Ervine ton stalls dominant New Zealand
Zimbabwe 305 for 6 (Ervine 115*, Moor 71, Chibhabha 60, Santner 2-102 trail New Zealand 582 for 4 (Latham 136, Taylor 124, Williamson 113) by 277 runs
ZIMBABWE celebrate their heroes on August 8, and in Craig Ervine they certainly found one. His maiden Test ton and 148-run sixth-wicket stand with debutant PJ Moor took Zimbabwe to within 78 runs of avoiding the follow-on. Perhaps more crucially, he frustrated a New Zealand attack that now has a maximum of two days — could be lesser if the visitors have to bat — to take 14 wickets and on a flat Queens Sports Club surface.
In their favour is the fact that New Zealand have discovered the best way to break through — reverse swing. With the second new ball that is more than 30 overs old, they may start looking for it again early on fourth morning. When they found it with their first ball, they made life uncomfortable for the Zimbabwean line-up, who were suffocated with close fields to the spinners.
With just eight Tests under his belt, Ervine, the most experienced of Zimbabwe’s line-up going into this match, played the way a senior should. His approach combined caution with clever strokeplay and ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over. Zimbabwe scored 250 runs on the day, 120 in the final session alone. The dismissal of Moor for 71 in the last half hour lifted the morale of the visitors, who were run ragged after a spirited start.
Ervine was needed after Zimbabwe’s openers — Chamu Chibhabha and Tino Mawoyo — gave the team their best start in 13 Tests, over five years, with a 65-run stand. Chibhabha was lucky to survive a confident shout off a Trent Boult delivery that tailed back in late. There was a bat-pad noise which may have put umpire Paul Reiffel off.
His opening partner Mawoyo appeared to be better equipped to play defensively and bullishly. He fronted up to Neil Wagner’s short-ball strategy before insideedging a drive onto the stumps.
After they were separated, Sikandar Raza, batting at No. 3 in place of the injured Hamilton Masakadza, squandered an opportunity to present his case further. By then, a spell of uncertainty had been woven into the Zimbabwean mindset. For 9.3 overs, Raza looked to have put away his aggressive streak but then drove lazily at a wide Wagner delivery with no foot movement to give Kane Williamson at gully a present on his 26th birthday.
Chibhabha, for all his fidgeting, had shown ability to occupy the crease. He fought his way to fifty and looked like he would see out the opening session. But Williamson’s decision to introduce spin in the form of Mitchell Santner paid off as Chibhabha drove with hard hands to find short cover.
New Zealand could have had one more in the opening session when Southee tempted Ervine to drive, only to see Ross Taylor grass an opportunity in the slips. Instead, they had to wait until after the break when Prince Masvaure brought about his own dismissal as the ball bounced back off a half-hearted defence to hit leg stump.
That brought Zimbabwe’s most assured pair of Ervine and Sean Williams together. While they were watchful, they also cashed in when the bad balls came their way. Williams, fresh off a century in the previous Test, was in sparkling form till he was adjudged lbw off a premeditated reverse-sweep against Ish Sodhi.
After a period of settling in, Moor scored freely, especially off the second new ball, which became available with 25 minutes left in the session. But Williamson, who waited until there were only 10 overs left before taking it, may need to wait a little longer before it brings rewards. — ESPNCricInfo
Craig Ervine celebrates his century during the 2nd test between Zimbabwe v New Zealand in Bulawayo. Pic: ESPNCricInfo