The brothers McCullum ensured that New Zealand sealed their two-match Twenty20 series against Zimbabwe with a convincing win in the second game. Brendon scored 64 off 37 balls and Nathan took three key wickets with his offspin to wreck Zimbabwe's hope of evening the series. The hosts were more competitive than they had been in the previous game; after an ordinary performance in the field they batted bravely, but the target was too tall for them.
Chris Mpofu started well, with five, precise, back-of-a-length deliveries but indiscipline crept in when his sixth delivery was a legside wide that ended up costing five runs. Kyle Jarvis also had an impressive initial burst with his first ball resulting in a confident appeal for lbw against McCullum. The ball looked destined for middle and leg stump but the umpire did not think so. McCullum was on two at the time and went on to capitalise on his good fortune. The floodgates opened when he clipped Jarvis over mid-wicket for six in the same over.
Another six, off an Mpofu slower ball took New Zealand to 28 without loss when rain interrupted play after three overs. The 20-minute break shaved four overs off the game, reducing it to 18 overs a side. It should also have given Zimbabwe's bowlers enough time to rethink their strategies, but it served only to motivate McCullum and Guptill, who returned to the crease breathing fire.
The better they batted, the worse Zimbabwe bowled. Jarvis could not find the right length; Prosper Utseya tossed it up too much and even Ray Price was guilty of dropping it too short. McCullum took a particular liking to Utseya, smacking him for two sixes in the ninth over to get to the brink of his half-century. His fifty came up, surprisingly, with a single off Elton Chigumbura.
Just when it looked as though the rest of New Zealand's batsmen might not get a chance to occupy the crease, Zimbabwe got a breakthrough with the first ball of Jarvis' third over. McCullum tried the paddle scoop and missed.
But the dismissal was a false dawn. Even as it sent one powerhitter back to the dressing room, it brought another one out. Jesse Ryder played carefully for the first few balls he was at the crease and then pulled Utseya over square leg for four to announce his arrival. With McCullum gone, Guptill took over and reached a fifty of his own, without taking many risks. He pummelled Mpofu in the 16th over, before falling to a big shot off Jarvis.
Although the stats do not reflect it, Zimbabwe's bowlers produced a number of good deliveries. Unfortunately for them, they also sent down at least one hittable delivery in every over. Mpofu finally got it right in the final over, when he bowled full and straight and was able to squeeze the New Zealand batsmen, but it was too little, too late.
Zimbabwe will take heart from their chase, which started in promising fashion, was quickly pegged back with early two wickets but then took flight again. With moisture still hanging in the air, Hamilton Masakadza was undone by seam movement from Doug Bracewell and was caught behind. In the next over, Brendan Taylor was bowled by a slower ball from Aldridge.
Instead of allowing the innings to unravel, Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura took the fight to New Zealand. Chibhabha, a man known for his ability to hit the ball a long way in domestic cricket, tucked into debutant Graeme Aldridge, who bowled too full at first and too short later. Chigumbura dealt with changes in length and speed in the same fashion, by taking dispatching the deliveries over the boundary and Chibhabha did well to attack the spinners. Their third-wicket partnership of 57 threatened to give Zimbabwe an unlikely chance at victory but Nathan McCullum put an end to any thoughts of a win.
He got rid of Chigumbura after reacting speedily to take a good return catch and dismissed Charles Coventry for a duck in the same fashion. Chibhabha continued to fight hard but, after reaching his highest score in this format, was undone by the two brothers: he was stumped by Brendon off Nathan. With Chibhabha gone, Zimbabwe's chase fizzled out and came to an ignominious end with four wickets falling in four balls in the 17th over, two of them run-outs.