Daniel Vettori’s 20th five-wicket haul in Test cricket put New Zealand in firm control of their one-off Test match against Zimbabwe at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Thursday.
Vettori recorded figures of five for 70 as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 313, before New Zealand closed day three on 28 for two, giving them an overall lead of 141.
Zimbabwe’s innings was a story of missed opportunities, with Vusi Sibanda falling short of a maiden Test century and Brendan Taylor dismissed at a critical time after making a promising half-century.
The hosts began the day on 82 for one and put on a couple of solid partnerships, but ultimately fell short of the big total they required as their weak tail folded and Malcolm Waller was left stranded on 72 not out.
Sibanda and Tatenda Taibu were the most culpable batsmen as wasted opportunities were concerned, with Sibanda giving part-time seamer Dean Brownlie his first wicket in any form of cricket to fall for 93 after sharing a 76-run stand with Taylor.
When Zimbabwe’s captain was trapped leg before wicket by Vettori for 50 four balls after lunch, stability was required from Zimbabwe’s batsmen, but Taibu threw his wicket away when he hit Vettori straight to mid-off to depart for 20.
Waller rebuilt the innings with fellow debutant Regis Chakabva in a partnership of 86 either side of tea, but when Chakabva was run out for 37 the tail was exposed and Zimbabwe added just 29 runs for their last four wickets.
Waller became the 11th Zimbabwean to make a score of 50 or more on debut — a feat that was also achieved by his father, Andrew, against England on this ground in 1996.
On a pitch that continued to offer little assistance to the pace bowlers, Vettori’s experience was the key as he bowled around the wicket to attack Zimbabwe’s entirely right-handed batting lineup.
“Whenever you come here, you know the wicket is going to be pretty flat and it’s going to be a lot of work, and we expected that today, so to walk off the park 140 runs ahead is a pretty pleasing day and we know tomorrow [Friday] is going to be the most important day of the Test match,” Vettori said.
“We have to bat well in the morning and set up up the game for ourselves in the first session, which will hopefully allow us to build some momentum in the middle and late sessions,” he said.
Zimbabwe ensured that New Zealand’s task would not be straightforward when Kyle Jarvis bowled first-innings centurion Martin Guptill in the first over of the second innings and then Ray Price trapped Brendon McCullum leg before for 11 in the penultimate over of the day.
Kane Williamson went to stumps on 13 not out, while nightwatchman Jeetan Patel was unbeaten on 4.