New-look New Zealand ease to win
New Zealand 248 (Guptill 70, Shingi Masakadza 4-46) beat Zimbabwe 158 (Taylor 58) by 90 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Brendan Taylor's 58 was the only resistance the New Zealand bowlers faced, as they bowled Zimbabwe out cheaply to secure a 90-run win in the first one-dayer in Dunedin. Pace and bounce were the visiting batsmen's bane once more, with the New Zealand seamers sharing four of the top seven scalps between them. But Zimbabwe's own bowlers had enjoyed those same conditions, having dismissed New Zealand for a spluttering 248 in the 49th over.
Taylor had spent two months playing in the HRV Cup prior to his side's arrival, and the experience clearly showed, as only he mastered the hosts' steady seam on a lively, green-tinged track. With three batsmen perishing in 6.1 overs, in what seemed a continuation of Zimbabwe's rolling collapse in Napier, Taylor counter-punched with a volley of calculated straight boundaries, while Tatenda Taibu groped his way past early jitters to help erect a 52-run partnership.
The pair first averted another top-order collapse before Taylor began hauling in a rapidly rising run-rate, with boundaries to the leg side and some hurried running. Taibu perished attempting aggression, but Taylor found the rope when he looked for it, hitting debutant Andrew Ellis for two successive leg-side boundaries to close in on a 25th ODI half-century, which he completed in 59 balls.
Zimbabwe's hopes of successive one-day wins over New Zealand effectively ended with Taylor, who holed out to long-off to leave his side at 97 for 5 in the 26th over. Taylor had hit Rob Nicol out of the University Oval off the previous delivery, but the bowler's bravery in flighting the ball once more brought him his first scalp, and all but secured the result.
Malcolm Waller had struck a match-winning unbeaten 99 in the sides' last encounter, in Bulawayo. But rarely seemed comfortable here, and though the tail added late runs and entertainment after his demise, New Zealand simply stayed patient to close out the Zimbabwe innings at 158.
Zimbabwe had repeatedly threatened to derail New Zealand in their innings, but managed only to contain them. The hosts' innings never found fluency following the loss of two early wickets, with regular blows thwarting hopes of a commanding total. But Zimbabwe never closed in for the kill, with inconsistent bowling allowing New Zealand's inexperienced batting order to lurch their side to an underwhelming, but competitive total in spurts.
Martin Guptill's 66-ball 70 at the top of the order was the only notable score for the hosts, as he and Kane Williamson rescued New Zealand who threatened a familiar collapse at 4 for 2. Opener Rob Nicol was undone by a Meth's outswinger on zero, before Brendon McCullum padded up to a Kyle Jarvis indipper three deliveries later, with the ball shown to be clipping the top of off stump on review.
Zimbabwe should have had Guptill soon after too, had they been more patient. Having been stifled by early movement, Guptill lashed out at Meth with a lofted drive over mid-on and Tatenda Taibu saw enough cause in the batsman's first boundary to move up to the stumps. He regretted his decision the very next delivery, when he spilt an edge he would have comfortably pouched in his regular position. A chance that would have restricted New Zealand further and perhaps changed the match's outlook.
Placement and sharp running was the hallmark of Guptill's association with Kane Williamson, as the pair put on 88 to rebuild, then consolidate after early losses. Both men eased runs through the leg side as the Zimbabwe seamers strayed straight too often - perhaps spurred by early success to look for big swing. Guptill's fifty came from 44 deliveries as he punctuated singles and twos with regular boundary blows, particularly to the off side.
None of his team-mates though, could convert starts into innings of substance. Five of New Zealand's middle-order batsmen failed to reach fifty having made more than 15 in not unfriendly conditions. Promising partnerships were crimped just as they sought to wrest the advantage, with an occasionally lively pitch and canny limited-overs bowling from Zimbabwe hauling the hosts back at regular intervals.
Shingi Masakadza bagged 4 for 46 from his 9.3 overs, while Elton Chigumbura was also effective through the middle overs, taking 2 for 46. Both bowlers bowled a consistent off stump line and found slight movement on occasion, as well as uncomfortable bounce and carry to prevent the hosts' batsmen from settling.
Nathan McCullum and Ellis put on 57 at almost a run a ball to reverse a wicket-induced mini stagnation towards the end of New Zealand's innings. But though Zimbabwe dismissed them and the tail without much ado, their batsmen failed once more and New Zealand take the early lead in the three-match series.