All to play for as Zimbabwe, Netherlands clash in series decider
Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE national cricket team coach Dave Houghton once said the Chevrons should be winning games against teams such as the Netherlands on any given day.
But the current One Day International series, which ends today at the Harare Sports Club, has proven otherwise.
Today, his Chevrons find themselves battling the modest Dutch side in a must-win game to decide the winner of the bragging rights in the three-match series that was also part of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League.
Zimbabwe started the series on the back foot when they went down by three wickets in the opening match on Tuesday. The Chevrons, however, managed to keep the series alive after battling to a nervy one-run win on Thursday.
The first two matches of this series have been decided in the last over. This is how close the series has been and upcoming all-rounder Wessly Madhevere, who was one of the outstanding players with both bat and ball in Thursday’s triumph, believes Zimbabwe should aim to utilise the momentum to seal the series today.
“It’s definitely a booster,” he said about the win that left the series level 1-1.
“A happy changing room is a winning changing room. So we are probably going to go with the momentum into the next game because cricket is basically about momentum.
“So we have got the momentum in our hands and hopefully we will win the last game,” said Madhevere.
Surprisingly, the Netherlands have presented themselves as a bogey side for the Chevrons. The Dutch have inflicted many scars on Zimbabwe in international cricket.
Apart from ruining the Chevrons’ campaign at the last ICC T20 World Cup tournament in Australia last year, they also enjoy a 3-2 advantage in ODI head-to-head.
The two rivals are also likely to meet again during the 10-team Qualifier tournament for the 50-over World Cup which Zimbabwe Cricket will host in June/July.
“When playing against these guys, you don’t really want to underestimate them because they have got match winners. You never know, on any given day, two or three players may win them a game,” said Madhevere.
“So you always ought to be on your toes when you play these kinds of teams. But with the games that we have played and the games that we are going to play, hopefully we are going to be able to pull off some victories and go to the 50-over World Cup (to be hosted by India later this year). It’s a good experience playing with these countries,” said Madhevere.
The 22-year-old, who scored 43 runs before he snatched a sensational hat-trick with the ball on Thursday, is still trying to regain his best form after going through a lean spell in the recent months.
“To be honest, I never doubted myself. There have been some tough times for me but what keeps me going is just the fact that I have done it before and I can still do it. If I have done it, then I can still do it. So that’s basically what keeps me going,” said Madhevere.
Zimbabwe will need to find ways to deal with the spin bowling of Netherlands’ teenage leg spinner Shariz Ahmad, who almost steered the Dutch to a famous series victory during the midweek after claiming five straight wickets.
He had the key wickets of Madhevere, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl and Brad Evans to peg Zimbabwe back after the hosts had chosen to bat first.
The Netherlands, although they have the profile of an Associate member, have been competitive against Full Members across the limited-overs formats, with both Zimbabwe and South Africa being victims at the T20 World Cup last year.
Ahmad said they are aiming to win the series when they go out against Zimbabwe today.
“It’s all to play for on Saturday (today). It would have been nice if we had won the series (in the second game) but like I said, it’s all to play for and hopefully we are going to win it,” said Ahmad.
The 19-year-old also reflected on the progress made by the Dutch with their game. He said the Netherlands are no longer “shocked” to win games against some of the ICC big boys.
“First of all, it doesn’t shock us at all to go out there and win games. The (T20 World Cup win over) South Africa wasn’t a shock, it wasn’t a fluke.
“If anything we played great cricket and outplayed South Africa. We outplayed Zimbabwe in the first game as well.
“Unfortunately, (in the second game on Thursday) it wasn’t to be. but we keep processing the process, we keep processing the training we are having and we keep backing each other.
“We are one family in the team and we keep backing each other and we have to get rid of this ‘shock’. Netherlands isn’t a shock anymore,” said Ahmad.