SIKANDAR Raza yesterday produced a classic all-round performance, scoring the fastest ODI century by a Zimbabwean along the way, as the Chevrons defeated the Netherlands in a high-scoring ICC World Cup Qualifier Group A match at the Harare Sports Club.
The 37-year-old was in destructive mood, first with the ball when his four-wicket haul helped contain the Dutch, who still went on to score a competitive 315/6 in their allotted overs after they were sent in to bat first.
Then, for the second time in as many games, Zimbabwe had to successfully chase down a big total, just two days after overhauling Nepal’s 291 with 35 balls to spare.
The target yesterday was even bigger and they did it with aplomb, when reaching 319/4, in 40.5 overs, thanks to Raza’s 102 from 54 balls. The 37-year-old became Zimbabwe’s fastest centurion with the knock, which included six fours and eight sixes. Sean Williams had set the new record on Sunday with his 70-ball 102.
But Raza yesterday said he was looking at the bigger picture, which is qualifying to the ICC World Cup to be held in India later this year.
“As much as I’m smiling inside, the job isn’t done,” he said after the game yesterday.
“This team takes a lot of pride in the performance. We’ve promised our people about doing something special.
“We played six games against Pakistan ‘A’ recently, and we have scored 350-plus thrice. Credit to the ground staff for the pitches here, they’ve been really good.
“The platform was already set when I walked in and I just cashed in. It wasn’t on my mind (about the century), the last few innings, I have made 30s and 40s five times, as long as the team wins, we don’t care about individual performances.
“I’m happy for the boys, they are happy for me, we support each other. Thankful to God and for the people for the wonderful support,” said Raza.
Zimbabwe won the toss yesterday for the second time in the competition and sent their opponents in to bat first.
The Netherlands made headway with a 120-run opening partnership between Vikramjit Singh (88) and Max O’Dowd (59).
But Raza disrupted the progress with four wickets in succession. Ngarava then took two more wickets but that could not stop the Dutch from batting through their 50 overs and setting what looked a colossal target for the hosts.
Netherlands skipper Scott Edwards held the innings together, batting at number four, with his 72-ball 83 before falling to Richard Ngarava.
The chase started off well for the home team, who fielded an unchanged team from the side that beat Nepal on Sunday.
Skipper Craig Ervine and Joylord Gumbie gave the home side a good start as Zimbabwe also benefitted from some sloppy fielding by the Dutch, who are missing a couple of their players for the tournament due to commitments elsewhere.
Zimbabwe were dropped four times with Raza surviving a catch on 85 runs, before completing his historic knock. Ervine (50) and Gumbie also got second chances from the slippery hands of Clayton Floyd.
Wessly Madhevere (10) was also dropped by Logan Van Beek but could not build on the opportunity.
Ervine, who was named Man of the Match in the opener after scoring his fourth ODI century, went on to make a 19th half ton.
But there was no luck for the second time when Floyd took a forward low catch, again from the bowling of Singh as the Dutch made their breakthrough.
Floyd was back on the spotlight when he dropped a sitter at the mid-on to give Gumbie another lifeline, with the Zimbabwean having scored 24 runs from 37 deliveries.
Gumbie was joined by feisty Sean Williams in the middle and the pair added 62 runs from just 44 deliveries.
The stand was eventually broken by Shariz Ahmad’s spin to leave the scores on 142/2.
Williams continued on the warpath and reached his 34th half ton from 28 deliveries.
Ahmad returned and removed Madhevere (10), with Floyd taking his second catch to atone for the missed opportunities earlier on. Raza came in with some exciting shots as the hosts continued to accelerate towards the target.
The pair put up Zimbabwe’s biggest partnership yesterday after combining for 84 runs from 60 balls the team continued to cruise above the asking rate.
Williams, who made a new Zimbabwe record for the fastest hundred on Sunday with his 70-ball ton against Nepal, was on course for another milestone
However, one would not help but feel pity for the experienced left hander who miscued a pull shot and fell to Bas de Leede on 91 from 58 balls.
Raza, however, had something special up his sleeve. He hit three successive sixes off Shariz Ahmad and then smashed the record for the fastest century by a Zimbabwean batter in ODIs, bettering Williams’s 70-ball hundred which was set on Sunday.
Zimbabwe beat Netherlands at Harare Sports Club, Harare by six wickets
Netherlands 315/6 in 50 overs (Vikramjit Singh 88, Scott Edwards 83; Sikandar Raza 4/55, Richard Ngarava 2/40)
Zimbabwe 319/4 in 40.5 overs (Sikandar Raza 102*, Sean Williams 91; Shariz Ahmed 2/62)