Horror day for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s batting lineup was absolutely destroyed on the second morning of the first test, losing eight wickets in the session as the rest of the test match became a formality. After such a promising start yesterday, the match completely changed complexion with the dominant batting of Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori in the afternoon sessions of the first day and the wickets falling like dominoes on the second morning. One positive to come out of today’s disaster is that their suffering has been ended inside two days.

Having declared on 452/9 overnight, the New Zealanders took the field hoping to only bat once. They would have been confident, but surely not expecting what was to follow. A welcome sight for New Zealand fans was Shane Bond taking the ball to bowl the first over of the innings. Bond’s first delivery in international cricket for two years was a vicious bouncer that rose sharply on debutant Neil Ferreira, who got a touch on it while understandably taking evasive action and sent it over the keeper’s head to the boundary. That ball and some very good pace in subsequent overs certainly showed Bond was keen to make an impression in his comeback spell.

9/0 soon became 10/3. Ferreira, perhaps a bit unsettled by that first delivery, didn’t last a lot longer before edging an outswinging Franklin delivery through to McCullum for 5. Ebrahim was trapped plumb first ball and Hamilton Masakadza followed the same way with only a no-ball separating the two and denying Franklin his second test hat-trick. Unfortunate, but Franklin had only himself to blame.

10/3 is bad, but 11/4 is worse. Shane Bond made a return to the test wickets column with a sharp inswinger that Wishart unfortunately left alone as it crashed into the off stump.

After staging a minor recovery with Stuart Carlisle, Brendan Taylor was the victim of one of the most unlucky dismissals in cricket after Carlisle hit the ball back at Styris who deflected it on to the stumps, Taylor given out after a lengthy third umpire deliberation for 10. So the score was 28/5 at the first drinks break, but as the twelfth man brought drinks to the fielders after every wicket you’d think they would be more in need of a toilet break.

The score increased to 46 and a solid partnership appeared to have been formed between Carlisle and captain Tatenda Taibu before the latter was dismissed twenty minutes before the end of the session, leg before to Chris Martin for five. Heath Streak, so often Zimbabwe’s saviour with both bat and ball, almost caught up with Taibu in his walk to the pavillion as he was caught behind off Martin first ball. And when Mahwire followed for four, Zimbabwe found themselves eight down with the follow-on target of 253 still just over two hundred away and looking very distant.

Amid all the carnage, Carlisle batted sensibly and despite receiving more than one blow to the body he comfortably negotiated the morning session and finished 18 not out, it is just a shame for Zimbabwe that there was no one capable of keeping him company. Graeme Cremer, although lucky to survive an LBW appeal off Martin and a dropped catch in the slips off Vettori, managed to last until the break. Lunch was no doubt enjoyed by the tourists, unlike the Zimbabweans whose appetites probably dissipated somewhat during the two hours beforehand.

It didn’t get any better after lunch, as Vettori struck in just the second over of the afternoon session, Cremer going for a sweep shot and top edging an easy catch to Martin, who just failed in his attempt to drop it, taking the catch at his second attempt. The sight of Christopher Mpofu walking out to bat wouldn’t have filled Carlisle with confidence, and after some tentative swinging and missing his inevitable dismissal came about, the two centurions of the New Zealand innings combining when McCullum ended Mpofu’s scoreless innings with a good stumping off Vettori. So Carlisle was stranded on 20 not out, twice as many as the second highest scorer.

Zimbabwe’s total was a rather dismal 59, some 193 runs adrift of the follow-on mark. When New Zealand were 113/5, who would have thought that they’d end up with a first innings lead of 393 runs? Should Fleming enforce the follow-on, and try to win the match inside two days? Or should he not enforce it, and give the New Zealand top order some much-needed batting practice? Fleming decided on the former, and the Zimbabwean openers walked out to the middle for the second time in three hours.

The second innings began in an all too familiar way. Bond was fast and accurate, making Ferreira thouroughly uncomfortable before Franklin again struck in his second over, this time the victim was Taylor who hit the ball to cover where it was well caught by Vettori. Five for one. Bond continued to threaten, not conceding a single run in his opening spell of six overs, and started to make use of his famous yorker. His bowling was so difficult to get away that Ferreira took 33 balls to get off the mark.

Martin’s introduction to the attack brought some excitement after a slow period in which the Zimbabweans added just 5 runs in 53 balls. Ebrahim played a strong cut shot for four, then was promptly clean bowled next ball, the score 14/2 and a repeat of the first innings disaster was threatening.

Ferreira played a mature innings for a man playing in just his first test, gradually increasing in speed after a slow start. He and Masakadza built a solid partnership to take Zimbabwe through to the tea break at 37/2, Ferreira having a life in the final over of the session when he was dropped at slip.

The final session began with a mixture of confident strokes and equally confident LBW appeals as the score rose to 53 before Ferreira was eventually dismissed, caught at slip by Fleming off Franklin for a 90-ball sixteen. More impressive shots followed from Masakadza, who was the first Zimbabwean batsman to play positively against the New Zealand attack and played some powerful strokes all around the wicket but particularly on the off side. But then a vastly improved 76/3 became a much less pleasant 84/6 as Craig Wishart and first innings top scorer Carlisle fell in successive Bond overs, both caught by Fleming, and Masakadza’s excellent innings of 42 ended when he gave Vettori a simple return catch and his 199th test wicket. The spinner didn’t have to wait long for his 200th, which came when Streak was given out LBW, although replays indicated he got some bat on it.

There was no doubt about the next wicket though as Taibu edged a Martin delivery and Fleming yet again took the catch, Zimbabwe reduced to 90/8 and the inevitable approaching. And it crept closer as Vettori struck again, Cremer caught by James Marshall close in, 99/9. The test was brought to an overdue end when McCullum made another stumping off Vettori, who finished with 4/28, as Zimbabwe were put out of their misery, all out for 99.

A highlights package of this test match would be made up almost entirely of New Zealand players. There were some absolutely superb shots played by Fleming, McCullum and Vettori, and Shane Bond couldn’t have hoped for a much better return to international cricket. There were a couple of milestones in the match for New Zealand, 452 was the highest total ever scored by New Zealand in a single day of a test match, it was New Zealand’s largest ever innings victory in tests, and Daniel Vettori became the third New Zealand bowler to reach 200 test wickets. For Zimbabwe, the test started so well, started to decline when McCullum came to the wicket and just got worse from there. Much, much worse. All that is left for them to do now is regroup and somehow try to gain some confidence as they head to Bulawayo for next week’s second test and another likely defeat.

New Zealand 452-9 dec
Daniel Vettori 127, Brendon McCullum 111
Blessing Mahwire 3-115, Christopher Mpofu 2-100

Zimbabwe 59
Stuart Carlisle 20*, Brendan Taylor 10
James Franklin 3-11, Chris Martin 3-21

Zimbabwe 99
Hamilton Masakadza 42, Neil Ferreira 16
Daniel Vettori 4-28, Shane Bond 2-10

New Zealand won by an innings and 294 runs.

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Daniel Vettori – 127, 2-1 & 4-28

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