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February 2, 2012
Match factsFebruary 3, Dunedin
Big PictureThe last time these two sides played fifty-over cricket was against each other, in October last year. The first two matches were one-way traffic in favour of New Zealand before Zimbabwe chased down 329 in a thriller in Bulawayo, the highest target they have ever achieved, to earn a confidence-boosting victory.
Then, Zimbabwe used the result as motivation to run New Zealand close in the Test match that followed. Now, they will have to pick themselves up after a humiliating three-day Test defeat and prove that the Zimbabwe who challenged New Zealand in Bulawayo have not disappeared.
It will require an improvement of exponential proportions and an understanding of foreign conditions, which seems have eluded them so far. Zimbabwe have had time - time to digest what happened, forget it and prepare for a format in which they should be more comfortable competing in, if only because they have had more experience in it. These matches are their last shred of cricket until August, and to end their comeback summer strongly will be foremost in their mind.
New Zealand are without their captain, Ross Taylor, but have said all the right things about not releasing the brake or allowing Zimbabwe any wriggle room. Known better for being shrewd and crafty, rather than ruthless, New Zealand are looking to beef up their persona ahead of a bigger test against South Africa later this month.
Without going as far as calling this series a warm-up, New Zealand may use it for that purpose. They will put new faces on trial, innovate strategically and aim to develop a unit that they can call close to complete by the end of the series.
Form guideNew Zealand LWWLW (most recent first)
In the spotlightThe battle between Brendon McCullum and Brendan Taylor is likely to be most intriguing as both will play the same roles for their sides. They will captain and also play a key role with the bat, most likely at No. 3. The two are similar in character as natural leaders and Taylor has started to build a reputation similar to McCullum's as a batsman. Although McCullum showed glimpses of his former self in the previous series the two contested, his highest score was 87 and he will want to improve on that. Taylor became the first Zimbabwe player to score back-to-back ODI centuries when he smacked consecutive hundreds against New Zealand in October. His aggressive 75 in the third match laid the platform for a historic win.
Team newsNew Zealand have released legspinner Tarun Nethula and left-armer Michael Bates from their final squad of 12. Tom Latham is expected to make his ODI debut and is most likely to bat at No. 4. Andrew Ellis too, is expected to make the playing XI. The only question is between Kane Williamson and Dean Brownlie.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 4 Tom Latham, 5 Dean Brownlie/Kane Williamson, 6 Nathan McCullum, 7 Doug Bracewell, 8 Andrew Ellis, 9 Jacob Oram, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Tim Southee
Zimbabwe will welcome back allrounders Elton Chigumbura and ODI specialist Prosper Utseya. Whether there is space for both in the final XI will depend on whether Keegan Meth plays and if Ray Price is fit, as Zimbabwe may chose to go in with only one spinner. With Vusi Sibanda not in the squad, Brendan Taylor could return to opening the batting, although he has had great success at No. 3, which may result in Regis Chakabva taking up the opening role.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Regis Chakabva, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt), 4 Tatenda Taibu, 5 Forster Mutizwa, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Keegan Meth/Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Brian Vitori
Pitch and conditionsIn keeping with their new love of seamer's strips, New Zealand have prepared another pitch that is greener than usual. Brendon McCullum said it would be a field-first pitch. It's likely that batting will be tough and the spinners will have nothing more than a containing role to play. The weather is expected to be mild and windy with no rain.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"It's a funny series in that the expectation is that we should win 3-nil. It's how we respond to pressure, and there will be pressure at some point."
"In Test cricket we are still learning, we haven't played too many games since we came back."
Elton Chigumbura says Zimbabwe are more experienced in the limited-overs formats of the game and hope to be more competitive
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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