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New Zealand v Zimbabwe Test 1 at Wellington

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

19-23 February 1998

Day 1: Zimbabwe lose their grip

By Don Cameron in Wellington

ZIMBABWE contrived a clever technical coup but could not follow up with adequate technical work and finished the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve yesterday on a woeful 132 for eight from the 68 overs that a rain-damaged ground allowed.

When a well-grassed pitch was snugged down under covers as the Wellington rain fell in the two days before the Test, all the local experts maintained that the seam bowlers would turn the pitch into a batsman's fiery hell whenever the Test started.

Not for the first time the Basin Reserve covers, once again as reliable as a politician's promise, did not protect the pitch surrounds. While these were being repaired, the groundstaff shaved almost all the grass from the pitch.

Still, New Zealanders chuckled when Alistair Campbell, the Zimbabwe captain, decided to bat after he won the toss, for Campbell seemed unaware of the spiteful way that damp Wellington pitches behave.

Instead, Campbell was the more accurate judge. After a delayed start, the pitch gave the New Zealand faster bowlers little help and when Zimbabwe progressed to 53 for one, they had the chance of taking tactical command of the Test.

Instead, the tourists allowed themselves to be pinned down by accurate New Zealand bowling. Their caution grew deeper, their attacking strokes were held back. They just seemed content to wait, to see what happened.

What did happen was that the confidence was transferred to the New Zealand bowlers and the Zimbabwe batsmen lost both patience and concentration.

Aggressive seam bowling by Shayne O'Connor and Simon Doull saw each finish with two cheap wickets.

More wickets were offered up by risky strokes and - after Campbell and Heath Streak had been together for an hour in a seventh-wicket stand that might have saved the innings - by the foolish running out of Campbell when he was on 37.

As the pitch dries out, its growing pace should make batting easier on the second and third days. It may also encourage the leg-spin bowling of Paul Strang and Adam Huckle, who are Zimbabwe's main match-winning hopes.

But there seems every chance that New Zealand will grow in authority and Zimbabwe, having lost the tactical advantage they held for a short time, will spend the rest of this Test trying to catch up.

Day 2: New Zealand take steady approach

By Don Cameron

AS IF savouring the propect of tasting a rare wine, New Zealand look their time drawing the cork as they went steadily on the advance during the second day of the first Test against Zimbabwe at the Basin Reserve yesterday.

There was some early stout resistance from Heath Streak, the medium-fast bowler, as he scored 39 in the first hour of a lovely summer's day and led Zimbabwe from 132 for eight overnight to the minor dignity of a first-innings total of 180.

Although they had 70 overs and perfect playing conditions, New Zealand went purposefully rather than rapidly along to 176 for three.

New Zealand's coach, Steve Rixon, had demanded a ``massive'' first-innings lead after Zimbabwe collapsed on the first day. However the New Zealand batsmen did not attack readily, but concentrated on the deliberate pursuit of a first Test win in six attempts.

Adam Parore and Matthew Horne laid the foundations with a second-wicket partnership of 103 and at the close Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, was not out on 33 with Nathan Astle on 19.

Day 3: McMillan reaches hundred in style

By Matthew Hannah

CRAIG McMillan brought up his maiden Test century with a six to put New Zealand in control of the first Test against Zimbabwe.

McMillan's 139 helped the home side to 411 in reply to Zimbabwe's first innings of 180. At the close of play on the third day in Wellington, Zimbabwe had lost openers Gavin Rennie and Grant Flower in reaching 27 for two, still 204 runs behind.

New Zealand, resuming at 176 for three, lost three quick wickets, including that of Chris Cairns, who was run out for a duck on the last ball before lunch trying to help McMillan to his half-century.

McMillan held the innings together, however, reaching his hundred in 159 minutes with a six over long-on from off-spinner Andy Whittall.

Day 4: Zimbabwe put firmly in place

By Don Cameron in Wellington

NEW ZEALAND'S cricketers have recently squirmed under the judgment offered by polls and rating tables that they ranked bottom in modern Test and one-day cricket, even below Zimbabwe who have only one Test win in their short history.

So here yesterday at the Basin Reserve, the New Zealanders struck a solid blow for their own international prestige by beating Zimbabwe in the first of a two-Test series with 10 wickets and a day to spare.

Zimbabwe never recovered from their first innings of 180 as Craig McMillan, 21, led New Zealand to a first-innings score of 411 with his first Test century.

Zimbabwe fought bravely yesterday as Murray Goodwin scored 72 runs from a total of 155 for six wickets. New Zealand were further foiled by Alistair Campbell and Heath Streak, whose eighth-wicket stand of 94 took Zimbabwe to 249 before they were all out one run later. New Zealand scored the 20 runs needed for victory from 23 balls.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 23 Feb1998 - 10:46