bumper home crowd with some beautiful shots as they looked on course for a century opening stand before Ervine top-edged spinner Shariz Ahmad.

Despite Ervine’s dismissal, Madhevere continued to entertain and soon brought up his half-century to follow up on his match-winning hat trick in the previous match.

Madhevere, however, perished soon after reaching his milestone, caught by Colin Ackermann off the bowling of Ahmad, as Netherlands tried to claw their way back into the match.

That was the closest the Dutch came to shifting the momentum of the match in their favour as Zimbabwe immediately wrested back control with another 96-run stand between Sean Williams and Gary Balance.

While Williams was dismissed after an entertaining 43 off 43 deliveries, Gary Balance celebrated his second half-century for Zimbabwe and went on to reach an unbeaten 64 off 72 balls.

Balance’s innings featured eight fours and he was joined at the crease in the end by Sikandar Raza who was unbeaten on 18 runs off just nine deliveries.

Williams was delighted after marking his return from injury by being named the Player of the Match and the Player of the Series.

“It’s huge for us as a team and it’s also big for me as a senior player to keep setting the standards for the younger players that are growing under our wing and mentoring these boys. I think if we carry on along these lines we will start improving and become a better side,” Williams said.

Scores in brief

Netherlands 231/9, (50 overs), Zimbabwe 231/9 (41.4/50 overs) - Zimbabwe won by 7 wickets (with 50 balls remaining)

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