Taylor ton in vain yet again
Brendan Taylor became the first Zimbabwean to record back-to-back ODI hundreds, but once again it wasn't enough as New Zealand won the second one-dayer.
Brendan Taylor became the first Zimbabwean to record back-to-back ODI hundreds, but once again it wasn't enough as New Zealand won the second one-dayer by four wickets to clinch the series.
It was heartbreaking stuff for the home side and their fans, who posted a competitive 259 for eight on the back of Taylor's sixth one-day century but were left to regret four dropped catches as the Black Caps eased home with ten balls to spare despite a late slew of wickets.
The result means that only one of Taylor's ODI centuries has led to a Zimbabwe victory, and his side have now lost 12 international matches on the trot.
Zimbabwe know that they need to play out of their skins to beat superior opposition, but while they did plenty right in this second ODI it was their fielding – formerly a major strength – which ultimately let them down.
Brendon McCullum enjoyed four lives in his innings of 87, and the match might have been very different had he not been allowed to put on a partnership of 157 with centurion and man of the match Martin Guptill.
By the time McCullum was eventually pouched at backward point by Vusi Sibanda off the bowling of Keegan Meth, the Black Caps were 202 for two and Zimbabwe's fightback had come too late.
The home side's roller coaster of emotions was probably best summed up in the performance of Malcolm Waller, who came in for Chamu Chibhabha and played a key innings for Zimbabwe, then dropped McCullum twice in the outfield before dismissing Guptill – thus rotating between hero and villain at something like 25-over intervals.
His aggressive batting hauled Zimbabwe out of a hole at 83 for four after they'd been stuck in on a green pitch, and put the pressure onto the Black Cap bowlers as he added 86 in 73 balls with Taylor.
Waller's approach also brought the best out of his captain, who abandoned his cautious attitude in the presence of stability and began to find the boundary.
The pair took 17 off Rob Nicol's first over of the day and at one point put on 46 runs in five overs, but the partnership ended when Waller got carried away in his search for quick runs during the batting powerplay and swiped all around a straight one from New Zealand's best bowler, Andy McKay.
Elton Chigumbura's lack of ability against the short ball meant that he was unable to maintain the momentum, but Keegan Meth injected new impetus after Chigumbura's departure as he slapped the bowlers to all parts in an innings reminiscent of former all-rounder Andy Blignaut.
Meth added 20 from 17 balls before picking out deep midwicket, and although the wickets tumbled at the end of the innings Taylor was still able to go to three figures in the final over, and finish with 107 not out from 105 deliveries in front of an increasingly noisy crowd.
The match still looked like it would have a recognisable ending when Guptill made a brisk start to the reply and put on 49 with fellow opener Nicol.
Meth, who replaced Kyle Jarvis in the side, was the pick of Zimbabwe's bowlers and was rewarded when wicketkeeper Forster Mutizwa took a sharp catch down the leg side as he stood up to the stumps to get rid of Thursday's centurion Nicol.
The match might have had a different complexion to it had McCullum been snaffled by Elton Chigumbura or Waller early in his innings, but it was not to be. Guptill batted steadily throughout, showing none of McCullum's streakiness, to record his first one-day century since his debut back in March 2009.
Although Zimbabwe's spinners were able to build pressure through dot balls during the middle overs, Guptill and McCullum had already done enough damage to keep close to the required rate.
After McCullum had been caught in the 38th over, offspinner Waller bowled Guptill with a yorker four overs later and Ross Taylor was caught behind off the bowling of Prosper Utseya.
Zimbabwe's hopes rose as New Zealand's middle order, who have had little time in the middle since their arrival in the country, stuttered.
BJ Watling was run out at the non-striker's in a freak incident, deflecting Kane Williamson's drive to bowler Meth, and James Franklin was caught behind off the bowling of Chris Mpofu.
But with just three runs required, Jacob Oram walked to the crease and ended the game in a single ball, flicking down the leg side for a boundary to silence the home crowd once and for all.
<i>Tristan Holme in Harare</i>
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