New Zealand in Zimbabwe 2011-12 October 26, 2011

'I thought of having a swing' - Waller

Firdose Moonda

Malcolm Waller still isn't entirely sure how he managed to keep himself calm in the crucial final moments of Zimbabwe's record run-chase against New Zealand. The hosts needed one run off two deliveries, with a single wicket in hand, to successfully reached a target over 300 for the first time. Up stepped Waller with the innings of his life and he made sure he gave the No. 11, debutant Njabula Ncube, some simple advice. "No matter what happens, if I get bat on ball, let's take the run."

Waller was on 98 at the time having batted bravely and survived four chances, three of them catches and one run out, and had formed a match-changing partnership with Elton Chigumbura before marshalling the tail to take the game down to the final two deliveries. "I thought of swinging at the second last ball and trying to get it over the field but then I decided not to," Waller told ESPNcricinfo. "Somehow I managed to stay pretty calm."

His cool head and quick single ensured that Zimbabwe clinched a tense win and broke a losing streak that had lasted for 12 matches across three international series. It was a victory that went against mould in many ways; their first successful 300-plus pursuit with a batting line-up prone to collapse and on a ground that hasn't been kind to them of late.

Since their return to Test cricket in August and their ODI series win over Bangladesh, Zimbabwe have stuttered. They were outplayed by Pakistan and were dismal in the opening T20 and ODI against New Zealand. As they lurched from defeat to defeat, even the small victories - like losing by four wickets instead of nine - could not stop the cricketing world from starting to predict regression. When they conceded a massive 328 the bright days of beating Bangladesh were an increasingly distance memory and coach Alan Butcher may even have struggled to reason that victory was possible.

Waller said that despite their disappointment in the field the dressing room certainly didn't think it was beyond them, yet they spent the lunch break planning, not for a victory, but for the best way to do damage control. "It was a big task but we said to ourselves that we didn't have anything to lose," he said. "We knew that with a few good partnerships, we could get close."

That was what Zimbabwe aimed for - to lose with dignity.

When Vusi Sibanda was out for a duck, even that looked impossible. However, Brendan Taylor had other ideas. Twice he had scored a century in the series and ended up on the losing side. Again he batted with aggression playing glorious, technically sound strokes at rapid pace. The mood changed.

"He started the whole thing for us," Waller said. "It lifted most of us and we thought that if two or three batters can do what he did we will get close."

Still, it was only getting close to the line that was in their minds, not over it.

Taylor was dismissed for 75 and usually that would have signalled the end of Zimbabwe's fight, but this time Tatenda Taibu stepped up. With nifty footwork against spin and Hamilton Masakadza as his steely assistant, Taibu kept Zimbabwe alive. Still, when the pair was dismissed, with Forster Mutizwa's wicket sandwiched in between, it looked all over.

The two-big hitters, Waller and Chigumbura, had not done more than set off a few fireworks previously, but this time they lit up Zimbabwe's cricketing sky. "At the beginning we just wanted to take it slow and see how we go," Waller said. "We hadn't much opportunity to bat for long periods. It was really nice to bat with Elton, he took the pressure off. And when Elton started hitting it cleanly, I thought if we stick around until the last ten five overs, we might be in it."

The pair got the target down to a run-a-ball, before Chigumbura perished as he swung against Jacob Oram. Despite only having the tail to come, Waller didn't panic. "I knew we'd brought it close enough," he said.

Keegan Meth was next in and Waller hoped he would "score a quick 20" but Meth lasted only two balls and was dismissed when he charged down the track at Luke Woodcock. "He was trying to do the right thing," Waller said. With the last of the allrounders back in the hut, Waller thought the chase was off. After all, they had come close enough.

"With two guys on debut [Natsai Mushangwe and Njabula] left to bat, I thought the pressure might be a bit much." Any other day it might have, as Zimbabwe have showed with the bat before, but on Tuesday it wasn't. Ray Price hung around for long enough to level the scores and then Waller finished it off himself to write his name into Zimbabwe's cricket history.

"To win one game was great," he said. "We always knew the Bulawayo wicket was tough for bowlers, especially if teams have wickets in hand. It's hard to defend here.

And what about the century which eluded Waller? "At one stage, when we needed 25 to win and I needed 18 to get to the hundred, I thought I would end up ten short if another batsmen gets going," he said. "Then, at the end I thought about it but I decided to take the team home rather than get 100."

Waller's selflessness gave Zimbabwe a much-needed victory and he hopes it will open the door for a more regular place in the starting XI. "I want to perform more consistently," he said. "If I can do well in the bowling department as well it means we can have an extra bowler, too."

However, beyond Waller's skills it's his big-match temperament that turned around a Zimbabwe side. "New Zealand have played some really good cricket and guys were never too down," he said. "But now we have some extra confidence."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mahjut on October 29, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    Good on waller - he's extending his form in the pre-test match let's hope he extends it further in the test. Elton has extended a stick to beardsly by going for a duck ... :) Still, he's needed as an allrounder (Waller will be picked as a specialist bat is my guess - his position above elton in the batting line up is a clear indicator that's where the selectors see his strength lying) as I'm sure the selectors noticed that without Elton there simply was no Waller 99*

  • mahjut on October 29, 2011, 8:48 GMT

    LynadThike: "I have to ask is what is being done about Masakadzas batting" i guess nothing _ he's out for under 8 in the 90 over game :(

  • mahjut on October 28, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    I stilll think that at this point to call waller an allrounder is a misnomer. He looks gritty with the bat but his bowling has been, internationally and resultwise at least, ordinary at best. I have no inside information so if it is known inhouse that Elton has grown complacent then he should sort it out - we don't need that...bad fielding always seems a good sign of complacency and zim's feilding has looked a lot shodier than it EVER was. Utseya seems superfluous but so far I don't see Elton as that big an underperformer. Really, apart from Taylor, who has had more than one decent effort in a series? When persisting with a player the selectors need to get it right - don't drop someone too soon as they did with Meth (in his initial series in the WI i think) or S Masakadza but don't hold on too long as they did with Matsikenyeri and Coventry. IMO Elton is still worth his place - all the better if someone is pushing - but that seems to be more Meth than Waller for an allrounder position.

  • Dylan on October 28, 2011, 15:41 GMT

    My delight with Wallers performance in relation to Elton is that I hope it puts more pressure on him to perform. I feel Elton has lost a little love for the game and the best thing that selectors might do is not assure his spot in the team as much. He needs that fighting instinct back and although this shone through in the last ODI you just feel he's content to give only one decent account of himself per series.

    Another question I have to ask is what is being done about Masakadzas batting. He seems to be very tightly wound when in the middle and often finds himself bogged down, and when he feels the pressure and tries to break the shackles is shortly walking back to the pavilion, maybe it's a product of concentrating on test cricket batting? I really hope that he is able to spend some decent time out in the middle during the tour game to get back some of his fluidity.

  • mahjut on October 28, 2011, 10:39 GMT

    Beardsly - yet after 20 games chigumbura had an average of 24 and Waller 18 - it has taken a 99* to bring his average up to Chigumbura's. Of course there is an arguement that you'd prefer a guy who can win one game in 10 and be part of the collapse the other 9 times than someone who can roughly offer 24 runs most games. I think Elton has an unhealthy bowl/bat average but Waller' bowling after 21 ODI innings leaves the term 'allrounder' in serious doubt with an ave and SR double Elton's. all in all rather harsh i'd say Beardsly. i'm neither overly keen on Elton nor overly critical of waller

  • Dummy4 on October 27, 2011, 14:40 GMT

    that was good cricket played by e boys they wer very positive wen batting n waller gr8 wrk ma man n grant flower is doing a very good job as e batting coach

  • Andrew on October 27, 2011, 12:38 GMT

    Thanks for the feedback on my comments! I totally agree that fielding has been the major difference in many of our performances. Look at that test with Pak - we could have taken a 100 run first innings lead had we taken any one of SEVEN catches on offer. Then in the 2nd ODI with NZ, those 4 drops were key. At least Waller stood up in the next game and made up for his drops. I do agree that Pak and NZ were slightly weaker than they could have been, but we also have Cremer out injured, Taibu missed the T20s, Vusi is still struggling after the loss of his mother etc, so I think we must just measure the players on the field. Besides, as pointed out below, NZ are a very disciplined side nomatter who is playing, and Pakistan has this conveyor belt of excellent cricketers who perform when guys like Afridi decide to take a sabbatical! One further point about the fielding. I think we need a proper fielding coach. Price should not be in the slips either as his technique is all wrong.

  • Dummy4 on October 27, 2011, 11:23 GMT

    If a site admin is reading they might want to look at the profiles for Andy, Malcolm & Nathan Waller: The family realtionship at the top says Andy is their father and Malcolm & Nathan are brothers. The biographical text says Andy is Malcolm's father and the Malcolm & Nathan are cousins.

  • Brian on October 27, 2011, 9:48 GMT

    Finally, a new all-rounder to shove a rocket up Elton's backside. Thank you. I hope that the selectors have noted that your 99* is higher than Elton has ever scored in his 100+ matches. He has been the biggest under achiever in Zim cricket, and I hope that Waller's emergence does not mean automatic selection for the lazy and uninspiring Chigumbura.

  • Brian on October 27, 2011, 8:52 GMT

    But Masakadza should become more serious with his inclusion in the team.

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