September 14, 2000

Horne leads New Zealand reply on third day of First Test

In an absorbing third day's play, some fine leg-spin bowling by Paul Strang, who took six wickets on his return to Test cricket, gave Zimbabwe a clear advantage during the afternoon session. The determination of Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns brought the match back on to even keel, only for Strang to break the stand in the final over of the day. New Zealand finished the day at 252 for seven, 98 behind Zimbabwe's first-innings total of 350.

New Zealand began the day actively seeking runs, giving evidence that they had every intention of winning this match if at all possible. Horne reached a fine fifty before nightwatchman Wiseman (14) failed to spot Paul Strang's googly and being given out lbw padding up. New Zealand were 109 for three.

By now Zimbabwe had regained a measure of control, with Strang in particular applying the brake with his cunning variety of leg-spin. Horne (85 at lunch out of 125 for three) continued to kept the board moving while Fleming contented himself with survival, apart from one brilliant back-foot straight drive for four.

Fleming never blossomed after lunch, finally falling for 11 off 65 balls, caught bat-pad by Rennie off Strang, reducing New Zealand to 139 for four; two balls later Astle was given out caught at the wicket, perhaps controversially, without addition. Horne was still there, now in the nineties, but New Zealand had lost the initiative.

Zimbabwe were fired up now, but when on 5 McMillan was dropped at the wicket off Grant Flower, an expensive miss. Horne reached his fourth Test century, off 238 balls, but had only reached 105 at tea, 20 runs in the two-hour session to his personal credit, when he played down the wrong line to Paul Strang's googly and was another lbw victim.

With New Zealand 180 for six, Zimbabwe had the advantage, but McMillan and Cairns were determined to dominate after tea. This proved to be the right policy: Zimbabwe were thrown on the defensive, and they were able to settle down and wait for the bad ball at a scoring rate more in keeping with that of the match to date. McMillan reached his fifty, but after that the batsmen settled down to play for the close. They looked to have done the job successfully when, in the final over, Strang took his sixth wicket, claiming McMillan caught at the wicket for 58. Cairns finished the day on 33.