Test Match

New Zealand v Zimbabwe, 2000-01

Don Cameron

At Basin Reserve, Wellington, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: D. A. Marillier.
All New Zealand's spadework before this one-off Test seemed to have given the home side a decisive advantage when Fleming won the toss. They had picked two spinners, Wiseman, orthodox off-spin, and leg-spinner Walker, who they hoped would take control as the bare pitch became worn over the fourth and fifth days. In fact, only three wickets fell to spin in the match - and two of those were to Zimbabwe's leg-spinner, Murphy.

It was not immediately apparent that it would have required some literal spadework to extract a result from this constipated surface, though it was obviously suffering from over-preparation. New Zealand lost three wickets in the first 30 overs, before Richardson and the out-of-form pair, Astle and McMillan, slowly put the innings back on an even keel. Slowly was the word: three two-hour sessions saw the hosts score 63, 66 and 61 runs for the loss of only one more wicket.

Astle and McMillan jogged along until tea on the second day. Their stand of 222 was a fifth-wicket record for New Zealand, beating 183 between Mark Burgess and Robert Anderson against Pakistan at Lahore in 1976-77. Astle, so far out of form that critics had asserted this could be his last Test, defied everyone, almost including Father Time, by grinding out his highest Test score, 141 in 549 minutes. He faced 408 balls and allowed himself the luxury of 16 fours and two sixes. McMillan's 142, equalling his previous best, was also unusually circumspect by his standards, though he batted only 311 minutes, with 18 fours and two sixes from 209 balls. By stumps, New Zealand were 475 for six, and the game was effectively beyond Zimbabwe's reach.

Rain and bad light allowed only 29 overs on the third day, time for New Zealand to declare at 487 for seven and for Martin to snatch the wickets of Whittall and Carlisle in an opening spell of 8-6-15-2. Zimbabwe had two days to negotiate. Campbell went early next morning, but Rennie almost reached a maiden Test century, and Flower hit his sixth consecutive Test fifty, which carried him past 1,000 runs in nine Tests in the calendar year. With the pitch so slow and tedious, and the home spinners toothless, Zimbabwe avoided the follow-on when they reached 288 just before the close.

There were brave comments from both camps that final-day declarations could bring about a positive result. But Streak let Zimbabwe's innings go on to 340 for six - five of them to Martin's seam - with Madondo providing a cultured 74 not out. The draw was now certain, and Fleming's second declaration left the tourists a notional 43 overs to score 301. In the 16th over after tea, Wiseman finally claimed his first wicket; the game ended by mutual consent shortly after.

Man of the Match: C. D. McMillan.

© John Wisden & Co