Zimbabwe ended the third day of their one-off Test against New Zealand in a precarious position with the weather looking like their best hope of saving the match. Needing 288 to avoid the follow on, the Zimbabweans were on the back foot at 48 for two when play was called off early due to bad light. Only 29 overs were completed in a rain-wrecked day, and despite New Zealand being deprived of the chance of amassing a total of more than 500, the home side were still firmly in control. “It wasn’t a good day for us, but I’m still optimistic there’s enough time to win the Test,” New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us but we’ll still push on for a win.”
The New Zealand batsmen had only 24 balls to add to their overnight tally of 475 for six. They then declared on 487 for seven after a four-hour delay. The rain started shortly after the midday start and returned about 90 minutes later, eventually wiping out more than two sessions of play. Adam Parore had time to register his 14th Test half century while legspinner Brooke Walker was the only casualty, caught by Henry Olonga to give Bryan Strang his third wicket of the match. Although New Zealand were hoping that Walker and offspinner Paul Wiseman would bowl them to victory, pace bowler Chris Martin made the initial breakthrough. Making his home Test debut, Martin struck twice in nine balls to remove key batsmen Guy Whittall and Stuart Carlisle and have Zimbabwe reeling at 23 for two. Martin first fired a ball through Whittall’s defence and then had Carlisle squirt up a mistimed shot to Matt Horne at short cover who took the catch at his second attempt. Martin ended the day with an impressive two for 15 off eight overs, of which six were maidens. “The guys were very impressed with him in South Africa and he’s continued here today — he’s got bounce and pace and on a very slow wicket he created problems,” Fleming said. Whittall’s opening partner Gavin Rennie was undefeated on 20 alongside former captain Alistair Campbell, on 15, when stumps were drawn 90 minutes before the revised finishing time of 8.00 p.m. Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak would not concede defeat, hinting the team would not simply shut up shop if they reached the follow on target. “If we bat well and positively and declare behind and set it up where he have a realistic chance of chasing, it would be good because both teams will have a chance to go for a victory,” he said. Streak was confident his batsmen could survive on the turning pitch. “Having come from India, hopefully the guys will be in the right frame of mind to take on spin and cope with the pressures of a spinning wicket.”
Campbell and Rennie had few problems countering Wiseman and Walker and the world No 2 rated batsman Andy Flower was still to bat. Streak said the team were wary of the threat posed, particularly by Wiseman who bowled with great control into the wind today. “You can’t take him lightly. He’s an orthodox bowler but he gets in the right areas and our side has a lot of left handers so he is someone we’ll have to contend with,” Streak said.