Denmark caused a surprise on the opening day of the Emerging Nations tournament at Alexandra Sports Club in Harare today by trouncing an uninspired Zimbabwe A team by seven wickets. Their leading performers were pace bowler Thomas Hansen and opening batsmen Carsten Pedersen and the bespectacled Jan Overgaad, who put on 91 for the first wicket, both recording excellent fifties, but it was really a team performance by an enthusiastic and determined side.
Zimbabwe's policy these days seems to be to be as hospitable to their visitors on the field as they are off it. Denmark put the home side in to bat on winning the toss and were soon in ecstasy. Thomas Hansen, also of Hampshire Seconds, opened the attack, left-arm over the wicket, and began with a leg-side wide to Ray Price, which was followed by a leg-bye. He then produced a superb yorker to hit Alister Maregwede's off stump. Off the next ball Gavin Rennie pushed a ball on the leg side, called for a run, changed his mind, and Price was left stranded as Hansen himself threw down the stumps at the bowler's end. The Zimbabwe team were two wickets down for two runs, both extras.
The Danes were almost beside themselves with delight and enthusiasm, appealing for everything. Rennie and Dion Ebrahim played safe for a while but never looked comfortable, and had scored only 4 when he snicked Hansen high to second slip, where Aftab Ahmed took the catch; the score was now 15 for three. Trevor Madondo, always unpredictable, went for his shots with some success, driving Hansen for four and three on the off side in the same over, but then hit a high return catch to the same bowler for 11 - 33 for four. Three runs later, Greg Lamb faced his first ball, to be adjudged lbw to Morten Hedegaard.
Dan Peacock, ambitious to be recognised as a batsman, held firm with Dion Ebrahim, both playing sensibly but finding it difficult to get the bowling away or penetrate the field. The score had reached 55 when Peacock (2) checked a drive and a low chance just carried to mid-off. This seemed to unsettle Ebrahim, who played some dodgy strokes and was dropped at deep backward point on 26.
Anton Hoffman did not last long, sending a low return catch to Lars Hedegaard for 4; 79 for seven now. Ebrahim settled down again, though, and worked the ball around the field skilfully, an art neglected by most of his partners. David Mutendera soon decided to use the long handle, hitting the ball powerfully if not always with orthodoxy, driving powerfully and piercing the field in a way that only Ebrahim of the specialist batsmen had managed to do at all. Ebrahim ran to a superb fifty in the circumstances. Finally Mutendera went for one big hit too many, and skyed a catch to deepish extra cover off Marten Hedegaard. His 26 included four fours.
Ebrahim continued to graft for runs, beaten at times but unbroken, while Warren Gilmour proved a most useful partner at number ten. Ebrahim finally fell for 64 in the dying overs of the innings, swinging a catch to midwicket off the left-arm spinner Soren Klitgaard. It was a fine fighting innings, if not without its blemishes, and until Mutendera hit out none of his partners had reached 12.
There followed a bright last-wicket stand, which included a big six over long-on by last man Douglas Hondo (10 not out), and the innings closed on 175 for nine, with Gilmour unbeaten on 24. There was a feeling that this might prove a difficult target for the Danes, who normally play on matting and therefore find it more difficult to bat on turf, especially on pitches such as this where the ball was not coming on to the bat.
Hansen was the Danes' best bowler, returning three wickets for 20 runs, and he bowled superbly, exploiting well the early assistance from the pitch. Klitgaard also bowled his spin skilfully. Madondo's opinion is that the Danish bowling is probably on a par with first-league club bowling in Harare.
Openers Pedersen and Overgaard soon dispelled fears that the Danes might struggle on a turf pitch. They played themselves in steadily against accurate but not dangerous bowling from Mutendera and Hondo, playing the occasional elegant cover drive. Then they settled in and batted superbly, with few extravagances but sound discrimination. They had taken the total to 91 before Pedersen, who had dominated the stand with 57, was sent back after starting for a quick single and well run out by Maregwede.
The fall of the wicket did not slow down the Danes; in fact, the tempo increased, if anything, as Overgaard and Mickey Lund hustled the score along seemingly without effort. Lund fell at 122 for a brisk 14, caught at the wicket by Gilmour while slashing outside the off stump at Price. There followed another useful stand with Aftab Ahmed, who made 15 before falling in similar fashion, caught at the wicket slashing at Mutendera.
Then, at 162 for three, the match was as good as over. Lars Hedegaard (7 not out) was at the other end when Overgaard on-drove Mutendera handsomely for the winning boundary, and the Danes were delighted to celebrate a well-earned victory.