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99-run victory for Zimbabwe

Bulawayo: Andy Flower and Henry Olonga’s spirit of rebellion spread to the Queens Sports Club crowd here Friday as Zimbabwe defeated Holland by 99 runs to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

After making 301 for eight, Zimbabwe restricted the Dutch to 202 for nine off their 50 overs but the group A game was overshadowed by the controversy over the two players’ ongoing anti-Robert Mugabe protest.

First, it was claimed that the Zimbabwe selectors had insisted on playing an unfit Douglas Hondo rather than reverting to obvious replacement Olonga as a continuing punishment for his black armband protest against the regime.

Then, as the Dutch began their reply, Flower left the field injured to be replaced by Olonga, serving as 12th man.

Both men were wearing heavy, thick white armbands to extend their protest having been warned to desist with the black arm and wristbands by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).

Olonga’s arrival was greeted with a huge roar from the 3,000-strong crowd before two protest banners were unfurled — one saying ‘Mugabe equals Hitler’ and the other claiming ‘Zimbabwe need justice’.

Some spectators started to sing as police moved in to confiscate the banners. One of the spectators said the words to the song meant: ‘We hate what you are doing to us.’

On the pitch, Zimbabwe skipper Heath Streak was named Man of the Match for his 44 off 22 balls and one for 36 and said everything was coming together well in time for the crunch clash against Pakistan here on Tuesday.

“We planned to win and win well today,” said Streak.

“The match against Pakistan is a huge game and we’ll take a lot of positives from this win. We are bowling a lot straighter than we were and hopefully that will continue,” Streak said.

Andy Flower, who hit a brisk 71, only passed a fitness test on a groin strain 24 hours before the game.Zimbabwe have to beat Pakistan in their final group match in Bulawayo on Tuesday if they are to qualify for the Super Sixes.

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