Nicol leads batting blitz as NZ seal series
New Zealand 372 for 6 (Nicol 146, Guptill 77, Oram 59, Latham 48) beat Zimbabwe 231 for 8 (Chigumbura 63, Taibu 50, Oram 3-29) by 141 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand cruised to a 141-run victory after amassing 372 for 6 at Whangarei's Cobham Oval, and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the ODI series. Their mammoth innings was grounded by Rob Nicol's 146, and launched by Jacob Oram's 28-ball 59, with Martin Guptill's 77 providing the early spark. Zimbabwe's thin hopes evaporated when three wickets fell in the first seven overs of their chase, and their innings meandered to 231 for 8 in 50 overs. Such was the magnitude of the drubbing, that in response to a New Zealand effort that featured 29 fours and 16 sixes, Zimbabwe managed only two fours until the 28th over of the chase.
Following a 131-run opening stand from Nicol and Guptill, Oram's belligerence propelled New Zealand's pace from brisk to frenetic, and flattened the opposition. Promoted five spots to No. 3 in a ploy to maintain the tempo, Oram responded with an innings whose violence was reminiscent of his early years. Having taken the batting Powerplay soon after his arrival, Oram unleashed an array of punishing strokes - some of which had been notably missing in recent times. The four towering strikes over long-on were brutal, as were the drives that singed the turf behind the bowler, but it was his inside-out loft over extra cover that stood out.
Nicol's steady progression to a second ODI hundred drew little attention as Guptill, then Oram, and for a short time Brendon McCullum, exploded at the other end. Nicol stayed at close to a run-a-ball throughout his innings, collecting 10 fours and six sixes himself as he set up a brutal finish to the innings.
Earlier, Zimbabwe were guilty of a dramatic slip in fielding standards, missing no fewer than five clear-cut chances after they had restricted New Zealand to 10 runs in the first five overs. Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura fluffed an early run out, where they could have dismissed either batsman with ease, before Oram was gifted a reprieve ten overs later. Two absolute sitters went down - off Brendon McCullum and Tom Latham - and Nicol also benefitted from a dropped chance.
Shingi Masakadza had combined well with Kyle Jarvis to prevent New Zealand from aggressing early. Guptill eventually unhinged the floodgates with two wristy legside flicks off Kyle Jarvis. Having meandered to 5 from 17 deliveries, Guptill looted 46 off his next 27 balls, to complete a fourth successive ODI half-century.
Two sixes - one straight, and another hooked over square leg - punctuated a volley of crisp boundaries as New Zealand flung off the chains suddenly and emphatically. Nicol took longer to warm to the attack than Guptill, but his gargantuan 118-metre hit into the neighbouring rugby stadium signalled his coming in the sixteenth over.
Ray Price bore the brunt of Oram's onslaught after Guptill's fall, conceding 40 off three overs in the middle of his spell. Shingi Masakadza was also dispatched for three successive boundaries, and Prosper Utseya launched into orbit despite Oram's top hand coming off the bat mid-stroke. Hamilton Masakadza created a chance, getting Oram to top edge one towards mid-on, but the opportunity was woefully and predictably bungled.
Oram was eventually caught at long-on when he mishit another one, and though Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson kept the runs flowing, they both holed out while Nicol progressed untroubled. Another giant six into the rugby stand took him into the nineties, before two square boundaries brought him his second one-day hundred. In most other innings, Nicol's knock might have provided both the substance and the impetus for the team effort, but in comparison to his team-mates' savagery, his 115-ball ton was the anchor.
Nicol was joined by Latham as the final overs approached, and the pair continued New Zealand's incredible plunder. Eighty-six runs were scored in the last five overs, 25 of those from Kyle Jarvis' 48th. Six fours and eight sixes came in that phase as Andrew Ellis and Dean Brownlie partook in the flogging.
The bowlers aimed for the blockhole, but often missed their lengths by so much that the batsmen could have dispatched the ball in almost any direction. A last-ball six from Ellis was the fitting end to Zimbabwe's torture.
Early in the chase, Hamilton Masakadza found Dean Brownlie at point with the first aggressive stroke he ventured, before Ellis took a terrific diving catch at third man to dismiss Stuart Matsikenyeri. When Brendan Taylor skied one to McCullum as he attempted to revive a flat-lining run rate, Zimbabwe seemed resigned to the loss. They hadn't even completed the mandatory Powerplay.
After Taylor's dismissal, Zimbabwe opted to spend time in the middle and find some form before the last ODI. Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura hit risk-free half-centuries to ensure Zimbabwe did not suffer their heaviest one-day defeat, nine days after stumbling to their worst Test loss.
Both men departed soon after passing 50, before tenacious lower order batting on a lifeless pitch helped the visitors bat out their quota - some consolation at the end of another difficult day.