ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Group A, World cup 2011, Ahmedabad
A match vital to quarter-final aspirations
March 3, 2011
March 4, Ahmedabad
Start time 09.30 local time (0400 GMT)
The Big Picture
The World Cup so far has been a tale of two groups. The teams comprising Group B have played five entertaining matches, bringing the tournament alive and adding intrigue. Group A, on the other hand, has been soporific, filled with one-sided contests decided early in the piece. It's crying out for some life, some drama. On Wednesday, two of its more nuggety teams will attempt to give it some at Motera.
New Zealand and Zimbabwe are ranked fourth and fifth in Group A. The first three teams, in all probability, are quarterfinal certainties. The last two don't have a prayer. New Zealand and Zimbabwe are level on points with one victory and one defeat each, separated only by net run-rate. Though Daniel Vettori's men will go into Friday's game as favourites - only because the majority doesn't fancy an upset - this is Zimbabwe's best chance. Floor New Zealand tomorrow and a knockout berth is tangible, with the hapless Kenyans in store. Lose, and the dream of qualification all but goes up in smoke.
The situation is similar for New Zealand as well, for they have been in wretched form against tough opponents. Beating Zimbabwe - as they are expected to - will leave them needing, in all probability, only one more victory with a game against Canada in hand. Slip, and they'll have to beat either Sri Lanka or Pakistan to make it past the group stage. New Zealand's quarter-final qualification would have either got much easier, or that much harder by this time tomorrow evening.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: LWWLL
Watch out for...
In Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe possess a slow-bowling attack capable of containing most batsmen, especially if the conditions are to their liking. They had Australia's top-order on a leash for the first half of their innings. That performance was at Motera as well. Price, if tested strategies are used, will bowl darts with the new ball. Martin Guptill, New Zealand's opener, is less at ease against spin. Will New Zealand give Brendon McCullum a new partner tomorrow? Their other batsmen, however, also prefer the ball coming on at pace. They are unlikely to get it. Zimbabwe's spinners will be New Zealand's banana skin, and they'll have to tread on it for a considerable period of time. How much assistance will New Zealand's bowling coach Allan Donald, who spent time coaching in Zimbabwe last year, be to their batsmen?
How long has it been since Ross Taylor entertained audiences with an innings filled with those pulls and slog-sweeps that dropped jaws? New Zealand would dearly love that blast from the past, but they will also settle for an unspectacular, calm and unifying innings from him. In theory, Taylor is New Zealand's most capable top-order batsman but evidence of that has been scarce in recent months. If they are to go far, or even just a step further, in this World Cup, Taylor will need to be substantial.
Chris Mpofu, Zimbabwe's new-ball bowler, was suffering from a side strain and did not train on Wednesday. He did train on Thursday, though, and is set to play. Charles Coventry failed in the first two matches and Terry Duffin is a replacement option, but Zimbabwe are unlikely to use him.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brendan Taylor (wk), 2 Charles Coventry, 3 Tatenda Taibu, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 6 Sean Williams, 7 Greg Lamb, 8 Proper Utseya, 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Ray Price, 11 Chris Mpofu.
New Zealand's selection of Jamie How, a specialist opener, against Australia and then batting him at No. 7 as an insurance policy against the battery of fast bowlers, was questioned and criticised in the media. Especially when Jacob Oram was fit. Given that New Zealand will be tested by spin this time, will they retain How in the XI? The other question is whether Kyle Mills will play, and if so instead of whom? James Franklin failed at No. 5 against Australia and barely bowled. Hamish Bennett conceded 63 in seven overs but took two of the only three wickets to fall.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jesse Ryder, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 James Franklin, 6 Scott Styris, 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Daniel Vettori, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Hamish Bennett.
Pitch and conditions
The Motera pitch is likely to be slow and similar to the one that was used for the Zimbabwe-Australia game. The temperature in Ahmedabad will rise steadily as the day progresses.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand played Zimbabwe last in an ODI in August 2005. They won that by 27 runs. They lead the head-to-head record between the countries 19-7 with one tie and one no result.
- Since New Zealand's one-day form begun to slump in August 2010, Taylor has averaged 24.73 in 17 innnings, with only three half-centuries and nine single-digit scores.
- Price, Utseya and Cremer bowled a total of 96 dot balls in 30 overs against Australia, who were able to relieve pressure by hitting occasional boundaries later in the innings. New Zealand might have to protect against a succession of dot balls.
"This is a must-win game for us on where we go in the tournament. Zimbabwe have played pretty well. We have seen a different set of tactics. Against Australia it was pace, we would see a lot of spin in this game."
Daniel Vettori is aware of what lies ahead for his batsmen.
"It is the most important game for us tomorrow to put us in the running [for the quarter-finals]. The guys have prepared well and hopefully we will bring the positives from the last game into tomorrow's game."
Elton Chigumbura, Zimbabwe's captain, knows how important this game is.