Bulawayo: A late strike from fast bowler Doug Bracewell put New Zealand in an excellent position on Friday as they push for victory in their one-off Test against Zimbabwe.
Bracewell removed Hamilton Masakadza in the final over of day four to leave Zimbabwe struggling on 61 for two in their pursuit of 366 for victory at Queens Sports Club. Masakadza's loose cut was brilliantly caught by Dean Brownlie in the gully, leaving New Zealand requiring eight wickets on the final day to secure the match after they had declared their second innings on 252 for eight.
Kyle Jarvis became the first Zimbabwe bowler to take a five-wicket haul since their return to Test cricket in August, but it wasn't enough to prevent New Zealand achieving their goal of declaring midway through the final session.
Nineteen years after his father Malcolm took part in Zimbabwe's inaugural Test match, Jarvis recorded figures of 5 for 64, but it couldn't stop the Black Caps from gaining a lead of 365.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor led the New Zealand charge with the bat, overcoming the early loss of nightwatchman Jeetan Patel to add 119 for the fourth wicket. Jarvis broke the partnership when he trapped Williamson lbw for 68, before Ray Price had BJ Watling caught at slip for just three.
Taylor then fell for 76 for the second time in the match when he was also out lbw to Jarvis, who followed up by bowling Dean Brownlie to wrap up his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
Taylor's marathon spell in the heat of the afternoon saw him take 3 for 37 in 10 overs as he used reverse swing to good effect.
"It's a great feeling getting a Test five-for, so I'm happy that the ball came out well today," he said afterwards. Daniel Vettori was dropped off the bowling of Jarvis when he was on eight, and went on to score a quick 31 in just 42 balls, allowing New Zealand to declare shortly after his dismissal.
That left Zimbabwe with 24 overs to face before the close of play, and they very nearly lost Tino Mawoyo first ball of the innings when he survived a close lbw shout from Chris Martin.
Fellow opener Vusi Sibanda was not so fortunate, with Bruce Oxenford controversially giving him out lbw after he'd been hit on the front pad by Bracewell.
Zimbabwe will enter the final day needing a further 305 runs for victory, leaving them with a tricky decision of whether they should go for victory or simply try and bat out a draw.
"I'm very proud of how the guys have performed over the four days, and if we can have a fifth good day I'd be even happier," said coach Alan Butcher.
"We have the capability in the dressing room to bat through the day tomorrow. As far as winning it goes, it just depends on what sort of start we get tomorrow.
"I think we need to set out with the mindset that if we're still batting at the end of the Test match then that will be an excellent result whether it's a win or a draw. I'll take that either way."