Road to victory after Nairobi has been a long one for Kiwis
It's a long way from Nairobi to Wellington, and it has been just as long between One-Day International victories for New Zealand, but their eight-wicket win at WestpacTrust Stadium tonight was more like the form expected from the side by a discerning cricket public.
The win set up the chance for a great series finale in Auckland on Sunday with the New Zealanders showing tonight what exciting potential they have, if they can get their match requirements on song.
Zimbabwe scored 236/7 in its 50 overs after deciding to bat first and while captain Heath Streak felt it was 30 runs short of what was needed, the innings of 111 by Alistair Campbell, who scored the first century at the new stadium venue, had shown conditions were good for batting.
New Zealand claimed the win with 28 balls remaining. Nathan Astle was 89 not out while Mathew Sinclair scored 85.
Coach David Trist said: "We produced an emphatic all round performance that was very pleasing, very necessary and obviously takes the side forward to Eden Park in a positive frame."
The greatest bonus was in getting a solid start with the batting, but there was much to savour in a tidier bowling performance.
It is 32 matches since New Zealand has managed a century opening partnership in ODIs. That was the first ODI in India in November 1999 when Astle and Craig Spearman opened the innings.
Tonight was only the third time Astle and Sinclair have opened the innings.
It was Sinclair's first half century in ODIs, his previous highest being 19 against Australia, while Astle scored his 25th half century.
Sinclair raced to his 50 from 65 balls, hitting seven fours, while Astle took 67 balls and hit three fours and two sixes.
They recorded the highest opening stand since the 115 against India and went on to better the 147-run record against Zimbabwe achieved by Llorne Howell and Astle at Napier in 1997/98.
When parted at 153, they were five runs runs short of the all-time New Zealand ODI record of 158, scored against Bangladesh in Sharjah by Martin Crowe and John Wright.
It was the highest ODI opening partnership since 1996/97 when Astle and Bryan Young scored 155 against Pakistan at Mohali.
Sinclair was run out when on 85, scored off 120 balls with nine fours and a six. He was in control tonight and looked as free in his strokeplay as he has since his epic debut innings in Test cricket against the West Indies last summer.
A century looked on the cards but momentary hesitation in the running allowed Guy Whittall to gather the ball back in and return it to Heath Streak who rebounded the ball onto the stumps to catch Sinclair well short.
Trist said openers in the past have not taken the time to assess their options and were guilty of being bold and often not thoughtful enough before launching into their assault during the first 15 overs.
Astle carried on to become only the second New Zealander to pass 4000 runs in ODIs. He achieved the milestone when reaching 64. Martin Crowe scored 4704 in his 143 ODIs.
Today's match was Astle's 123rd.
Trist said New Zealand had learnt from both matches of the series to date.
"We respect Zimbabwe and we are pretty pleased to come out of the game with a result like that.
"If we had a greater focus and desire to win then so be it. I don't think our disicplines change greatly and our desire to win and produce good performances, we just had a shocker [in Taupo] and we don't want to go back along that road again."
Skipper Stephen Fleming required order and partnerships from the side and James Franklin and Scott Styris had provided that when taking the ball to bowl at the start of Zimbabwe's innings.
"Later on everyone who stepped up to the plate bowled tidily and used the conditions pretty well and although we didn't quite get the finish right, which has been a worry, there was an improvement in the all-round bowling and the fielding matched it," he said.
Scott Styris was also promoted to No 3 and hit a quick fire 48 off 43 balls.
"He showed that if he sticks to quality cricket shots he's a threat to be taken aware of by all international sides," Trist said.
Styris was regarded as a shaker by the side's management.
"He continues to flatter at times yet we know he's got a lot to offer. We're optimistic about where he is heading," he said.
New Zealand's effort was most notably improved in the field and bowling where there was a greater sharpness in everything the side did. This seemed to set the trend for the rest of the day.