ISLAMABAD: Pakistan kicked off their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 campaign with an 81-run victory against the Netherlands at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on Friday after their top-order batting crumbled, forcing the bowlers to defend a 287-run target.
Pakistani batters were widely viewed as being in good form after scoring nearly 350 runs in two warm-up matches at the same venue against New Zealand and Australia. However, they lost three early wickets for 38 runs in the first nine overs, with the Dutch bowlers dismissing Fakhar Zaman (12), Imam-ul-Haq (15), and Babar Azam (5).
The Netherlands all-rounder Bas de Leede turned out to be the most successful bowler who picked up four wickets in nine overs and conceded 62 runs.
Pakistan’s Muhammad Rizwan and Saud Shakeel rescued the team and stabilized the inning by scoring 68 each at an impressive pace.
Muhammad Nawaz (39) and Shadab Khan (32) were other prominent players who made valuable contributions to the overall score of their team.
Pakistan were bundled out for 286 with an over to spare after captain Scott Edwards won the toss and elected to field at the outset of the game.
As the Dutch batters emerged in the ground, Pakistani pacers took control of the situation by slowing down the pace of the innings and regularly taking wickets.
Haris Rauf picked up 3-43 while Hasan Ali bagged 2-37. Pakistan missed Naseem Shah after he was ruled out with a shoulder injury in the Asia Cup tournament just weeks ago.
The green shirts bowled out Dutchmen for 205 in 41 overs, securing their first convincing victory in the tournament.
This was the seventh time Pakistan and the Netherlands clashed in an ODI. The two sides faced off six times in the format, their first meeting in the 1996 iteration of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. Pakistan have come out victorious on each occasion.
Pakistan toured the Netherlands last year for what was the first bilateral series between the two sides, and recorded a clean-sweep.
“We have been in Hyderabad for a week and our preparations have been really good,” Azam said in a video released by the Pakistan Cricket Board on the eve of Pakistan’s tournament opener. “We will try to give our best.
“We have had two practice matches in which we tried different combinations and gave everyone an opportunity to see if they could play in any situation. Overall, our practice went well and we will give our best.”
The PCB said Babar’s side had made the most of the training sessions and two warm-up games to acclimatize in the city where they will play the first two of their nine league matches.
After scoring 286 in today’s game, Pakistan are expected to rely on their fierce pace attack against Netherlands.