How do you build on your best year to date? Scott Edwards and his Dutch teammates are facing that question as they return to international cricket next week with three one day internationals against Zimbabwe and two against South Africa.
The Netherlands are coming off a memorable T20 World Cup held in Australia in October last year, where they not only qualified for the Super 12s stage but also beat the likes of Zimbabwe and South Africa. By virtue of finishing in the top four in their group, they also qualified for the 2024 T20 World Cup, which will be hosted by the USA and West Indies.
On the ODI front, the Dutch hosted heavyweight opponents West Indies, England, and Pakistan in a three-match series each in Amsterdam and Rotterdam last year in what was their biggest home summer but have yet to play an ODI since.
Despite recent history, this is the Netherlands’ first tour to Zimbabwe for a bilateral series, facilitated by the World Cup Super League. The two sides played their first-ever ODI series in 2019 in Deventer, where the Dutch emerged victorious 2-0 before the Zimbabweans prevailed in a super over to square the T20I series in Rotterdam.
The squad landed in Harare on Friday afternoon after an intense two-week training camp in Cape Town, where they also faced county sides Northamptonshire and Yorkshire.
While both teams are out of the running for direct qualification for the ODI World Cup in India at the end of the year, the series is not completely devoid of context. The three-match series promises both sides a chance to fine-tune their preparation ahead of the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in June and July.
‘We had the T20 World Cup qualifiers here, so we should know the conditions pretty well,’ said the veteran middle-order batter Tom Cooper, who returned to the Dutch set-up last year after a seven-year hiatus after pursuing opportunities in Australia.
‘We’re coming back for the qualifiers, but as we saw throughout last summer, we’re getting to play games at this level that have been few and far between for the Dutch over the years.’
‘There’s not much riding on these games in the sense of qualification, but it’s another chance for what is quite a young team to grow as cricketers and start believing that all the hard work that they’re doing is paying off.’
While the hosts have named a full-strength squad that features Gary Ballance, Sikandar Raza, Blessing Muzarabani, and Ryan Burl, the Dutch will be without their premier all-rounder Bas de Leede, who picked up a heel injury while on a pre-season training camp with Durham.
However, they will be boosted by the return of Roelof van Der Merwe, with the all-rounder set to play his first ODI since November 2021.
The series will be overseen by a new set of coaches as regular head coach Ryan Cook fulfills his Indian Premier League commitments with the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Ryan van Niekerk, his colleague at the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy, will step in with former Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo and former South African International Heino Kuhn assisting him.
The three ODIs will be played on March 21, 23, and 25 at the Harare Sports Club.
Squad: Scott Edwards (captain and wicketkeeper), Colin Ackermann, Musa Nadeem Ahmad, Shariz Ahmad, Tom Cooper, Aryan Dutt, Brandon Glover, Vivian Kingma, Fred Klaassen, Ryan Klein, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren, Teja Nidamanuru, Max O’Dowd, Vikram Singh.
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