The brilliance of Sikandar Raza was on full display against Netherlands in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier.

Raza’s four wickets for 55 runs were the standout figures as the Dutch set tournament hosts Zimbabwe a tricky target of 316 to win the Group A encounter.

But Raza’s batting efforts trumped his bowling returns and then some, with the 37-year-old smashing the record for the fastest ODI century by a Zimbabwe man, reaching his ton off just 54 balls.

The six that brought up Raza’s hundred was also the winning shot in the match, as Zimbabwe reached their target with 9.1 overs to spare.

Victory puts the hosts in a strong position to reach the Super Six stage, with two Cricket World Cup qualification spots up for grabs in this tournament.

“As much as I’m smiling inside, the job’s not done,” Raza said after his Player of the Match effort. “This changing-room has taken a lot of pride in making sure that we’re putting in the sort of performances that we promised the fans.

“We back ourselves. We had Pakistan A here for six games here and we were chasing 300+ as well. The surface has been pretty good as well. Credit to the Dutch boys, the way they played, the way they found the big pockets that the Sports Club is famous for, they made us run ragged.

“We are thinking about the West Indies, but we’re thinking about every other game as well to be honest. I think a lot of focus has been put on the results but not really the process. We want to play entertaining cricket with bat and ball, then things will look after themselves.”

Raza’s remarkable knock smashed the record for Zimbabwe’s fastest century, with the previous best coming just two days earlier by Sean Williams against Nepal.

Some of the late hitting from Raza was truly breathtaking.

The all-rounder was 39 runs shy of his ton when Zimbabwe needed 42 runs to win, but his phenomenal finish to the innings saw him reach the century with a six to bring up the winning runs.

Joylord Gumbie’s 40, Craig Ervine’s 50 and Williams’ quickfire 91 made the chase comfortable for Zimbabwe, and a humble Raza wasn’t keen to take too much credit after his stunning effort.

“The platform was already there when I walked out. All I wanted to do was just take on everybody that I can, within myself, respect every ball.

“It (the record) wasn’t on my mind. What we really look at is wins. As long as my team are winning I really don’t care how we get to India. We’re happy for one another, as I was happy for the other boys they’re also happy for me. This is one of the reasons for our success.”

“I didn’t know the number of balls I had faced, but in my head the only thing that I was looking at was the runs to win the game,” Raza added in his media conference after the game.

“I found my flow, I thought I was picking the length well and was getting used to the pace of the ball really well.

“The partnership with Williams, I think we ended up scoring at a fast rate as well. We were always ahead of the game, we just wanted to carry with the momentum because this is how we want to play and we take a lot of pride in that.

“It was special but it wasn’t on my mind that I’m going to score the fastest hundred, I just wanted to win the game.”

Zimbabwe face West Indies on Saturday before closing their Group A fixtures against USA next Monday, but are already in a very strong position to reach the Super Six stage.



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