If there was vengeance in cricket, it surfaced emphatically at the Harare Sports Club on August 4, 2015. The Zimbabweans were in the seventh heaven after outplaying New Zealand in the first ODI just the other day. On their part, New Zealand didn’t do badly at all because a 300-plus total in the first ODI was quite adequate against a side like Zimbabwe. But one man from the African side made all the difference to the disappointment of the visitors. But in the second ODI, with the home side batting first, Craig Ervine was bowled out cheaply and Zimbabwe slumped to 68/5 in the 18th over. They still found a savior in Sikandar Raza, who single-handedly shouldered the responsibility of batting with an unbeaten 100 off 95 balls and took his team’s total to 235/9. In ODI games these days, this is not considered a fighting total and especially against the hard-hitting New Zealand batsmen, 235 finally proved inadequate. The entire battery of Kiwi batsmen waited in the pavilion as openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill made mincemeat of the challenge thrown at them. Both batsmen notched up centuries and reached the target in the 43rd over. With this victory New Zealand squared the three-match series, the last match of which will be played on Friday August 7, 2015 on the same venue.
After winning the toss, Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura decided to bat first. The pitch had an inconsistent bounce as deliveries from Mitchell McClenaghan and Matt Henry became unpredictable and Zimbabwe batsmen began struggling straightaway. Henry’s first two overs were maidens. Only 3 runs could be scored by 4th over, when Mitchell McClenaghan bowled an excellent short delivery that found Masakadza defending awkwardly and got a gloved-touch. Tom Lathan took the catch in the slips. Chibhabha and Craig Ervine took the score to 42 in the 11th over, when first-ODI hero Ervine lost his wicket. Grant Elliott found a gate between Ervine’s bat and pad and had him clean bowled. Elliot also removed Elton Chigumbura, who just hung his bat out to his delivery to be caught in the slips. New Zealand spinner Ish Sodhi also collected two wickets in his first 4 overs. The best show was his leg-break that drew Chamu Chibhabha forward and Luke Ronchi stumped him.
At this point, the score had reached 68/5 and the hosts were sinking. But the Zimbabweans were miraculously rescued by Sikandar Raza, just when it looked that the innings would fold any moment. Raza didn’t put a step wrong from the beginning and used his footwork to good advantage. He dealt with spinners by coming out of the crease and pulled the fast bowlers, when they delivered the short stuff. His partnership for the sixth wicket with Sean Williams was built on singles with 37 out of 60 runs came in singles. Williams fell as a run out victim, when he couldn’t make his ground as Guptill‘s throw from short midwicket hit the stumps. In the 37th over, Zimbabwe had lost their 8th wicket. Raza, however, continued his assault. He lofted Nathan McCullum over the straight field, punished Sodhi on the leg-side and hoisted a McClenaghan delivery over mid-off. His partner Panyangara was content in allowing Raza most of the strike. Raza and Panyangara together added 89 for the ninth wicket before Panyangara got out on the last ball of the innings after scoring 33, which was as much as he had scored in his last eight ODI innings put together. Raza scored 100 not out off 95 balls with 5 four and 4 sixes and helped Zimbabwe finish with a reasonably good 235/9.
New Zealand were never going to fall short of the 236-run victory target but they did even better with both openers playing purposefully. With the pitch losing its venom, Tom Latham and Martin Guptill scored steadily. Only on two occasions, when Guptill was beaten by Christopher Mpofu and got struck on his thigh, Zimbabwe couldn’t trouble the Kiwi openers. Chigumbura brought spinner Sean Williams in 8th over but instead of building pressure, Williams provided the necessary release to Latham and Guptill as he was struck for two fours by Guptill and in his next over, Latham sent him to the ropes. By 20th over, New Zealand had reached 89/0 and then they accelerated. By the 40th over, both batsmen reached their centuries and it was all over by the 43rd. Guptill remained not out on 116, his eighth ODI hundred and Latham recorded his maiden century with an unbeaten 110. It was a sweeping comeback for New Zealand after the setback in the first game.
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