Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson led by example as he scored 90 runs to not only help his side defeat Zimbabwe by 38 runs in the third ODI in Harare, but also lead them to a 2-1 series win.
However, Zimbabwe all-rounder Sean Williams and opener Hamilton Masakadza both deserve some credit as they made 63 and 57 respectively.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura would have been brooding over his decision to bowl first despite removing opener Tom Latham for 16 runs.
Williamson proved to be the major thorn in Zimbabwe’s side, but opener Martin Guptill made a decent contribution with the bat as well, scoring 42 in fairly quick time.
Following Guptill’s dismissal, New Zealand lost Colin Munro soon after before Grant Elliott made 36.
Soon after Elliott was back in the pavilion, Zimbabwe got the wicket they desperately needed as Williamson was brilliantly caught by Craig Ervine at long-on off the bowling of John Nyumbu.
Williamson’s excellent knock of 90 came off 109 balls and included eight boundaries and a six.
Thanks to Williamson and James Neesham’s quickfire 37 at the end of the innings, New Zealand finished on 273/6 off their 50 overs.
Graeme Cremer was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Nyumbu snapped up two and Williams chipped in with one.
Chasing 274 to win, Zimbabwe got off to a fantastic start as Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha amassed a 97-run partnership, during which Masakadza brought up his half-century, before Chibhabha was clean bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan for 32.
Masakadza went on to make 57 off 71 balls, which included seven boundaries and two sixes, before he was caught by Ben Wheeler off the bowling of Williamson.
Following Masakadza’s dismissal, Zimbabwe’s entire batting line-up, with the exception of Williams, began to collapse.
As the batsmen toppled one after another around him, Williams kept his cool and scored 63 off 62 balls, which included five boundaries and a six, before he succumbed to the pressure as well.
Just under two overs later, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 235, handing New Zealand a comfortable victory and the series too.
McClenaghan was the most successful bowler with three wickets, while Ish Sodhi took two and Williamson, Neesham and Nathan McCullum claimed one wicket each.
Chigumbura was gutted to have lost the decider, and said: “NZ played well, especially upfront but out batting let us down, it was a reasonable target. We laid the foundation and some players managed to get runs but it’s something to learn from. Pakistan are coming in six weeks so we need to make sure we pull things up from where we need to learn.”
Williamson, who was named Man of the Match, was delighted to have clinched the series 2-1, and said: “The wicket was tough and they bowled very well but the way boys stuck it in and put on that score was competitive. We knew that if we could get one we could put them under pressure. It was a fantastic and well-fought series.
“Tough series and adapt to conditions, most pleasing thing for me was learning from each game. We’ve got a strong squad and we came here looking to be as competitive as we could be in the busy schedule. These are stepping stones for us, there’s still the T20 left so we are looking forward to that.”