Pakistan overcomes early Netherlands scare to start World Cup with win | Cricket World Cup 2023

Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan and Saud Shakeel scored half-centuries in an otherwise disappointing batting performance in their World Cup opener against the Netherlands on Friday before the bowlers secured a routine 81-run win for the 1992 champions.

Facing an achievable target of 287, the Dutch at times appeared to be on their way to a stunning win in Hyderabad as Vikramjit Singh (52) and Bas de Leede (67) got going, but Pakistan kept fighting back and dismissed the underdogs for 205 in 41 overs.

De Leede broke through the Pakistan line-up with four for 62 and Colin Ackermann took two for 39 after the Netherlands won the toss and decided to bowl, but Rizwan (68) and Shakeel (68) ensured Pakistan were bowled out in 49 overs 286 scored.

Haris Rauf took three for 43 and was the pick of the Pakistan attack, which was missing the injured Naseem Shah, and he completed the job by bowling Paul van Meekeren.

De Leede, the son of former Netherlands captain Tim who took part in the 1996, 2003 and 2007 World Cups, was in a menacing mood as he hit six fours and two sixes, including a hook shot over the boundary from Rauf.

He celebrated the shot by giving a cheeky wink to Rauf, who had delivered a vicious slap to the all-rounder’s face in the Twenty20 World Cup last year.

But 23-year-old De Leede was bowled by Mohammad Nawaz and the Dutch challenge fizzled out despite a few late goals from Logan van Beek.

Pakistan were reeling at 38-3 at one point and their captain Babar Azam said he was happy to come away with a win.

“I’m happy,” Babar said. “Thanks to the bowlers, we started well and took wickets in the middle overs to put pressure on them.

“After we lost three wickets, Rizwan and Shakeel started building the momentum… the way Saud built his innings shows his improvement.”

Opener Fakhar Zaman was the first to fall in the fourth over, knocking a slower ball from Van Beek back to the bowler, and the Netherlands turned up the heat by taking the coveted wicket of Babar for five.

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Babar hardly looked calm during his 18-ball stint on a dry track that offered plenty of turn and bounce early on, and the skipper pulled one to Saqib Zulfiqar at mid-wicket in Ackermann’s first over.

Pakistan limped to 43 for three in the 10 powerplay overs after Imam-ul-Haq holed deep, but Rizwan and Shakeel steadied the ship with a partnership of 120 in the fourth wicket.

The Dutch, playing their first World Cup game since 2011 after surviving qualification, responded as spinner Aryan Dutt caught Shakeel while De Leede smashed Rizwan’s stumps.

De Leede repeated the feat in the 44th over against Shadab Khan (32), trapping Hasan Ali lbw with his next ball. Nawaz was eliminated with 39 points, but the rearguard’s performance ultimately paid off for Pakistan.

“It’s a bit disappointing. They scored a few runs in the end but we felt it was a must,” said Netherlands captain Scott Edwards. “At 120 for two we felt like we were really in the game.”

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