Waller guides Zimbabwe to famous victory
Malcolm Waller's sublime 99 not out from just 74 balls saw Zimbabwe chase down a score of 300 or more for the first time in their ODI history.
Malcolm Waller's sublime 99 not out from just 74 balls saw Zimbabwe chase down a score of 300 or more for the first time in their ODI history as they beat New Zealand by one wicket in a Bulawayo cliffhanger on Tuesday.
Waller's composure under pressure was total as Zimbabwe responded to a mammoth total of 328 for five, to the extent that, needing two runs for his century but one to win the game, he nudged the penultimate ball of the match into a gap on the offside for a simple single to clinch a famous victory.
For once it was a team effort from Zimbabwe, who were set on their way by talisman Brendan Taylor but had four half-centurions in total as they chased down the imposing target and displayed huge character in coming back from two tough losses in Harare.
After Vusi Sibanda was out to the second ball of the innings, Taylor became the first batsman in history to score more than 300 runs in a three-match series as he set about giving his side the positive start they needed.
Taylor had a full go at most deliveries, and his 75 from 65 balls took his series aggregate to 310 before failing to clear mid-off from the bowling of left-armer Andy McKay to be dismissed for the first time in the three matches.
Hamilton Masakadza had played second fiddle throughout the partnership and continue to struggle to find the middle of the bat, but Tatenda Taibu made up for his partner's shortcomings with an attacking innings of 53 from just 39 deliveries that included two sixes and a succession of fours off the bowling of Luke Woodcock.
Masakadza's stuttering innings was finally halted when Jacob Oram found him hacking across the line and popped out his middle stump, and when Forster Mutizwa fell for a duck in the next over and Taibu departed soon after it looked unlikely that Zimbabwe would pull off the chase.
However the runs had come quickly up until then, and even with five wickets down Zimbabwe had 183 on the board and Malcolm Waller soon began to time the ball sweetly.
The runs kept flowing, as Waller put on a partnership of 112 for the sixth wicket with Elton Chigumbura which ultimately made the difference. For once, the usually big-hitting Chigumbura played a supporting role but still scored at better than a run a ball for his 47.
Waller profited from a dropped catch when Zimbabwe were on 232, with Ross Taylor the culprit for New Zealand, and he would enjoy two chances from the same fielder in the final over.
However Waller's composure was the winner for Zimbabwe, as he calmly dealt with the loss of Chigumbura, debutant Natsai Mushangwe and Ray Price to see Zimbabwe over the line with a ball to spare in a dramatic finish.
Earlier a monstrous partnership between Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson allayed any fears over the New Zealand middle order's lack of time in the middle and saw the Black Caps to what looked an insurmountable total.
Taylor and Williamson put on 195 in 132 balls to change the course of the innings after the Black Caps had dug themselves a hole at 124 for four in the 28th over of the innings.
Taylor struck 119 from 126 balls before he was bowled by debutant Njabulo Ncube in the final over of the innings, while Williamson scrambled through to complete his century off the final ball of the innings, having taken just 69 balls to reach three figures.
Zimbabwe will be disappointed with the way they responded to the counter-attack given that they had the upper hand until the arrival of the batting powerplay after 35 overs.
At that stage New Zealand were 161 for four, and Zimbabwe had been able to contain Taylor and Williamson with a stable of spinners until the duo used the powerplay to engage a higher gear and eventually score 167 runs in the final 15 overs.
Zimbabwe's seamers were guilty of losing their cool, with 15 wides conceded in the innings and two no-balls above waist height – both of which went for four, and which saw Ncube removed from the attack.
The hosts had enjoyed a perfect start to the innings as Waller ran out BJ Watling in the first over of the match as the stand-in opener was caught backing up too much at the non-striker's end.
With Ncube picking up the wickets of Rob Nicol and Brendon McCullum to reduce the Black Caps to 41 for three, Zimbabwe were then able to keep the pressure on their visitors as debutant legspinner Natsai Mushangwe and Waller bowled a tight spell of spin.
The pressure eventually resulted in Jesse Ryder being caught and bowled by Waller – though only after he'd put on 53 in 68 balls – giving Zimbabwe hope that they might end up chasing a lowish total after they'd been asked to field.
However Williamson came to the crease and showed positive intent, with his run-a-ball scoring rate allowing Taylor to steady the innings before launching in the final 15 overs.
Taylor went to three figures in 115 balls as Zimbabwe's performance fell apart at the seams, with their fielding another cause for concern, before Ncube finally found the yorker required to clean the New Zealand skipper up.
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