Malcolm Waller kept his cool to lead Zimbabwe to a remarkable one-wicket win after chasing down a target of 329 in the third and final one-day international against New Zealand.
Although the series was already gone after losing the opening two matches, Zimbabwe salvaged some pride by recording their highest ever successful ODI run chase, with Waller’s 99 not out proving the key.
Ross Taylor (119) and Kane Williamson (100 not out) had earlier set up a commanding New Zealand total of 328-5, but that proved not enough as Zimbabwe squeezed home despite looking set to fall short with the finishing line in sight.
Zimbabwe needed less than a run a ball off the last seven overs with five wickets in hand and Waller and Elton Chigumbura the not-out batsmen having shared in a century stand.
However, the home side then lost Chigumbura (47), Keegan Meth (nought) and Natsai Mushangwe (seven) for the addition of 13 runs to slump to 308-8, needing another 21 runs with only two wickets left.
At that point it looked as though Zimbabwe would come up empty-handed, but Waller was still at the crease and he helped guide his side back into a strong position, needing four runs off what prove to be a dramatic final over from Jacob Oram.
Waller was dropped off both the first two balls by New Zealand captain Taylor – one a half-chance, the other a straightforward opportunity – and, to add salt to the visiting side’s wounds, he collected three vital runs in the process, although that left number 10 Ray Price on strike.
Price failed to score off the third delivery of the over before then falling next ball, caught by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum off a top edge.
Crucially though, the two batsman were able to cross, and Waller calmly collected a single off the next ball to clinch a record-breaking win for his side as they finished on 329-9.
Waller, who was also dropped by Taylor at slip when on 46, was his side’s hero in the end but Zimbabwe were indebted to a number of other valuable contributions after suffering a dismal start to their run chase when opener Vusi Sibanda was dismissed for a duck off the second ball of the innings.
Skipper Brendan Taylor, who scored centuries in the first two ODIs, continued his fine form with a rapid 75 while Tatenda Taibu (53) and Chigumbura also helped keep Zimbabwe in contention before Waller, who hit 10 fours and one six in his 74-ball knock, guided them home.
Earlier, New Zealand had recovered from 41-3 to set what was an imposing target thanks largely to a fifth-wicket stand of 195 between Taylor and Williamson, who completed his hundred in remarkable fashion in the final over.
A ton looked out of the question when he required seven off the final delivery but a four off a Njabulo Ncube no-ball was followed by three more runs off Chigumbura, who had been called on to bowl the final delivery after Ncube had been removed following a second high no-ball of the innings.
That was Williamson’s second ODI century, to go with a fifth ton for Taylor, but it was not enough to earn their side the win.