NAPIER, New Zealand - Pacemen Chris Martin and Doug Bracewell shared 13 wickets as New Zealand bowled out Zimbabwe for 51 and 143 on Saturday to win the one-off test by an innings and 301 runs — its biggest-ever victory margin.
The home side began the third day by extending its first innings to 495-7 declared, then swept through Zimbabwe's fragile batting order in just 28 overs for the lowest total by any team in a test against New Zealand.
Zimbabwe's middle order put up a little resistance in the second innings, but Martin took a career-best 6-26 and Bracewell claimed 3-26 to complete the mismatch and deliver New Zealand the eighth-largest win by an innings in test history.
The win was New Zealand's third in its past four tests — after a 34-run win over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in October and a seven-run win over Australia in December — and was it's first ever test victory on Napier's McLean Park.
The 37-year-old Martin was Man of the Match for his match figures of 8-31 which helped New Zealand dismiss Zimbabwe twice in just 2-1/2 sessions.
The four-pronged New Zealand pace attack took every advantage from conditions which were unfamiliar to the Zimbabwe batsmen. Martin found swing and seam movement and enough bounce to continually trouble batsmen.
Of the 20 Zimbabawe wickets that fell on Saturday, 13 fell to catches behind the wicket as batsmen failed to use their feet or to cope with any lateral movement.
Dean Brownlie was one of the beneficiaries, taking five catches in the slips — four in the first innings — while B.J. Watling, on his debut as New Zealand wicketkeeper, took four catches in the second innings.
The selection of Watling as keeper, after he had played his six previous tests as an opening batsman, was a tactical masterstroke by New Zealand coach John Wright.
By fielding a wicketkeeper who was also a specialist batsman, batting at No. 7, and by promoting Daniel Vettori from No. 8 to No. 6 in the order, New Zealand was able to enter the match with four seamers: Martin, Bracewell, Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Watling scored 102 not out in New Zealand's first innings, resuming at 52 not out on Saturday morning and going on to a maiden test century.
He was only the fifth New Zealand keeper after Warren Lees, Ian Smith, Adam Parore and Brendon McCullum to score a century in a test. Watling also guided the New Zealand innings after captain Ross Taylor was forced to retire hurt on 122 early on the second day.
Taylor suffered a strained calf muscle and will take no part in the three-match one-day and two-match Twenty20 series which the teams will play over the next three weeks.
Watling helped New Zealand add 103 to its overnight total of 392-5 in only 18 over before it's declaration just before drinks in the morning session. He put on 74 in a seventh-wicket stand with Southee (44) which occupied only 11.1 overs and made an early declaration possible.
Zimbabwe then collapsed in the face of the sustained hostility of the New Zealand bowlers. Martin grabbed the first two wickets to fall, dismissing Tinotenda Mawoyo and Forster Mutizwa to set in motion an unstoppable collapse.
Martin, Boult, Bracewell and Southee all took two wickets while Daniel Vettori took the other wicket, claiming his 356th test wicket which lifted him to 16th on the all-time test wicket-taking list, moving him one above Dennis Lillee and Chaminda Vaas.
Martin also prompted the collapse of Zimbabwe's top order in the second innings, taking the first three wickets to fall for only nine runs. Bracewell then took two wickets in the first over after tea to reduce Zimbabwe to 12-5 and raise hopes that New Zealand's 57-year-old record for the lowest-ever test score — 26 — might finally be eclipsed.
But Regis Chakabva played an outstanding rearguard innings of 63 — sharing partnerships of 63 for the seventh wicket with Graeme Cremer (26) and 34 for the eighth with Shingirai Mazakadza (21) — to defy New Zealand for 161 minutes.
Martin finally returned to claim the wickets of Chakabva and Mazakadza and to end the innings. Bracewell's three wickets in the second innings gave him 21 wickets from only three test appearances to date.