Zimbabwe face tall target on final day
Zimbabwe 313 and 61 for 2 (Mawoyo 27*, Bracewell 2-17) need 305 runs to beat New Zealand 426 and 252 for 8 dec. (Taylor 76, Williamson 68, Jarvis 5-64)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Zimbabwe will chase a daunting 305 on the final day with eight wickets in hand, after Doug Bracewell made two crucial breaches in an intense start to the fourth innings in Bulawayo. Bracewell's double-strike, including a wicket in the final over of the day, left Zimbabwe hamstrung at the end of a day when they had fought admirably for the most part.
Earlier, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor struck contrasting half-centuries to provide the ballast for New Zealand, who had to overcome a combative bowling display led by Kyle Jarvis before declaring 365 ahead.
Jarvis' effort forced New Zealand to spend more time than they would have wanted at the crease, but they took the field energised in the final session. Chris Martin got the new ball to buzz in at pace, giving both the openers, Tino Mawoyo and Vusi Sibanda, sore toes. Bracewell too hunted for wickets, with conventional seam movement either way. He trapped Sibanda with one that came in, before Hamilton Masakadza gifted his wicket with an avoidable cut, leaving Zimbabwe at a jittery 61 for 2.
The frustrated faces on the Zimbabwean balcony as the players trooped in exemplified just how drastically their day had unravelled. Zimbabwe had enjoyed what were in isolation a good couple of sessions in the field thanks to Jarvis, who chipped away at the middle order with his sprightly inswingers. Jarvis' breakthroughs came after New Zealand had laboured to 83 runs in the 30 overs before lunch, though Williamson and Taylor stepped on the gas thereafter.
With the sun out and the pitch offering little assistance, Zimbabwe's seam trio stuck to disciplined lengths in the morning. Their effort was initially aided by New Zealand's surprisingly defensive outlook, engendered by their use of a nightwatchman on the third day. Jeetan Patel's prolonged presence at the crease would have benefited Zimbabwe more than New Zealand, but four overs into the day he was cleaned up by Jarvis.
Zimbabwe's deficit, however, meant they couldn't afford to attack for long. Njabulo Ncube settled into a monotonous spell where he was consistently well wide of off stump, with a packed field in the covers. Williamson led New Zealand out of the mini-crisis, cover-driving languidly every time he was offered width, and defending well when he wasn't. The lack of movement meant Ray Price was introduced early, and Taylor checked in comfortably against his quick-arm flat deliveries. The odd ball that he spun in the morning, such as the ripper that veered away from leg stump in the 20th over of the innings, did too much to take the edge.
Taylor tried to force the pace in the second hour of play, but nearly perished in the process. He steered Ncube behind point for four before edging another wide ball past slip. Ncube then trapped him palpably in front with an indipper, convincing everyone except the umpire Marais Erasmus that it was out. Inevitably, Price too switched to a negative line from over the stumps, but that didn't faze Williamson. When he wasn't padding Price away or receding into the crease to glance him fine, he was trotting out to the flight and going over the top.
Price's leg-stump trajectory was straight up Taylor's alley, and he unleashed his patent slog-sweep to take the lead past 200. The acceleration continued into the middle session, with Williamson nudging Chris Mpofu to the fine-leg boundary to reach his half-century. He celebrated the landmark by sweeping Price for a six and a four, forcing the last of the close-in fielders into the deep. Taylor brought up his own fifty in more subdued fashion, before swat-flicking Jarvis over midwicket for a furious six as Zimbabwean shoulders began to slump in the mid-afternoon heat.
Jarvis wasn't to be discouraged, though. He kept bustling in with intent, bounding close to the stumps and getting every other ball to jag in sharply off the seam. Both Williamson and Taylor were caught by surprise when Jarvis sneaked indippers onto their pads. In between those two lbws, Price got a leading edge out of BJ Watling to carry to slip. Brendan Taylor dropped Daniel Vettori in the slips, but the miss didn't extend Jarvis' wait for his maiden five-for by much. Dean Brownlie perished to his stock ball too, losing off stump as he played back to yet another quick inswinger.
New Zealand batted on after tea, and Taylor called them in seven overs into the evening session, off which Vettori and Reece Young looted 40 runs. In hindsight, it was a pretty well-timed declaration, since it affords New Zealand a second go with a still shiny ball on the final morning.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo