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Brilliant Ervine, Moor anchor Zimbabwe fightback

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Zimbabwe enjoyed their most satisfying day of the series yet against New Zealand on the third day of the second Test match at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. Chiefly responsible for this was the left-handed Craig Ervine, who batted magnificently to score his first Test century, with great support from PJ Moor in an outstanding sixth-wicket partnership of 148 runs.

They came together with the total at 147 for five wickets, and just doubled that score before Moor fell for a creditable 71. This enabled Zimbabwe to finish the day with a score of 305 for six wickets, an outstanding fightback.

Zimbabwe had resumed their first innings in the morning at 55 without loss, thanks to the fighting opening partnership by Tino Mawoyo and Chamu Chibhabha, who batted safely through the entire final session the previous evening.

They nearly lost Chibhabha to the second ball of the day, lbw to Trent Boult; the umpire gave it not out, however, and Zimbabwe would certainly be relieved that, after suffering probably four umpiring errors in the first Test, this decision had gone their way.

After 25 minutes, however, the first wicket fell, as Mawoyo, trying rather too late to shoulder arms to a ball from Tim Southee just outside his off stump, knocked it on to his stumps via the inside edge.

He had played a most valuable and determined innings of 26, which came off 109 balls, and Zimbabwe were 65 for one.

A few minutes later Chibhabha reached his maiden Test fifty, which came off 128 balls.

Sikandar Raza, batting at number three for Zimbabwe for the first time, failed to get going.  He struggled to 3 off 30 balls, and then, perhaps expecting one of the usual bouncers from Neil Wagner, instead slashed at a well-pitched ball and was caught in the gully.

Drinks were taken at this point, with the score 83 for two.

Ervine came in next, and was missed off a difficult chance in the slips when he had scored a single.  But he survived to play a sound, patient innings, punishing the loose ball well when it came.

Zimbabwe would have been well placed at lunch had Chibhabha not driven  uppishly at a ball from the left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, and Kane Williamson, at short extra cover, dived full-length to take a brilliant catch.

Chibhabha had scored 60 off 170 balls, with nine fours.

Zimbabwe went in to lunch on 107 for three, with Ervine on 14.

After the break, Prince Masvaure struggled to score 2 off 25 balls before, playing back to Santner, he found the ball spinning back on to his stumps; 115 for four.

The New Zealand pace bowlers were now getting the ball to reverse-swing, making batting more difficult.

For a time Ervine and Sean Williams batted well together, showing good judgment, until Williams, on 16, chose the wrong ball for a reverse-sweep to the leg-spinner Ish Sodhi; he missed a ball too full in length for the stroke, and was trapped lbw.  Zimbabwe were now 147 for five.

Moor looked quite uncertain as he came in to face two spinners on his Test début, but he survived and settled in, looking to carry the attack back to the bowlers.

New Zealand took the second new ball, but runs only came more quickly, with Moor hitting 10 runs off three successive balls from Southee.

At tea the score had reached 185 for five wickets, with Ervine on 48 and Moor 25.

When play resumed Ervine soon ran to his fifty, which took him 110 balls.  He proceeded to hit four boundaries off the next eight balls he faced, and with Moor also aggressive the New Zealand bowlers were suddenly on the back foot.

As the partnership grew, Moor reached his aggressive fifty off 75 balls, while Ervine, taking great care in the nineties, finally reached his maiden Test century off 178 balls.

Both scored freely all round the ground off the tiring bowlers, and unusually there were a few misfields from the normally outstanding New Zealand fielding side.

The partnership finally came to an end after the batsmen had added 148.  Moor tried to pull a short ball from Sodhi, but mistimed his hit and was sharply caught at midwicket for 71.  He faced 125 balls and hit 10 fours; 295 for six.

Ervine did not allow the loss of his partner to affect his batting, and continued to attack with discrimination.

He finished the day on 115, Graeme Cremer had 2, and Zimbabwe, on 305 for six, were still in with a chance of forcing a draw in this match.

Mini Scorecard:

New Zealand – 582 for 4 in 150 overs (Tom Latham 136, Ross Taylor 124*, Kane Williamson 113; Sean Williams 1/62, Mike Chinouya 1/64)

Zimbabwe – 305 for 6 in 120 overs (Craig Ervine 115*, PJ Moor 71, Chamu Chibhabha 60; Ish Sodhi 2/41, Mitchell Santner 2/102)