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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Zimbabwe shows greater grit to secure maiden series away win

The glory was all Zimbabwe's at Eden Park today as it celebrated its first One-Day International series victory by claiming the National Bank Trophy from New Zealand with a thrilling one wicket victory.

New Zealand were left in a state of shock when Zimbabwe, who had been down and out, hammered into submission but still able to make one last effort, that just happened to involve scoring 224 runs with only five wickets left, three of them pretty ordinary, to claim victory with more than an over to spare.

There was always the suggestion that on a good Eden Park wicket, 273/9 was going to be a gettable score.

Admittedly, the manner in which Zimbabwe scythed off its top order, including a first ball run out of Trevor Madondo, offered hope of an easy home victory.

But Andy Flower isn't ranked one of the world's top batsmen of the moment for nothing and Heath Streak has too much basic fight in him to ever give up and they gave the perfect demonstration of commitment, and what it can achieve, with the bat in hand.

Streak was ecstatic afterwards.

So he should have been. It was he who launched a single-handed strike on the New Zealand late over bowlers to score 79 not out from 67 balls, including four fours and five sixes, the last of which was a glorious stand and deliver from Craig McMillan's bowling for six over the short extra cover boundary which is a feature of Eden Park.

If the Australians and West Indians are expecting any easy road to the Carlton Series finals they should think again. These Zimbabweans know how to claw their way back into the action.

Streak said he gave a lot of thought to where he wanted to hit the ball. If the New Zealanders bowled in the right zones, he would go for his shots.

Because Zimbabwe kept up with the required run rate, even while losing wickets, they reached the final overs needing 25 runs from 24 balls, then 19 from 19 and 12 from 12. As long as Streak was there, the win was on.

New Zealand chipped away and picked up nine wickets but they couldn't get the key man in Streak.

"It was a case of just waiting for the right balls. I told Brian Murphy [No 11] when he came out that he could either defend it or try to work it," Streak said.

"When you get to needing six an over, and you start pulling the overs in, it is easier. It was nice to have a bit of confidence.

"If the bowlers did bowl a dot ball I backed myself to hit a boundary," Streak said.

While Murphy wasn't a high scorer, he had performed nightwatchman duties with effect for the side before and had been able to stay around.

"I was worried, but not overly anxious," Streak said of the last partnership.

All the batsmen had worked to a game plan, rather than looking to expose the inexperience of the New Zealand attack.

"We aimed to upset their field setting and make the bowlers have to bowl to unorthodox fields," he said.

That goal was nicely achieved by Andy Flower, who in his 81 hardly hit a shot in anger. He caressed the ball all over the ground, but especially with effect in sweeping and lapping the ball behind the wicket-keeper into the prosperous lands behind the wickets.

He was so consistent in his method that his 50 came up off 52 balls while his 81 was scored from 86 balls. It was a classic demonstration.

Dirk Viljoen accompanied him in what was the match-winning partnership of 82 runs. It was a sixth wicket record for Zimbabwe against New Zealand and will stand as one of the more special one day partnerships in the Zimbabwe game.

While Flower worked the ball, Streak blasted it in the way New Zealanders have come to expect from Chris Cairns.

New Zealand coach David Trist bemoaned the fact that he didn't have a bowler like Daniel Vettori to operate through these middle stages and while he might have made a difference, the point was he wasn't available and New Zealand has to learn to minimise its losses.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said he and the team were "pretty shattered" after the game which he said "ebbed and flowed."

"It is gut-wrenching," he said.

At 60/5 chasing 273, New Zealand had every reason to expect a victory.

But the Zimbabweans played New Zealand's spinners Chris Harris and Paul Wiseman very well and Flower had basically taken Wiseman, the attacking option, out of the game with some clever play.

There was an element of sitting and waiting about the New Zealand approach through those middle stages.

"In the middle stages we could have put the match away but they controlled those middles stages. They had us on the back foot where we should have pushed forward," he said.

None of New Zealand's bowlers came through the experience well. Scott Styris had 3-36 from nine overs and was obviously being lined up to bowl the last over but was surplus to requirements. McMillan, who had done so much to make New Zealand's score competitive with his unbeaten 75, didn't deserve to be on the end of Streak's final shot.

But it was testimony to that same challenge he had with the bat that he was there and he ended with 2-49. Nathan Astle bowled 10 containing overs for 1-47 while Chris Harris took 1-36 from seven and James Franklin 1-52 from nine.

It was an exciting game which had the crowd of 14,871 roaring and in the end no one could deny Zimbabwe their win.