New Zealand 329 for 2 (Latham 136, Williamson 95*, Guptill 87) v Zimbabwe
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Tom Latham scored a second successive century in this series as New Zealand built the foundations of an imposing first-innings total on a flat track. Latham formed the spine of two tall stands, 169 with Martin Guptill for the first wicket and 160 with Kane Williamson for the second and wore down a Zimbabwe side that appeared out of ideas on a long first day in Bulawayo.
Despite adding a second specialist spinner, John Nyumbu, to their XI, Zimbabwe did not look likely to take any more than the six wickets they managed in the first match. They lacked discipline, penetration and assistance from the surface or the outfield, which has got quicker in the past week. What they had a surplus of was options but Graeme Cremer chose to stick with a five-man attack for most of the day. He left Prince Masvaure unused while only turning to Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza at the end of the day.
Perhaps Cremer wanted to spare the part-timers the toil of being taken on by a New Zealand top three who offered only three chances all day. Guptill, shortly after he reached his half-century in the second session, lashed at width from Cremer and got a thick edge but debutant wicketkeeper Peter Moor could not hold on. The only other opportunity Guptill gave was taken when Donald Tiripano beat his inside edge and trapped him lbw 13 short of a century. Zimbabwe had to wait until the final over before they took another wicket, Latham finally losing concentration for 136.
Much like his hundred in the first Test, Latham was extremely patient. He may have enjoyed better batting conditions though with the Queens Sports Club not offering the same turn as it had a week ago. The cover drive was his most successful scoring shot.
At the other end, Williamson collected runs at will in his 50th Test, enough that even if he were dismissed before he reaches three-figures, his average would stay above 50.
New Zealand began dictating proceedings from the opening three overs when Zimbabwe's frontline quicks failed to threaten them at all. Tiripano and Michael Chinouya provided freebies and the score raced to 27 before they reined it in. Tighter lines produced four consecutive maidens but the squeeze did not last. Zimbabwe only delivered eight more maiden overs for the rest of the day, which spoke to their inability to contain New Zealand.
Gaps were pierced, strike was rotated and though it was only the first morning of a Test they had to win to level the series, Zimbabwe's fielders appeared fatigued. Not even the introduction of spin in the 21st over, when captain Cremer brought himself on, had an impact on the scoring rate. Zimbabwe went to lunch wicketless, having conceded 101 runs.
Both openers reached their fifties after the break but attention moved off the field and into the stand where the biggest crowd of the series was gearing up for a peaceful protest. In the 36th over, with the grandstand filled with Zimbabwe flags, the people stood to sing the national anthem and followed it with a chant of "Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe." Had you not known of the call for action made earlier this week, you may have wondered why fans were cheering a team that had yet to take a wicket.
Guptill was milking the spinners and hurtling towards a hundred when he was dismissed against the run of play. That was the 16th time, out of 19 fifty-plus scores, that Guptill was unable to convert to three figures.
Latham continued, undisturbed by the loss of his opening partner. He took 31 balls to move from 67 to 80 but needed only 15 more to get to reach his fifth Test century. His acknowledgment of the landmark was austere - a simple raise of the bat and some handshakes - as was Wiliamson's when he brought up fifty. New Zealand's score had gone past 200 by tea.
The pair got back to work after the break, taking runs at every opportunity, and they were given plenty. Cremer, who bore the bulk of the bowling load delivering 25 overs before making way for the part-timers, did not take the second new ball and allowed New Zealand to see out the day and Latham almost did. On the penultimate ball, he bunted a catch back to Williams. He left Williamson five runs away from a completing a full set of centuries against every Test nation.