After wondering whether they could pick up 20 wickets on unresponsive Zimbabwean surfaces before the series began, New Zealand did it twice to seal the rubber 2-0. They took seven for 35 on the final day in Bulawayo to round up a Zimbabwean line-up that was as unlucky as they were uncertain.
Two poor umpiring decisions in the morning session opened Zimbabwe up and the middle and lower order could not muster the fight they had shown earlier in the series. Martin Guptill proved a surprise destroyer-in-chief, finding turn that neither of New Zealand’s specialist spinners had produced, although, Ish Sodhi finished the match with seven wickets including a career-best four for 60 in the first innings.
Zimbabwe’s hopes of batting out the day started well as nightwatchman Donald Tiripano and Craig Ervine saw off 70 minutes of play. They left well, coped with movement from Trent Boult and the short-ball symphony from Neil Wagner. They were dealing with spin equally well until Mitchell Santner sent Tiripano a delivery that pitched on leg, went on with the arm hit the batsman’s pads and seemed to miss the stumps. Umpire Paul Reiffel, however, upheld the appeal.
Prince Masvaure, who sprained an ankle in warm-ups on the third day had recovered to join Ervine, but looked edgy. He had faced 10 balls when he tried to turn Santner to short leg and gave Henry Nicholls a chance but the ball popped out of his hands. Two balls later, Masvaure thought a single was on and was halfway down the pitch at the non-strikers’ end, but got back in time to avoid any damage.
With Williamson keeping the field spread, Zimbabwe were hopeful of getting to lunch without further damage. But Guptill found a way through Ervine, dragging the batsman forward to defend and having him caught behind. Replays indicated there was daylight between bat and ball though.
After the break, it appeared the sting had been taken out of the Zimbabwean tail. A combination of poor shot selection – Sean Williams drilled a drive off a Guptll half-volley to Williamson at short cover while Peter Moor played for turn when there was none from Sodhi – and more poor umpiring decisions led to their undoing. Reiffel ruled Graeme Cremer lbw even though he had hit the ball and Michael Gough ruled Masvaure out caught though the ball had lobbed off his pad to slip. New Zealand needed only 44 minutes to wrap up the five wickets they needed.
Despite the decisions, the end result reflects the difference between the two teams. While New Zealand had three centurions in each Test, Zimbabwe only had two in the series and could not string together enough big partnerships. Zimbabwe were unable to bowl New Zealand out even once and managed just 12 wickets in the series but showed that with more cricket, there have the talent to improve.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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