Confident Williamson hopes to build on Zimbabwe gains
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was pleased with the way his spinners came through after the seamers and the batsmen set the match up in the three previous innings
On slow surfaces, New Zealand suspected they would rely on spinners to win the series in Zimbabwe but did they think one of those would be Martin Guptill?
"We thought maybe he has been practicing a bit when no one has been watching, because we don't see him bowl too much in the nets," Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, joked afterwards. "The wicket was suited to [spin] but to be able to put the ball in consistent areas and spin it hard as a part-time offie is something that's fantastic to see and another string to his bow."
In an unexpected coup, Guptill bowled a seven-over spell in which he found more turn than either of New Zealand's specialist spinners. He ended up with the same number of wickets as Ish Sodhi - three - and the best bowling average of the series to give New Zealand a left-field option as they head to South Africa for two Tests.
Unlike the Queens Sports Club surface in Bulawayo, Kingsmead and SuperSport Park are unlikely to require two specialist spinners, which means the balance of New Zealand's attack could change. With the pace duo of Doug Bracewell and Matt Henry in reserve, as well as offspinner Mark Craig, they have plenty of options, especially as neither Sodhi nor Mitchell Santner threatened over consistent periods.
Yet, Williamson was pleased with the way his spinners came through after the seamers and the batsmen set the match up in the three previous innings. "We could tell the wicket was deteriorating. It was a little bit slower than the first surface and it was breaking up," he assessed. "We were fortunate that the wicket was extremely tough to bat on today.
"It was nice to see our seamers out in the yards on a surface that did not offer a huge amount lot but also the spinners to take control in that last innings. That's always what you want to see in a Test match, the spinners taking control at the end."
Neil Wagner's ability to extract bounce from a flat pitch and find reverse swing later on was the other big positive for New Zealand. Yet, for all the focus there was on the bowlers, it was a batsman who many thought should have been Man of the Series. Ross Taylor racked up 364 runs without being dismissed. His two centuries formed the spine of New Zealand's total of over 500 in each match but it was his unbeaten 67 in the second innings of the second Test that impressed his captain most.
"Ross had an unbelievable series. We knew when it was our opportunity to bat, big runs had to be scored to give our spinners and bowlers a lot of overs to try and let the wicket deteriorate and he was a huge part of that," he said. "To not to be dismissed, maybe he is in that space where he is playing within himself. He got a couple of fantastic hundred but also that knock that he played in the second innings where we needed to score at a quicker rate to give ourselves enough time to bowl Zimbabwe out. He showed his class as a player to go through the gears and give us an opportunity. It was such a selfless innings."
With Taylor, Tom Latham, BJ Watling and Williamson himself reaching three figures, New Zealand's line-up is, as the captain said, operating "clinically," which will be crucial when they get to South Africa. They consider themselves a better side than the one that played there in 2013 and are hopeful they can build on the results from Zimbabwe.
"We're always looking to improve, with each game," Williamson said. "You still have bad days but hopefully there are a few less of them. Hopefully with our drive to improve, we like to think we have become a better side than before."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent