From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.28 :: NO.37 :: Sep. 10 - 16, 2005
S. RAM MAHESH
WHEN one team makes close to 400 runs in 44 overs and the other struggles to score half that much, the question of how both are playing at the same stage raises itself.
"Jeez, most disappointing thing was our bowling and our fielding," said Tatenda Taibu, captain of the second team. "We were behind the eight ball from the beginning."
Damp spots on the wicket shortened the match, which, in hindsight, spared the Zimbabwe cricketers and spectators the agony of a more bloody carnage. Taibu chose to bowl the new rules, the condition of the pitch and a desire to prolong the game dictating his decision.
That remained the only thing that went Zimbabwe's way.
New Zealand captain Fleming strode in with new partner Lou Vincent; regular Nathan Astle sitting out with a bruised finger.
Vincent, who made a century on Test debut against Australia at Perth, has remained on the fringes of New Zealand cricket, with a toe in but little more. He had played 62 matches before this without an ODI century.
But this day was different. Vincent peppered the boundary boards, driving on the up off either foot on a pitch that had had dried into a batting beauty.
"I tend to feed off (Vincent)," said Fleming. "Interesting conditions to start off with. We set the scene for the power-hitters to come on."
He made the most of a dropped chance, cutting loose immediately. Mahwire's first four overs went for 41, Streak's five for 34. Andy Blignaut was greeted by a Vincent hook into the sparse crowd and the first block of 10 overs leaked 84 runs.
Taibu looked to stem the flow and decided not to enforce the second Power Play immediately. Three overs, 14 runs later he did.
Vincent got to 50 first and celebrated it with a front-foot pull for six. A glide got Fleming his 39th ODI half-century off just 49 balls. The captain's knock lacked the usual felicity but lost little in terms of application and temperament.
Off-spinners Gavin Ewing and Prosper Utseya were introduced in Taibu's quest for some control. Little changed. Vincent reached his first ODI 100 in his 63rd match with a six off Ireland in Power Play 3. The 200 partnership a Kiwi record for any wicket came up before Fleming was snared for 93 (87b, 8x4, 4x6).
Craig McMillan went berserk and Vincent didn't slow up his eighth six powering him past 150 off just 109 balls. He was nearly caught by Craig Wishart doing a jig near the boundary ropes soon after.
A slap to long-off took the 26-year-old past the 171 mark, the highest by a New Zealand batsman, held by Glenn Turner, but a stunning catch in the deep by Utseya prevented him from being the first to 200.
"Probably wouldn't sink in for a while," said Vincent whose 120-ball knock had 16 fours and nine sixes.
"Getting past (Turner) one of the legends in our history is special. Pretty happy to have had the skills to do it." When asked if he thought about 200, Vincent said, "Aaw, yes and no. But I just tried to play each ball on its merit."
The Black Caps wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum banged his way to a 21-ball half-century, illustrating how deep this team bats.
Chasing an improbable 398, and looking to minimise embarrassment, Zimbabwe began well. Openers Brendan Taylor and Stuart Carlisle were watchful, adding 62 before Chris Cairns broke through.
Fleming chose to exercise his Power Plays at one go, negating the additional dimension he had spoken of before the match.
Jacob Oram trapped Carlisle in front and when Cairns got Craig Wishart to feather one through to McCullum, an unreal moment ensued with both Super Subs coming on Zimbabwean Charles Coventry for debutant Anthony Ireland and Daniel Vettori for Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming. The Zimbabwean Sub smashed Cairns for 16 in an over taking the host to 100 within 21 overs. An ambitious hook of Adams promised more, but the Kiwi all-rounder snaffled him.
In between, Vettori beat Blignaut in the air, causing the left-hander to carve a catch to the two-metre tall Oram. Then came a piece of spin bowling magic. Vettori, in the midst of floaty curvers, sneaked in an arm-ball that homed into Tatenda Taibu's stumps. Beaten by length, pace, angle and variety, Taibu departed and a co-passenger was the hope of Zimbabwe playing out 44 overs.
"I can't pick up any positives at all," said Taibu after the match. A bleak pronouncement. But no one could disagree.
New Zealand: L. Vincent c Utseya b Blignaut 172; S. Fleming c Streak b Ireland 93; C. McMillan c Mahwire b Blignaut 47; C. Cairns c Masakadza b Ireland 14; B. McCullum (not out) 51; J. Oram c Taylor b Mahwire 0; A. Adams (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-8, w-8, nb-3) 20. Total (for five wickets in 44 overs) 397.
Fall of wickets: 1-204, 2-325, 3-334, 4-380, 5-396.
Zimbabwe bowling: Streak 9-0-61-0; Mahwire 7-0-78-1; Blignaut 9-0-96-2; Ireland 7-0-52-2; Ewing 7-0-53-0; Utseya 5-0-48-0.
Zimbabwe: B. Taylor c Styris b Cairns 36; S. Carlisle lbw b Oram 25; H. Masakadza c McCullum b Adams 18; C. Wishart c McCullum b Cairns 3; C. Coventry c Mills b Adams 25; A. Blignaut c Oram b Vettori 1; T. Taibu b Vettori 13; H. Streak b Mills 45; N. Mahwire c & b Vettori 3; G. Ewing (run out) 20; P. Utseya (not out) 1; Extras (lb-5, w-4, nb-6) 15. Total (in 43 overs) 205.
Fall of wickets: 1-62, 2-75, 3-81, 4-111, 5-112, 6-123, 7-141, 8-165, 9-203.
New Zealand bowling: Bond 5-2-15-0; Mills 7-0-23-1; Cairns 9-1-74-2; Oram 9-0-37-1; Vettori 8-1-29-3; Adams 5-0-22-2.
New Zealand full substitute: D. Vettori (S. Fleming, Zimbabwe innings, 19.0 ov).
Zimbabwe full substitute: C. Coventry (A. Ireland, Zimbabwe innings, 8.0 ov).
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