Discipline with the ball and aggressive leadership from captain Brendon McCullum have seen New Zealand secure an emphatic victory over Zimbabwe in their three-match one-day series opener today.
The BLACKCAPS outclassed the tourists by 90 runs at University Oval in Dunedin to take a 1-0 series lead into the second game at Whangarei on Monday.
Defending their 248 in 48.3 overs, the New Zealanders had plenty of room to spare as they dismissed Zimbabwe for 158.
The tourists began their response in nervous fashion as veteran seamer Kyle Mills struck two early blows to help reduce them to 15 for three and when Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor later proved a thorn in their side his opposite McCullum turned to his slow bowlers to unsettle his momentum.
Having employed three slips and a man under the helmet in the early stages as Taylor and Tatenda Taibu cautiously looked to repair the damage, McCullum entrusted offspinner Rob Nicol with ending Taylor’s spikey resistance midway through the innings.
The tactic worked a treat, with Taylor accepting the invitation to use a strong tailwind to help hit Nicol over the ropes. But he attempted to repeat the stroke one ball later and was caught just inside the boundary at long off by Andrew Ellis.
It ended a fine innings of 58 off 68 balls, with eight fours and one six all around the ground, and reduced Zimbabwe to 97 for five, from which they never recovered.
The New Zealanders were seldom kept waiting although Taylor and Taibu did put on a stand of 52 for the fourth wicket before Taibu became seamer Ellis’ first one-day international wicket when caught at mid off for 20 by Kane Williamson.
Outside of Taylor, Taibu and later Ray Price, who made 26 not out in his 100th one-day international, Zimbabwe offered little and they perished in 41.1 overs after Nicol cleaned up the tail to finish with career best figures of four for 19 off 25 balls in his fourth appearance at this level.
Mills also enjoyed his work in taking three for 26 off eight overs.
The New Zealander had earlier produced an unconvincing batting display once they were inserted by the tourists in coolish, blustery conditions which remained for the duration of the match.
After at times threatening to top 280 they failed to see out their overs as the Zimbabwe seamers, in particular, largely performed well on a pitch offering some encouragement.
Opener Martin Guptill was the only batsman to prosper for any concerted period, his excellent 70 helping make up for the cheap dismissals of his partner Nicol and Brendon McCullum inside the opening two overs.
Nicol was nicked out trying to force Keegan Meth through the off side then McCullum shouldered arms to a ball from Kyle Jarvis which nipped back to trap him leg before wicket.
Guptill and Kane Williamson did a good job to turn things around as the BLACKCAPS passed 50 in the 10th over with Guptill making it look easy as he worked the ball crisply off his pads.
These two put on 88 for the third wicket at a good clip before Williamson departed for 35 off 53 balls when seamer Shingirai Masakadza induced a leading edge and dived forward to accept the return catch.
Guptill was the next to go in the 25 over at 130 for four. After striking nine fours in 66 balls, he was undone by an excellent delivery from Elton Chigumbura which pierced his defences before hitting middle stump.
While the hosts were scoring at a more than passable rate by this stage wickets were already an issue and it remained that way for the rest of the innings as the Zimbabweans had a habit of taking a wicket just when the BLACKCAPS were primed to step it up a level.
A series of handy contributions followed but there was nothing of substance as newcomers Tom Latham scored 24 off 33, Dean Brownlie 19 off 28 before being run out and fellow Cantabrian Ellis 33 off 30.
Latham’s debut innings featured a couple of forceful square drives through the off as well as a sweet sweep for four off left-arm spinner Ray Price, while Ellis was particularly adroit at using deflections to keep the runs ticking over.
Natham McCullum chipped in as well with 30 off 42 but he was bowled by Masakadza in the 45th over, leaving the tailenders to use up as many of the available overs as possible.
Masakadza was the most successful bowler, showing good variety battling into the wind en route to figures of four for 46 off 9.3 overs while Jarvis impressed also with his two for 41 off nine and Chigumbura warranted respect in taking two for 46 off 10.