Zimbabwe won for the first time in the final game of their four-match visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday, but only after the Dutch forced a super-over at the end of a match they had just a few minutes earlier seemed certain to lose.
In a drama-filled final half-hour the tourists, chasing a comparatively modest total of 152 for eight, lost three wickets from the last three deliveries of their twenty overs with the scores tied.
The hero for the Netherlands was Roelof van der Merwe who, after conceding two sixes by Elton Chigumbura off his first two deliveries, came back to produce a succession of yorkers, bowling first Chigumbura and then Chris Mpofu.
This brought Tendai Chatara to the wicket, with the winning run still required from the final delivery; with the field in, Chatara pushed to midwicket and ran, Pieter Seelaar gathered the ball and whipped it in to Van der Merwe, who broke the stumps with Chatara well short.
It had been a notable comeback by the Dutch left-armer, whose first over had been plundered for 14 by Brendan Taylor, but who had then removed the dangerous Sikander Raza and Peter Moor with successive deliveries in his second, the 14th of the innings.
Van der Merwe finished with four for 35, but it was the Dutch pace attack, and especially Paul van Meekeren and Brandon Glover, who had kept their side in the game by finding more life in the pitch than their Zimbabwean counterparts and restricting the scoring for much of the middle of the innings.
Van Meekeren also took three vital wickets, two of them to superb diving catches by wicketkeeper Scott Edwards to remove Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams.
Taylor was again the most effective of the Zimbabwean top order, making 40 off 24 deliveries before he attempted a ramp shot off a lifting ball from Glover and feathered a catch to Edwards.
His partnership with Craig Ervine, who had been forced to leave the field briefly during the Dutch innings after falling heavily in preventing a six on the midwicket boundary, produced some of the best batting of the match; their second-wicket stand only yielded 36 runs, but in the context of a comparatively low-scoring game that platform was worth more than the mere numbers suggested, had the middle order been able to capitalise upon it.
At 97 for six it had seemed that the Netherlands were on the path to a fourth victory but Chigumbura, in partnership with Ryan Burl, brought the Zimbabweans back into the game, and the final over began with just 13 still required.
If the Dutch seamers were their side’s most potent weapon in the field, for Zimbabwe it had been the spinners: between them Williams, Sikandar Raza and Burl bowled twelve overs and conceded only 77 runs, parsimony by the standards of modern T20 cricket.
They were again pressured by Max O’Dowd, who continued his rich vein of form and made his third half-century in four innings, his splendid 56 coming from 40 deliveries and including seven fours and a six.
But this time there was no transformative knock in the closing stages, such as Van der Merwe had provided on Sunday, and it was Seelaar’s unbeaten, 20-ball 29 which enabled them to reach that total of 152 for eight.
All in all, the tie would have been a just result, but the playing conditions demanded a super-over, and so the players went back out for the decider.
Zimbabwe sent Chigumbura and Taylor to face Fred Klaassen, and they continued their depredations from the match itself: Chigumbura lashed the first ball over cow for four, almost holing out to Van der Merwe in the process, and then Taylor pulled a six over fine leg and ramped a four over third man to give his side a clear advantage.
18 came from the over, and then Chatara produced a near-perfect response, bowling full and straight and denying the batsmen any chance of a boundary until the very last ball, pulled by O’Dowd over midwicket for six.
The Dutch could only manage nine, and Zimbabwe won by nine runs. It was a remarkable conclusion to their Dutch tour, but overall it will be Ryan Campbell’s men who move on with the greater sense of achievement.