Bulawayo: Opener Tom Latham scored his second consecutive century in Zimbabwe as New Zealand’s batsmen dominated the opening day of the second Test at Queens Sports Club on Saturday.
Latham’s 105 set New Zealand up for a mammoth total and crushing victory in the first Test, and he bettered that score to give the Black Caps a commanding platform.
The 24-year-old recorded his fifth Test century and went on to make 136, before succumbing to what proved to be the final ball of the day as New Zealand closed on 329 for two.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers claimed just six wickets in a horribly one-sided first Test, and endured a similarly frustrating day on another docile pitch on Saturday.
With the seamers lacking in pace, Latham and Martin Guptill had no trouble seeing off the new ball and went on to construct an opening stand of 169.
“We complement each other well,” said Guptill. “Tommy is good square of the wickets and I am strong down the ground.
“We were able to get our partnership off to a strong start which helped towards the middle of the day.
“They couldn’t put enough pressure on us – taking 20 wickets in a Test is no easy feat but this is going to be even harder.”
Guptill was eventually dismissed in the hour before tea when Donald Tiripano snuck a straight delivery through his defences to trap him lbw for 87.
But any joy for Zimbabwe was short-lived, as Latham went on to add 160 for the second wicket with Kane Williamson.
“This is my home ground, and I was having a chuckle with the coach upstairs because Queens has never been this flat ever, in my 10 years of playing here,” said offspinner John Nyumbu, who came into the Zimbabwe side as one of three changes.
“The lack of assistance in the wicket was difficult. We knew it was going to be like that and we knew we had to apply ourselves. We let it slip here and there.”
Latham failed to see out the day when he was caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Sean Williams, but Williamson went to stumps unbeaten on 95, within touching distance of becoming the first New Zealand batsman to score a century against all nine Test nations.
The day also saw Zimbabwe’s fans stage a peaceful protest against President Robert Mugabe’s government when they rose as one at the end of the 36th over to sing the national anthem.
The number signified the number of years that Mugabe has been in power, and the action was initiated by the #ThisFlag citizen movement that has brought stayaways and public demonstrations across the country over the past six weeks.
Their call to action drew the biggest crowd that Queens had seen during the series.