Zimbabwe removed Rob Nicol and Brendon McCullum early, but couldn’t shake Guptill out of his imperious run of form, as he continued to torment them with an array of sweet legside hits punctuated by the odd short-form innovation. A long, languid strike over long-on off Kyle Jarvis in the fourth over was followed by a cute cut that beat third man four balls later, as Zimbabwe failed once more to trouble a batsman whose new confidence and expanded stroke range has dogged them throughout the summer.
Brendan Taylor introduced spin in the fifth over, but the slow bowlers bothered Guptill no less than the wayward seamers who had conceded five wides in the first four overs. Prosper Utseya’s fifth ball was launched into the southern stand, before Ray Price was slapped straight for six, then pulled for four off successive balls in the next over.
Zimbabwe’s woeful fielding did them few favours. Williamson, who was content to turn over the strike for much of the chase, collected his first boundary through Forster Mutizwa’s feet. Malcolm Waller then hoofed one across the rope in the next over, while misfields and overthrows gifted ample runs Zimbabwe could ill afford.
Guptill’s third Twenty20 fifty came in 27 balls, as the pair progressed unflustered. A six and a four off Keegan Meth in the 15th over put the hosts on target, and though Williamson was dismissed attempting a short single on 48, Guptill hit his sixth six and a two to end the game, as debutant Colin de Grandhomme watched on from the non-striker’s end.
Though New Zealand cruised to victory in the end, Zimbabwe’s innings had been a spirited one, as they put on their best batting performance of the tour. Masakadza became the first Zimbabwe opener to breach double figures in New Zealand, with a 36-ball 53 that proved their launching pad.
A heave over cow corner ignited his knock, as two early wickets fell at the other end, before Tatenda Taibu joined him in a 62-run partnership to steady the innings. Masakadza had a reprieve on 36 when McCullum fluffed a stumping chance, but his aggressive intent and busy running advanced the total rapidly before his dismissal brought a mini-collapse in the middle order, as New Zealand’s quartet of spinners kept a lid on the run rate.
Elton Chigumbura was on hand to pick up the slack towards the close however, in a 24-ball innings that yielded 48. He combined with Shingi Masakadza to launch the seventeenth over for 20 runs, as Doug Bracewell missed his length on a small ground that affords bowlers little mercy.
Two successive sixes in the final over pushed Zimbabwe beyond 150, but with Guptill in as spectacular form as he has ever been, Zimbabwe’s first decent batting outing proved far too little.