The BLACKCAPS have baptised the latest addition to New Zealand’s one-day international rota in style by sealing the three-match series against Zimbabwe with a game to spare.
Ignited by a high quality 146 from opener Rob Nicol, the New Zealanders racked up a formidable 372 for six at Cobham Oval in Whangarei today before completing victory by a crushing margin of 141 runs.
third highest one-day score on record proved far too much for the tourists, who responded with 231 for eight as the BLACKCAPS took a 2-0 lead into the third and final match at Napier on Thursday.
After rain delayed the start by 35 minutes the Zimbabweans had the better of the early exchanges when only 10 runs came from the opening five overs.
But that was as good as it got for the tourists because it was then all New Zealand as Nicol and Martin Guptill set the tone with an excellent first wicket stand of 131 inside 24 overs.
Guptill was in imperious touch before his fourth consecutive one-day half-century ended on 77 when he drilled a ball from spinner Ray Price to mid wicket where Shingirai Masakadza took a fine catch on the run just inside the boundary rope.
Guptill was again clinically efficient as he dominated the early scoring to such a degree that the team’s 50 came with Nicol on nine, but the latter began hitting his straps then had the luxury of biding his time when the home side promoted Jacob Oram from No 8 to first drop and called for the batting power play from overs 25 through 29.
The 33-year-old left-hander responded with his first half-century since the 2009-10 season, striking 35 of the 44 runs scored during the power play before reaching his 50 off only 23 balls.
He performed his pinch hitting role to perfection to plunder 59 off 28, with five fours and four sixes, before holing out seeking more after having delivered a blunt reminder of his enduring quality with bat in hand.
Nicol, in just his fifth one-day international, raised his second century at the top level during an excellent fifth wicket stand of 92 with 19-year-old Tom Latham before hitting four more sixes to lift his haul to six to go alongside 10 fours.
Two of the maximum strikes were audaciously played, when he fetched a ball well outside off from Elton Chigumbura and planted it over square leg, which was the same destination for a sweetly timed flick off his pads.
With runs flowing at the other end for a large portion of his 134-ball stay Nicol rotated the strike and paced his innings nicely before departing when on the charge in the 49th over with the fifth highest one-day score by a New Zealander.
Latham, too, prospered after being dropped on 14, and showed impeccable timing and an ability to invent as he hit five fours and two sixes in a 28-ball 48 before falling in the final over.
The last five overs produced 86 runs, 25 of them coming in the 48th from seamer Kyle Jarvis.
Zimbabwe, who lost the opening match of the series by 90 runs in Dunedin, were always up against it despite Cobham Oval presently an excellent batting strip offering consistent pace and bounce.
The exercise quickly became an academic one as Zimbabwe’s top order frailties were again exposed, with Kyle Mills, Tim Southee and Oram combining to immediately extinguish any hopes the tourists had of at least challenging the hosts.
Just as he did in Dunedin, Mills collected two top order wickets, including captain Brendan Taylor, who fell to a top edge as the visitors took another walk down Struggle Street at 17 for three after 6.5 overs.
They could not find their way to safer ground either as Oram backed up his blazing performance with the bat to remove Regis Chakabva leg before wicket and Malcolm Waller to an edge behind.
At 62 for five, Zimbabwe were out of the contest, which they acknowledged as Tatenda Taibu and Chigumbura contented themselves with pitch occupation as the 100 was raised in the 30th over before Taibu found the boundary for the first time after facing 67 deliveries.
The little wicketkeeper at least had the satisfaction of finding some form in making 50 off 76 balls while allrounder Chigumbura was more aggressive in making a 69-ball 63 containing seven fours and one six.
These two collaborated in a face-saving 80-run partnership which was broken when Taibu slapped a long hop from offspinner Nicol straight to long off.
Chigumbura followed soon afterwards when bowled by Oram, who completed an outstanding match double by taking three for 29 off his 10 overs.
Shingirai Masakadza, with a brisk 38, and Prosper Utseya, 27 not out, saw Zimbabwe past 200 with a stand of 64 for the eighth wicket but the only consolation for the visitors was the fact they managed to see out their 50 overs.