NZ stutter to victory

New Zealand have won the 4th ODI versus Zimbabwe by 27 runs, after Shane Bond took 4 for 17. The tourists were helped by Nathan Astle, Scott Styris and Daniel Vettori who ensured they would post a respectable score after stuttering at the top of the order.

You’re only as good as your next innings.

After Lou Vincent smashed his way into the record books with a breath-taking 172 in his last one-day innings, he could be forgiven for a touch of complacency. Stephen Fleming decided to bat first in good conditions. Immediately Heath Streak found his length with some disciplined out-swing bowling. It only looked a matter of time before Vincent had a tentative push at one, a simple catch behind confirmed the worst possible start for the Black Caps: a wicket without a run being scored.

Nathan Astle was the new player, for some puzzling reason batting at three. After demonstrating his out-swinger, Streak had one hold its line and wrap Astle on the pads, marginally outside off-stump. It was a superb start by the veteran Zimbabwe pace bowler, leading from the front in every aspect.

Anthony Ireland was entrusted the duties at the other end. He started nervously with two off-side wides to Stephen Fleming, before the batsman guided one down to third man to get off the mark. Another leg-before shout was turned down to Astle; he was well forward in his stride. The next ball was taken for a quick single to open his account.

Streak continued with his outswingers in his second over. The difference between a half volley and a good length was demonstrated as Fleming played a sumptuous cover drive that screamed across the outfield. Ireland showed promise at the other end with some good deliveries but was erratic with his direction at times, the new white ball proving difficult for the youngster to control.

A momentum shift seemed to take place in Streak’s third over. Fleming stood tall and played an elegant straight drive, his signature shot when in form. This was followed by a leg-side wide, and then Fleming attempted a pull over midwicket. It hit the outside half of his bat but miraculously skewed over long-on’s head for the first six in the match.

Ireland found a consistent length next over, mixing fuller and shorter deliveries with assurance. The last ball was not so fortunate; Astle smashed a wide long-hop through cover-point for a cracking boundary. Streak set about fighting his own battle with the tourists, giving his all in an attempt to outfox and outthink the New Zealand batsmen. It was Ireland that benefited, Fleming chipping a ball that sat up on the pitch to mid-on. New Zealand’s captain was out for 23 off 25 balls, his team 39 for 2.

Streak then found Astle’s edge next over, a sharp one-handed chance by Brendon Taylor not quite sticking. It would prove a costly mistake for Zimbabwe. New man McMillan began with a drive through mid-off to start his innings. For a time he played with good intentions to the cause, leaving and looking for the quick singles.

The introduction of Andy Blignaut had immediate impact for the home side. A short-of-a -length delivery caught McMillan jabbing, which carried low to second slip. New Zealand’s misery was exemplified when Hamish Marshall went over the top to third man. Marshall had been frustrated by his well-timed shots finding the fielders earlier in the over. His poor tour continued scoring only 5 runs. Once again New Zealand’s top order had failed, and at 67 for 4 it was up to the lower order to provide the runs.

Scott Styris joined Astle and set about restoring the innings. Styris used the pace of the bowlers to pick up easy singles down to third man, while Astle grew in confidence every ball he faced. He peppered square of the wicket boundaries with controlled aggression and pure timing. Astle reached his 37th ODI fifty off 54 balls, looking set for a big innings.

The season pair put on 62 runs, amid some tight bowling by off-spinner Gavin Ewing. Astle slashed at a ball that was too close to cut, and Taibu took a good catch standing up. Astle had compiled 61attractive runs, but was undone when he looked set on dominating proceedings. Jacob Oram attempted a reverse-sweep and missed it altogether; Brendom McCullum chipped a return catch to Ewing. 129 for 5 quickly became 149 for 7.

Daniel Vettori played an inventive and invaluable innings with Styris looking to accelerate as well. 79 was put on, a New Zealand eight wicket record, until Styris and Vettori were both dismissed in the 48th over for 63 and 47 respectively. Shane Bond holed out to mid-on attempting a maximum with four balls remaining. Blignaut was left with 4 for 46, somewhat flattering his inconsistent performance. 238 all out was a reasonable recovery, but a world away from their last batting effort against this opposition. Zimbabwe fielded very well and deserved to keep the total to what it was.

Zimbabwe’s run chase was over before it began, reduced to 8 for 2 in the 8th over. Taylor faced 20 balls for his single run, slashing at a Bond delivery that held its line. Debutant Chamu Chibhabha pushed at a Kill Mills away-swinger and was caught behind also.

Stuart Carlisle remained stoic throughout, the rock to build the innings around. However he was beaten several times early on and New Zealand bowled well as a unit to restrict the potential scoring. Carlisle could not accelerate quickly enough and it took him 80 balls to post his 30 runs. Zimbabwe needed 4.5 an over when they began, and when he was dismissed it had shot to nine an over. Jeetan Patel picked up his first international wicket when Carlisle chopped on.

In between dismisals, Visu Sibanda played a bright innings of 21 before Oram ran him out in a needless fashion. Taibu was again deceived by Vettori’s arm ball and was bowled for 16, attempting to cut. Streak smashed a couple of sixes but was flummoxed by another Vettori arm ball and was easily stumped by McCullum. By this stage Zimbabwe were 93 for 6, another heavy defeat on the horizon.

Charles Coventry and Andy Blignaut ensured that the margin of defeat would be acceptable, providing some powerful strokes for the crowd to enjoy. Coventry made 35 off 21, while Blignaut reached a 50 off 45 balls. Blessing Mahwire was last to go, mistiming a drive to long-on. Bond picked up the last three wickets to fall and returned 4 for 17, another impressive effort by the fast bowler. Questions still remain despite the victory by New Zealand; the top order has not fired as often as Fleming would like.

With a certain S Bond in the side, Fleming may not be worried about a decent run chase anytime soon.

Match Summary

New Zealand 238 (Styris 63, Astle 61, Vettori 47, Blignaut 4-46, Ewing 3-31)

Zimbabwe 211 (Blignaut 50, Coventry 35, Bond 4-17, Mills 2-34)

New Zealand win by 27 runs, qualify for competition final.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Scott Styris – 63 runs.

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Andrew Marmont