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February 8, 2012
Match factsFebruary 9, Napier
Big PictureNew Zealand have the opportunity to make a statement as loudly as was possible against an opposition that have been overawed, intimidated and just plain outplayed. Victory in Napier will give them their first whitewash in two years and their boldest statement in that time.
A whitewash against Zimbabwe will have to be measured in its context, and given the cowering nature of their opposition, that context is not very rich. Still, it has served as the best preparation they can get for the main course - South Africa, whom they play in just over a week's time.
New Zealand have used the series to integrate new players into the side. They settled their batting line-up and rotated their bowlers, to toy with combinations and look ready to launch their new unit into action against one of the best sides in the world.
Zimbabwe may be wishing they never left the comfort of Harare but they still have three matches - this ODI and two Twenty20s - to play before they head home. They have not allowed any of their good signs to show on the tour and have been prone to ill-discipline in all three departments. Most worryingly, their lapses in the field are an indicator of how low their confidence has dipped.
Energy and commitment in the field has always been a sign of strength for Zimbabwe and a way to measure how positive they were feeling. After numerous dropped catches - including letting all of New Zealand's top four off the hook in the second match - and misfields it's clear they are distressed by their poor showing.
The only thing they can do is stop it from getting any worse. That does not necessarily mean avoiding defeat but it simply means putting on a respectable showing. In the last match, their target was to bat 50 overs and they did it, they will have to see out the rest of the series with similarly small goals in mind and take satisfaction out of achieving those.
Form guideNew Zealand WWLWW (most recent first)
In the spotlightTarun Nethula has been touted as a potential partner, or even replacement, to Daniel Vettori in the Test arena but John Wright made it clear that he would have to prove himself in the ODI side first. He went wicketless is his first outing, going for 55 runs in his 10 overs in Whangerai, and will want to show his ability to get among the wickets in a three-pronged spin attack in Napier.
The last time New Zealand had thumped Zimbabwe in two matches, in October last year, Malcolm Waller stepped up to make sure it didn't happen a third time. Waller scored a valiant 99 as Zimbabwe chased a record 329 in Bulawayo - their biggest morale booster since making their Test return. He is an aggressive allrounder who is not afraid to hit the ball hard and take the game to the opposition. With the situation Zimbabwe are in now, they will need someone with courage and confidence, two words that perfectly describe Waller.
Team newsLeft-armer Michael Bates finally gets his nod in the final 12, with Tim Southee dropping out. Legspinner Tarun Nethula is likely to get a second match, which would mean Kyle Mills sits out. Nathan McCullum will be back in the starting XI in place of the injured Dean Brownlie, who has a fractured finger.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Tom Latham, 6 Nathan McCullum, 7 Andrew Ellis, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Tarun Nethula 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Michael Bates
After a second opening flop, Zimbabwe may want to tinker with the top two and bring in Tino Mawoyo and the expense of one of Stuart Matsikenyeri or Hamilton Masakadza. They are likely to go in with a similar bowling attack, the only probable change being Keegan Meth in for one of Elton Chigumbura or Prosper Utseya.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Stuart Matsikenyeri/Tino Mawoyo, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Regis Chakabva, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Shingi Masakadza, 10 Ray Price, 11 Kyle Jarvis
Pitch and conditionsDescribed by locals as a "typical McLean Park belter", the strip is expected to be packed with runs. The weather is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 24 degrees Celsius.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"We started incredibly well the other day, so if we can get some partnerships at the top it puts us in a position where we can be a little bit more flexible and try to attack at certain times."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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