A dramatic Zimbabwean collapse, triggered by Jerome Taylor's five wickets, and some sloppy fielding from the hosts allowed a depleted yet trigger-happy West Indian line-up to ultimately overhaul a total of 233 and win by five wickets at the Queens Sports Club. Runako Morton and Marlon Samuels kept the fielders interested during chancy half-centuries, but as they had in the morning, Zimbabwe allowed West Indies off the hook during the run-chase as well.
Zimbabwe's day had begun so well, with a splendid record opening stand amid the gloom at Bulawayo, but Taylor's career-best 5 for 48 and a spate of dropped catches helped the tourists wrap up the series with one game to play. Dwayne Bravo, in his second game as captain, sensibly brought a flip-flop affair to an anticlimactic close with an unbeaten 41.
Throwing little heed to two early wickets, including Devon Smith's first-ball duck, Morton chanced his arm on a slow pitch despite the run asking being well in control. The ball was slow to come on to the bat and Morton played many shots into the ground, often mistiming them as the ball stayed low or nipped back in.
Riding on two lives - one at midwicket and the other at long-on - before he reached his third fifty of the tour, Morton refused to settle down. He mis-hit the spinners streakily into the gaps and still clubbed three big sixes. Zimbabwe's indifferent field placing further helped the batsmen, allowing them easy runs down the leg side. Both Morton and Samuels unfurled sweep after sweep, mixed with wild slogs through square leg. Morton was given a third life when Brendan Taylor made a hash of what should have been a simple catch at mid-off, but hefinally fell to give Ray Price his first wicket in over three years when a sweep found its way into Elton Chigumbura's hands at deep square leg.
Having just been dropped at mid-on, Samuels threw it away after scoring 62 with a slog to cow corner, where Chamu Chibhabha dived superbly to hold on to a stunner. There was a further twist in the tale as Narsingh Deonarine, in the side for an injured Shivnarine Chanderpaul, top-edged Prosper Utseya to short fine leg. The batsmen kept the fielders interested with an array of loose shots, but a cool Bravo, with a run-a-ball 41, eventually got his side home with 18 balls to spare.
Zimbabwe's innings was a story of two halves - the opening batsmen dominated the first as Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza put on a record 167-run stand, before West Indies dramatically swung the game back their way. Sibanda, dropped on 8 by Bravo, and Masakadza stuck to their guns on a good batting track but a brief stutter turned into a full-fledged collapse thanks to some fantastic death bowling from Taylor and Bravo.
Sibanda and Masakadza, opening for the first time in the series, began watchfully but soon opened up with firm strokes either side of the pitch. Sibanda hit meaty blows through the off side as he reached his fifty from 68 balls and Masakadza - who opened in place of Brendan Taylor - raised Zimbabwe's 13th century partnership in their limited-overs history with a sizzling pull. Rawl Lewis brought the fielders in, flighted the ball on the pads and looked on as Masakadza swatted him over midwicket for four. In the same over, Bravo removed square leg and when offered width, Masakadza pulled Lewis right there for four more. With a slog-sweep for six Masakadza went past two landmarks - his previous best of 75, and the previous-best opening stand of 161 between the Flowers, Andy and Grant, against Bangladesh in 1997.
But where two batsmen added 167, the rest mustered only 65. Lewis gave West Indies the breakthrough, as Masakadza missed a slog and was stumped. Taylor was brought back into the attack and struck twice in one over, with Chigumbura and Tatenda Taibu both slogging to long-on, and a sluggish call for a single and a direct hit from mid-off cut Sibanda four short of a second ODI hundred.
Three further strikes from Taylor, who mixed yorkers and slower balls brilliantly, and one from an accurate Bravo, restricted Zimbabwe to 232 and gave a depleted West Indies batting line-up a fair shot at wrapping up the series. The batsmen ultimately got past the finish line, but owed plenty to a Zimbabwean fielding display that would have made their coach cringe.