Malcolm Waller hit an unbeaten 99 to steer Zimbabwe to their highest winning total, and seal the third and final one-day international cricket match against New Zealand by one wicket at Queens Sports Club on Tuesday.
Dropped three times by New Zealand skipper, Ross Taylor, Waller stuck to his guns as wickets were falling around him, to hit the winning run as Zimbabwe lost the series 2-1.
Man-of-the-Series Brendan Taylor scored 75 and Tatenda Taibu added 53 to keep the run-chase alive, leading to the one-wicket win with one run remaining.
Zimbabwe’s two big-hitting all-rounders Chigumbura and Waller came good, with a 112-run sixth-wicket partnership to end a 12-match losing streak across formats.
On a flat pitch in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s batsmen Waller, in particular, showed immense character to chase a total of more than 300 for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history and stave off a clean sweep in the series.
Captain Taylor set them on the right track with an aggressive 75 off 65 balls before Taibu’s feisty fifty kept the momentum going. Waller and Chigumbura came together at the start of the 31st over, with 146 runs required to win and crafted a match-winning partnership.
They batted themselves in, took on the spinners — Nathan McCullum and Rob Nicol — capitalised on anything on a length or too full and left New Zealand’s bowlers wondering how many more runs they needed to work with.
The chase was punctuated with twists and after Chigumbura and Waller brought the target down to less than a run a ball, Chigumbura was bowled by Jacob Oram, swinging down the wrong line.
He left Waller to marshal the lower order, a task he completed with distinction.
Earlier, Ross and Kane Williamson hit aggressive centuries as New Zealand racked up 328-5, putting the Black Caps on course for a 3-0 series sweep.
Skipper Ross (119) and Williamson (100 not out) rescued New Zealand from a precarious position after it had slipped to 41-3 in 7,1 overs.
The pair shared a 195-run fifth wicket partnership, punishing Zimbabwe’s loose bowling that fell away after an improved fielding performance by the hosts early on.
Taylor was bowled by seamer Njabulo Ncube in the last over, but Williamson scrambled to his century off just 69 balls by forcing three runs off the last delivery of the innings — which was re-bowled after a no-ball, giving Williamson a chance at his century.
Williamson lofted a shot over mid-off and toward the boundary, ran three and slid in at the non-striker’s end to just make his ground.
Ncube was Zimbabwe’s best bowler on his debut with 3-69, but Zimbabwe wasted three early strikes as Ross and Jesse Ryder (53), rebuilt with an 83-run stand before Ross and Williamson took the game away from the Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe has lost its last seven one-day internationals and faces a stern batting test to avoid a series whitewash. New Zealand also won the two Twenty20 games. The teams will play a one-off test in Bulawayo starting November 1.