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New Zealand felt they had some accounts to square when Zimbabwe arrived from India for a short tour, which contained one Test. The Kiwis were determined to win it, and confirm their ascendency of the two Tests in Africa in September; but they also wanted revenge after losing their one-day series in Zimbabwe 1-2. In the end, the home authorities ruined the Test by producing an impossibly slow pitch, useless for attacking batsmen or bowlers but pandering to batsmen prepared not to take risks. Then Zimbabwe, much to New Zealand's surprise, repeated their one-day triumph after the batting pyrotechnics of their captain, Heath Streak, turned round an apparently lost cause.
So Zimbabwe had an honourable draw in the Test, their first overseas one-day series win, and broad smiles on their honest faces when they flew off for another limited-overs tournament in Australia. The faces of the New Zealand players and officials looked mostly puzzled, as if success had been stolen from them. But it was they who had eagerly insisted that the Test pitch at Wellington's Basin Reserve should be a grassless wasteland. They intended to switch their bowling thrust away from their weakened pace attack - Chris Cairns, Geoff Allott, Dion Nash and Simon Doull were unavailable - and provide a helpful surface for off-spinner Paul Wiseman and Brooke Walker, a leg-spinning tyro. The experienced Daniel Vettori was also unfit. As it turned out, the pitch was so dead that it would have infuriated a world-class slow bowler, let alone two still learning their craft. The only beneficiaries were batsmen Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan, whose places had been under threat until they scored big hundreds.
Fortunately, there were sufficient batsmen of skill on both sides to make the limited-overs games competitive, whatever the type of pitch. Andy Flower, who had just touched second place in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Test Ratings, gave a virtuoso display of one-day batting artistry and inventiveness as he led Zimbabwe to victory in the first match. New Zealand countered with blistering batting from Astle, Mathew Sinclair and Scott Styris for a clear-cut win in the second. Then came the thrilling denouement, in which Flower, Dirk Viljoen and the heroic Streak thrillingly stormed an apparently unassailable home position. Those marvellous days will be treasured for years in the folklore of Zimbabwe cricket.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Canterbury v Zimbabweans at Christchurch, Dec 19, 2000
Tour Match: Canterbury v Zimbabweans at Christchurch, Dec 21-23, 2000
Match reports for
National Cricket Academy XI v Zimbabweans at Indore, Nov 8-10, 2000
Indian Board President's XI v Zimbabweans at Faridabad, Nov 13-15, 2000