Second Test Match

NEW ZEALAND v ZIMBABWE

Toss: New Zealand.

This series never looked so much like the battle for the international wooden spoon as in the early stages here. New Zealand selected a wholly inadequate attack, and not this time because of injuries. Morrison and Doull, their best strike bowlers, were fit again; somehow Kennedy and Allott were preferred, while Patel played ahead of Thomson and the proven Canterbury spinner Mark Priest. Cairns was a clear-cut choice - and provided some batting fireworks in his maiden Test hundred - but stock bowler Larsen could not be expected to make the breakthrough and Germon gave him just five overs in the second innings. In a match quite unscathed by the weather, in which at 44 each against below Test-strength batting. They did not even have to dismiss Zimbabwe's best batsman, Houghton, whose left foot was broken by Kennedy when he was 55 in the first innings. He battled on until stumps to score the first and bravest of three hundreds in the game; then his season was over.

Cairns was later criticised for saying Zimbabwe played within their limitations. It was the plain truth but, with New Zealand all out 27 balls into the second morning, on an easy pitch, they also succeeded. The tourists pressed home that advantage to gain a lead of 75. Houghton and Andy Flower - who joined him in passing 1,000 Test runs, taking one more match - laid the groundwork and Houghton gallantly continued after his fracture, protecting more technically fragile partners. He was in plaster, not pads, next morning, but Brandes and Paul Strang added another 79 without difficulty.

So often, New Zealand have folded instead of fighting: what happened next was a welcome change. Spearman used his long reach effectively and dug in with the less fluent but dogged Twose for a double-century opening stand - New Zealand's third in Test cricket. Starting two overs before lunch, they persevered throughout the third afternoon, though late on Twose played a ball on to his stumps without disturbing the balls. Next morning he gave a straightforward return catch and Spearman soon followed for a responsible maiden Test century - though he reached three figures when he was dropped by Streak at square leg. Their batting, and Parore's, provided the platform for an epic blitz by Cairns. He hit nine sixes, one short of Hammond's Test record on the same ground in 1932-33. Once, he stepped well outside leg stump and lifted Paul Strang over cover on to the roof of the North Stand; then he pulled the replacement ball into the top deck of the South Stand. He reached 100 in 86 balls and hit 120 from 96, with ten fours as well as the sixes. New Zealand shot from 350 to 400 in 26 balls.

Germon's declaration on the fourth evening set Zimbabwe 367 in 109 overs; they never seriously attempted it, even though Carlisle and Grant Flower batted devotedly into the final afternoon for 120, Zimbabwe's biggest opening stand to date.

Man of the Match: C. L. Cairns.

Close of play: First day, New Zealand 246-8 (D. N. Patel 2*); Second day, Zimbabwe 231-7 (D. L. Houghton 104*, P. A. Strang 5*); Third day, New Zealand 138-0 (C. M. Spearman 71*, R. G. Twose 57*); Fourth day, Zimbabwe 39-0 (G. W. Flower 22*, S. V. Carlisle 14*).

© John Wisden & Co