Centuries by Brendan Taylor and Martin Guptill were the highlights of the match which was a very entertaining match for the few thousands at the stadium.The good news was that Zimbabwe turned in their best batting performance of the New Zealand tour and the bowlers generally did their job well. This could have been a close match if not for the home side's fielding performance.
Zimbabwe made two changes, as Chamunorwa Chibhabha and injured Kyle Jarvis were replaced by Malcolm Waller and Keegan Meth. New Zealand however made three changes from their last starting line-up, as all-rounders Jacob Oram, Graeme Aldridge and batsman BJ Watling came in for Jesse Ryder, off spinning all-rounder Nathan McCullum and fast bowler Kyle Mills. New Zealand won that right, and the pitch did indeed help the bowlers early, and throughout the match had good bounce and carry. The New Zealand decision did mean that they ran the risk of having their middle-order batsmen inactive once again.
Hamilton Masakadza opened the batting with Vusi Sibanda, in the absence of Chibhabha, and both batsmen struggled to start with against tight bowling on a helpful pitch. Masakadza survived a close lbw appeal before a run had appeared on the board, and both batsmen played and missed at times, but perhaps the bowlers pitched a little too short on this type of pitch. The openers did well to put on 41 in 11 overs, but then both got out rather tamely in quick succession, Sibanda making 19 and Masakadza 20.
Brendan Taylor again looked solid, but needed a reliable partner. Tatenda Taibu was dismissed briskly, while Forster Mutizwa tried hard but could not find the form of the previous match; four wickets were down for 83 in the 25th over. The 100 came up in the 28th over. Waller was the first man to fill the job, showing some fine strokes as he ran to 42 off 43 balls. The pair added 86 in 12 overs and really turned the innings around. The 200 came up in the 41st over, but the bowlers tied Elton Chigumbura down, restricting his stroke play and removing him for 14.
Meth briefly gave his captain some good support with a rapid 20, but once again Taylor was the backbone and the Zimbabwe innings would have been a disaster without him. He had to race against the clock to reach his century before the overs ran out, but a leg glance for four in the final over made him the first Zimbabwean to score successive centuries in ODIs, this one off 103 balls. He finished unbeaten with 107 made it into the record books, matching Grant Flowers record as the only people ever to score consecutive ODI hundreds in a series; this was his sixth in total. Raymond Price pulled the last delivery of the innings for four to take the final total to 259 for eight. The most successful bowlers were Andy McKay with four wickets and Jake Oram with three.
Martin Guptill immediately went on the attack as New Zealand began their chase. Chris Mpofu was erratic and expensive, but Meth, swinging the ball both ways although only medium-paced, caused some trouble and had two close lbw appeals rejected. However he struck in the end, having Rob Nicol, who had been rather starved of the bowling, well caught at the wicket down the leg side for 9. For the first time on tour the New Zealand opening pair failed to register a century partnership; this one was a mere 49, in the eighth over.
Meth might also have dismissed Brendon McCullum without scoring, but a sharp low chance to short midwicket went down. New Zealand kept up the attack and the 50 came up in the tenth over. For a while Zimbabwe did a fine job in keeping McCullum under restraint, but just before the 100 came up (in the 21st over) Chigumbura missed a hard return catch from him. A few minutes later Waller put down another chance from McCullum in the deep. McCullum’s 50 took him as many as 75 balls, unusually slow for him.
Meth returned with the shine gone from the new ball and immediately went for 16 in his first over – though this would not have been the case had Waller not dropped an identical chance, again from McCullum, to the one he spilled earlier. Guptill reached a well-earned century, but McCullum, who must have thought by now that any aerial shot was safe, was well caught by Sibanda at backward point, cutting, off Meth. He made 87, and Zimbabwe’s chances had all gone by now with the score 206 for two.
All this time Guptill had been plugging away responsibly at the other end, playing a sound game and aiming to be there at the finish. However, just after losing Ross Taylor for 11, he had a lapse of concentration and was bowled aiming a big hit at a ball from Waller and yorking himself for 105. He faced 121 balls, hit nine fours, and left with the score on 222 for four.
Meth took the best figures of two wickets for 52 runs. Zimbabwe managed to compete with New Zealand in batting and bowling in this match, but the fielding was a big let down.