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New Zealand firmly in control
16 Aug 2005
By: Richard Edmunds

Despite it being a much less embarrassing contest than the first test, Zimbabwe once again find themselves in the position of facing a likely defeat at the end of the second day of the second test at Bulawayo after New Zealand's batsmen, in particular Nathan Astle with a superb century, followed up the bowling effort of Shane Bond on the first day to leave the home side facing the task of firstly bowling the New Zealanders out and then having to get to quite a high target just to make the tourists bat a second time.

Resuming on 48/2 after losing both Marshalls late in the first day, the New Zealanders came out looking to score quickly, obviously intending to erase the deficit as quickly as possible and build a lead. Lou Vincent and Stephen Fleming both looked in good form and played some powerful shots as a large partnership soon developed. Vincent played beautifully, not a sight that those of us who dislike the fact that he is opening like to see, playing great shots all around the wicket but particularly on the leg side as he brought up a brisk half century from fewer than 70 deliveries. Fleming followed in equally impressive fashion not long afterwards, bringing his career tally of test runs past 6000 in the process, the first New Zealander to do so.

The boundaries continued to flow throughout the first session through a mixture of superb batting and fairly innocuous bowling that would have been a very frustrating sight for the captain Tatenda Taibu. The lunch break would have come as a welcome break from the onslaught for Zimbabwe as New Zealand's score had raced up to 180/2 by the time the two hours of suffering for the home side had come to an end. The session saw 132 runs scored from 28 overs for the loss of no wickets, the runs coming at a run rate in excess of 4.6. Vincent had driven his way through to 82 by lunch and Fleming wasn't far behind on 61.

The afternoon session couldn't have had a much better start for Zimbabwe, as just two overs after the lunch break Fleming edged a ball from Blessing Mahwire through to Taibu who took a brilliant diving catch, yesterday's two top scorers with the bat combining once again to break the 137 run partnership. The fourth wicket fell not long afterwards as Heath Streak bowled a yorker that went straight past Vincent and hit the middle stump, knocking it out of the ground and ending his innings just eight runs short of a well deserved century. The situation had rapidly improved for Zimbabwe since lunch, from 185/2 with two batsmen both playing brilliantly and attackingly to 205/4 with two new batsmen, neither of whom had in the first test looked to have been in particularly fantastic form.

Disappointment and frustration followed the encouraging start to the session for Zimbabwe. Scott Styris edged a ball through to Taibu who completed the catch, but it was Streak's ninth no-ball of the innings, and some poor bowling was rightly punished by Nathan Astle in the ensuing overs. He and Styris after his early slice of luck both started to look more comfortable and Astle took the score past Zimbabwe's mark of 231 with a powerful pull, one of his trademark shots. And once again the boundaries started to flow, the fifty partnership coming up half an hour before tea as more wayward bowling was being mercilessly hit to all corners of the ground by both batsmen. By the break the score had moved through to 287/4 and the partnership to 82, with Styris and Astle hitting 13 fours between them.

The final session of the day started in much the same way as the second, with Mahwire again taking an early wicket, again from an edge through to Taibu. This time the victim was Styris for a brisk 45, a good wicket as he was starting to cause all sorts of damage to the bowling figures of the Zimbabweans. The fall of Styris brought first one of the first test centurions in Brendon McCullum to the middle, yet another quick scorer in what must seem to the home side an unbearably long New Zealand batting lineup. McCullum showed that he'd lost none of his batting form in the last 7 days, as he straight away started hitting boundaries at regular intervals and was scoring at greater than a run a ball.

Astle meanwhile continuted to bat well and brought up his half century from 94 balls. This was a much needed innings to help his confidence, both for the second innings of this test if required and for the tri-series against Zimbabwe and India that follows it and also the following ODI tour of South Africa.

McCullum seemed to bring a sense of urgency with him as he walked out to join Astle, his innings brought a major increase in the run rate, so much so that it took just eight overs to bring up the 50 partnership for the sixth. But McCullum this time only managed to reach 24 before giving Keith Dabengwa his first test wicket when edging one to Brendan Taylor at slip.

His dismissal brought the other first test centurion in Daniel Vettori to the crease. His intentions were made pretty clear from the fierce cut he played for four off just his fifth ball. More of the same followed as Vettori demonstrated some of the reasons why he's averaging 42.16 runs per innings in his last 15 tests. And before you knew it, another 50 partnership had been brought up, the fourth of the innings.

Although he had been the lesser contributor to the last two partnerships with McCullum and Vettori, both of whom were in a particularly attacking frame of mind, Astle continued to steadily accumulate runs throughout his long stay at the crease and brought up his 11th test century from 154 balls.

The partnership continued to rapidly blossom, reaching 93 before Vettori fell to another brilliant Taibu catch off Dabengwa for 48, making the score 439/7.

The new batsman Franklin came in and promptly got off the mark with a four and worked his way through to 9 by stumps, but it was Nathan Astle who was the star of the day for New Zealand, finishing unbeaten on 116. New Zealand's score at the end of day 2 is 454/7, with a not insignificant lead of 223. Zimbabwe will be hoping to finish off the New Zealand innings by lunch tomorrow and then can only hope for something very special from one or more of their batsmen if they are to avoid a 2-0 series defeat.

Match Summary - Stumps, Day 2

Zimbabwe 231
Tatenda Taibu 76, Blessing Mahwire 42
Shane Bond 6-51, Daniel Vettori 2-56

New Zealand 454/7
Nathan Astle 116*, Lou Vincent 92

New Zealand lead by 223 runs.

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