New Zealand failed in their ambition to use their second Test tour of Zimbabwe to escape from the cellar of international cricket. They arrived convinced that the home side would play defensively and wait for the New Zealanders to slip up. They were determined not to fall into that trap, and the effect was that neither side grabbed the initiative. Both Tests were drawn yet, with little more imagination, each team could have claimed a win. And though neither team accepted the notion that Test cricket's wooden spoon was at stake, there was little in the cricket to persuade anyone to the contrary.
Zimbabwe's captain, Alistair Campbell, might have pulled off a win in the First Test at Harare had his team not batted on too long, and too slowly, on the fourth afternoon. An uncharacteristic display of restraint from Chris Cairns enabled New Zealand to see out the final day. Then, at Bulawayo, Campbell made the Kiwis an unexpectedly generous offer: to score 286 on a tame batting pitch in just over two sessions. But New Zealand were not good enough to get home in a last-over finish.
What the tour did produce was some fresh Zimbabwean talent. Leg-spinner Adam Huckle, a cattle-farmer and Heath Streak's next-door neighbour, was called into the Test squad on the basis of just one recent first-class match. But he took 16 wickets in the two Tests, mixing long-hops and full tosses with some highly penetrative bowling. Bespectacled opener Gavin Rennie also caught the New Zealanders off guard. He played in all the matches against the tourists and showed that tenacity and concentration could more than compensate for his limited range of strokes. He formed a highly effective opening partnership with Grant Flower, the player of the series.
Injury deprived the New Zealanders of several leading players, while the experienced Danny Morrison had been prematurely discarded. Left-armer Shayne O'Connor stepped in and made a tidy start to his international career. But Daniel Vettori, already an old hand at 18, was a little disappointing, and much of the New Zealand batting was simply not good enough - the two Chrises, Cairns and Harris, being the big exceptions. Zimbabwe had their disappointments too: Andy Flower had a hard time and Paul Strang's bowling lacked a cutting edge after his long season with Kent. The New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming batted steadily without stamping his authority. But he was the man who summed the tour up when it ended: a month of lost opportunities for both teams.
S. P. Fleming ( Canterbury) (captain), N. J. Astle ( Canterbury), C. L. Cairns ( Canterbury), H. T. Davis ( Wellington), C. Z. Harris ( Canterbury), M. J. Horne ( Otago), G. R. Larsen ( Wellington), C. D. McMillan ( Canterbury), S. B. O'Connor ( Otago), A. C. Parore ( Auckland), B. A. Pocock ( Auckland), D. G. Sewell ( Otago), C. M. Spearman ( Central Districts), D. L. Vettori ( Northern Districts), P. J. Wiseman ( Otago).
G. I. Allott ( Canterbury), S. B. Doull ( Northern Districts), A. J. Penn ( Central Districts) and B. A. Young ( Northern Districts) withdrew from the squad through injury. Sewell replaced Penn and Spearman replaced Young.
Manager: D. J. Graham. Coach: S. J. Rixon.
Test matches- Played 2: Drawn 2.
First-class matches- Played 3: Drawn 3.
Draws- Zimbabwe (2), Mashonaland.
One-day internationals- Played 3: Won 1, Lost 1, Tied 1.
Other non-first-class match- Won v Zimbabwe Country Districts.
Note: Matches in this section which were not first-class are signified by a dagger.
At Harare South County Club, September 12. New Zealanders won by two wickets. Toss: Zimbabwe Country Districts. Zimbabwe Country Districts 190 for six (50 overs) ( G. J. Rennie 74, G. K. Bruk-Jackson 44); New Zealanders 194 for eight (42.4 overs) ( M. J. Horne 31, C. M. Spearman 42, C. L. Cairns 45 not out, Extras 33; A. G. Huckle four for 38).
At Alexandra Sports Club, Harare, September 13, 14, 15. Drawn. Toss: New Zealanders. New Zealanders 174 ( M. J. Horne 35; E. Matambanadzo three for 44, B. D. Strang four for 45) and 336 for five ( M. J. Horne 181, S. P. Fleming 42, N. J. Astle 33); Mashonaland 351 ( G. W. Flower 55, D. P. Viljoen 35, G. J. Rennie 33, C. B. Wishart 41, D. L. Houghton 59, C. N. Evans 63, Extras 30; S. B. O'Connor three for 58).
Match reports for
Queensland v New Zealanders at Cairns, Oct 22-25, 1997
Queensland v New Zealanders at Cairns, Oct 26, 1997
New South Wales v New Zealanders at Coffs Harbour, Oct 29, 1997
New South Wales v New Zealanders at Newcastle, Oct 31-Nov 3, 1997
Victoria v New Zealanders at Melbourne, Nov 14-17, 1997
Queensland v New Zealanders at Brisbane, Dec 13, 1997
South Australia v New Zealanders at Adelaide, Jan 4, 1998
Australian Country XI v New Zealanders at Mount Gambier, Jan 6, 1998
Sutherland v New Zealanders at Sydney, Jan 7, 1998
Australia A v New Zealanders at Melbourne, Jan 12, 1998
Match reports for