Cricket: Convincing but not easy test win for Black Caps

By David Leggat

The Black Caps cruised to victory with a day to spare.
The Black Caps cruised to victory with a day to spare.

Strong performances in the first two innings of the opening test against Zimbabwe set up New Zealand's innings victory at Bulawayo with more than a day to spare.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, victorious by an innings and 117 runs in his first test in charge, had high praise for his bowlers, and batsmen in what was a convincing performance - if not as easy as the scoreboard would suggest, Williamson said.

Bowling Zimbabwe out for 164, after losing the toss, was the ideal start; piling on 576 for six built on that and that meant they could cope with a more resilient Zimbabwe batting display yesterday and still win with ease.

Lefthander Sean Williams' maiden test century, a terrific 119 off 148 balls with 21 fours, as part of a 118-run seventh wicket partnership with captain Graeme Cremer, put some backbone into the Zimbabwe effort, as they reached 295.

"We were good with the bat, and applied ourselves which was important on that surface," Williamson said.

"We knew we were going to have to work hard and it would be slow scoring at times. To get the score we did and put Zimbabwe under pressure was a very good effort."

"Earlier that first innings bowling, after losing the toss on a good surface, was outstanding by our boys and certainly put us ahead of the game," he added.

Left armer Trent Boult was the most successful of the New Zealand bowlers in the second innings, taking four wickets, but fellow leftie Neil Wagner picked up two, including the last wicket, to finish with eight for 103 in the match, an outstanding effort which man of the match Ross Taylor - for his unbeaten 173 in New Zealand's innings - admitted should probably have earned the Otago bowler the honour.

"He bowled very well," Taylor said. "I'm not sure I quite deserve this. (The bowlers) put us in a good position from the start, and it's nice to have a day off."

It was not until the morning session yesterday, the 10th of the match that Zimbabwe had the upper hand, courtesy of Williams and Cremer.

For the first time in the match, the New Zealand bowlers felt some heat. Williams' range of attacking shots was highly impressive and he took the game to the tourists' after spending the previous two days ill at the team's hotel.

It didn't show, and he batted with a degree of abandon, which was the right approach, given the start of the match.

He was richly rewarded and that was probably the main reason why both Williamson and Taylor were at pains to point out they're expecting a far more combative Zimbabwe side in the second test, starting on the same ground next Saturday.

Zimbabwe hadn't played a test for 20 months, but Cremer was reluctant to use any sort of excuse for their poor cricket in the first two innings of the match.

"I suppose it is tough for us, but we didn't learn after that first innings against the new ball," he said.

"I thought we were a bit soft. Hopefully in the second test we will be a lot more prepared for that."

There's no question New Zealand are the superior team, man for man. But Zimbabwe have to take heed of events during this test and if they regroup well should be capable of providing a sterner test for New Zealand.

"The guys played well but we know Zimbabwe will come hard at us in the next test. There's a few areas to work on," Taylor said.

"The team is gelling well, it's good for Kane to get a win in his first match but there's definitely room for improvement. So hopefully we can freshen up and come hard again."

- NZ Herald

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