Zimbabwe 229 for 5 (Vermeulen 66, Streak 65*) beat West Indies 208 (Gayle 61, Blignaut 4 for 43) by 21 runs
In an exciting finish, Zimbabwe put up another fine disciplined performance to beat West Indies by 21 runs, and take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series. It was absorbing, rather than champagne, cricket, with discipline instead of flair the order of the day - but another dedicated bowling performance by Andy Blignaut and Heath Streak was, in the end, the telling factor.
Zimbabwe might have done a little better than their eventual 229, as they still had five wickets in hand, but they chose to play safe first rather than back themselves to reach 250. In the field, though, their discipline triumphed over West Indies' initial flair, which then turned to nerves.
Wavell Hinds made most of the early running in the run-chase, hitting a glorious six over long-on in Streak's second over, but after he had made 13, he edged an offcutter from Blignaut to the keeper (24 for 1). Tatenda Taibu was again in the action in the next over when Ramnaresh Sarwan, facing his first ball, fished outside off and also found the edge, this time off Streak (25 for 2).
Chris Gayle and Brian Lara then took charge, mixing sound defence with some dazzling attacking strokes. Zimbabwe's second-string bowlers scarcely threatened, so Streak decided, as so often, that if anything dramatic was going to happen he was going to have to do it himself.
Bringing himself on for a second spell, he produced a superb yorker to Lara (34) to match his one from the Bulawayo Test. It pierced that high backlift and hit middle and leg (95 for 3). This proved to be a major turning point, as West Indies were just beginning to pull ahead, thanks to Gayle, who was playing the anchor role.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul contributed 19 before top-edging a sweep off Ray Price, who was doing a fine containing job, and West Indies were losing their way (120 for 4). But then the balance swung back, as Marlon Samuels raced to 25 off only 19 balls.
And then it all changed again, as Streak, with only two overs left himself, decided to bowl out Blignaut in an effort to force another breakthrough. It was an inspired move. Samuels ill-advisedly lofted a pull to the midwicket boundary, and was caught by Sean Ervine (164 for 5), then next ball Ricardo Powell was yorked by Blignaut. In the space of two balls, 164 for 4 had become a much shakier 164 for 6, and the balance had well and truly swung towards Zimbabwe. And this time it didn't swing back.
Zimbabwe never relaxed their grip, and each of the bowlers did his job. Six runs later Gayle finally fell for 61, slashing at Blignaut outside the off stump to give Taibu another of his four catches (170 for 7). There was still the chance of a lightning innings from Ridley Jacobs or Vasbert Drakes, but the bowlers kept their nerve and, strangely, the batsmen seemed to lack the nerve to attack, preferring instead to look mainly for ones and twos.
It was a forlorn policy, and the crowd of nearly 3000 were jubilant when the last wicket fell at 208 when Corey Collymore was lbw to Ervine, leaving Jacobs stranded on 25.
It represented another improvement from Zimbabwe, who have recovered well from their heavy defeat in the first match, and who again were thankful to their captain for bailing them out of trouble with the bat. Streak hit a careful 65 not out and, along with Mark Vermeulen, rescued Zimbabwe from a treacherous 85 for 4 to a respectable 229 for 5.
After they were put in, the openers Vusi Sibanda and Trevor Gripper made a solid start, but after they had put on 22, the top order folded. However, Streak, ever the man for a crisis, batted solidly, although he waited a little too long before deciding it was time for the final assault, preferring to dab and push.
It took him 76 balls to reach his fifty, his tenth in one-dayers but surprisingly his first in Zimbabwe. He supported Vermeulen well, who continued his good form with a breezy 66 from 70 balls. Streak and Taibu then added a vital 90 in 13.3 overs, and even though the total looked a little short, it proved more than adequate in the end.