New Zealand outlast terrific Taylor
Zimbabwe suffered a heartbreaking 34-run defeat in their one-off Test against New Zealand in Bulawayo after threatening to pull off a stunning run-chase on the final day.
The hosts began the final day on 61 for two, requiring a further 305 runs to claim an unlikely triumph.
By tea, however, their target had been reduced to just 101 from a minimum of 29 overs, with six wickets still in hand, as Brendan Taylor led a spirited effort with the bat.
Zimbabwe’s captain thumped five sixes in an aggressive 122 and received fine support from Tino Mawoyo, who battled to 52 from 154 balls, and Tatenda Taibu, another half-centurion with 63.
However, Taylor’s dismissal to the second ball of the evening session proved pivotal. Having survived shortly before the break when he holed out to BJ Watling at sweeper cover, only for the umpires to rule there was insufficient evidence to prove the catch had been taken cleanly, Taylor picked out the same fielder again off Chris Martin and Zimbabwe collapsed thereafter.
They were eventually dismissed for 331, with less than six overs remaining in the match.
New Zealand seamer Doug Bracewell returned second-innings figures of 5-85 on Test debut, while the vastly-experienced Daniel Vettori picked up the final two wickets to finish with 3-71 from 38.1 overs.
Zimbabwe’s failure to get over the line took the gloss off another superb individual display by their skipper.
In the two Twenty20 and three one-day international matches prior to this Test, Taylor recorded successive scores of 50 not out, one, 128 not out, 107 not out and 75.
He also scored a half-century in the first innings here, and was quickly back among the runs today as Zimbabwe launched an unexpected push for glory.
The 25-year-old shared 96 with Mawoyo, who was unfortunate to be bowled off his pads by part-time spinner Martin Guptill.
A stand of 108 between the fluent Taylor, who singled out off-spinner Jeetan Patel for particular punishment, and Taibu gave New Zealand increasing cause for concern and the tourists’ mood was not improved when Watling claimed a catch to remove the centurion, only for replays to provide Taylor with a repreive.
He was unable to take advantage, however, and his dismissal proved the beginning of the end for Zimbabwe as they regularly lost wickets.
Taibu departed soon after when he top-edged an attempted sweep off Vettori to Guptill at midwicket and Bracewell then had Regis Chakabva and Ray Price caught behind, either side of bowling Njabulo Ncube.
When Malcolm Waller was trapped leg before by Vettori for 29, Zimbabwe’s hopes of avoiding defeat were all but over and the left-arm spinner wrapped things up by winning another lbw verdict against Chris Mpofu.