Rampant New Zealand overwhelming favourites
Match factsFebruary 11, Auckland
Start time 1900 (0600 GMT)
Big PictureHow does a boxer find motivation to keep throwing punches when his opponent is cowering, bleeding and just about begging for mercy? New Zealand may soon know the answer to that as they continue to hammer away at an already ground down Zimbabwe side.
The series ends with two Twenty20 matches. In most years that would be only an afterthought, but with a World Twenty20 to be contested later in September, they do have some importance. As the best performing non-subcontinent team at the 2011 World Cup, New Zealand will want to repeat their strong showing in Sri Lanka in the 20-overs showcase event. They have a rather new look side and will use these matches to incorporate more uncapped players and complete their unit.
Brendon McCullum spoke about the importance of keeping the intensity up. If the one-day series is anything to go by, New Zealand know how to do that. Not content with merely proving they are a better side than Zimbabwe, they have imposed their dominance brutally and seem to have their minds set on continuing to do that.
Zimbabwe are an inexperienced and unsuccessful Twenty20 side. It's not a format they have played in great quantities at any international level, but the popularity of their domestic tournament has meant that all of the national squad have some recent 20-overs game-time. Already the gulf between what they have been doing at local level and what is required to be done on the international stage has proven wide and deep. Perhaps too wide and too deep. While shorter formats are thought to increase the competitiveness between sides, it may not be true in this case.
Demoralised and weary, Zimbabwe will have to feed off their desperation to do well. They certainly have the desire to prove themselves but they have to multiply that a few times to be able to compete with a rampant New Zealand side.
Form guideNew Zealand WWLWW (most recent first)
In the spotlightThere's always a bit of needle when a county plays against a team with one of their countrymen in it and Colin de Grandhomme can expect much of the same. The Harare-born New Zealand allrounder even played for Zimbabwe Under-19s but moved to New Zealand in 2006 and has now qualified for his adopted country. He has performed well in the domestic leagues and gets his chance at the highest level, but will have to brace for some hostility from a severely wounded Zimbabwe side.
Twenty20 is Elton Chigumbura's format, the one where he has the freedom to pay in the carefree manner he appears most comfortable with. With Zimbabwe as down and out as it gets, they may as well give their players the liberty to enjoy the last two matches of the series and play without limitations. If there is one player who will enjoy this sort of approach, it will be Chigumbura. With absolutely nothing but another match to lose, if he decides to make it his day, it could well be.
Team newsNew Zealand have two injury concerns - Martin Guptill has a slight groin strain and Jacob Oram experienced tightness in the calf. Both left the field in the last ODI in Napier but Brendon McCullum said he expects both to be fit to play. In particular, he hopes Guptill can continue because he has found a rich vein of form. Andrew Ellis was added to the squad after Dean Brownlie was ruled out with a finger injury and coach John Wright indicated that he would be given an opportunity. The other two uncapped players, Colin de Grandhomme and Ronnie Hira could debut but will have to contest with Kane Williamson and one of the seamers for a spot.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Rob Nicol 4 Colin de Grandhomme 5 James Franklin/Kane Williamson 6 Andrew Ellis 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Doug Bracewell/Ronnie Hira, 11 Kyle Mills
After axing Hamilton Masakadza for the third ODI, Zimbabwe will likely open with Stuart Matsikenyeri and Regis Chakabva. The last time they played Twenty20s Tatenda Taibu was injured, but he will play. It still allows Zimbabwe to accommodate three allrounders in Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura and Keegan Meth. If both Prosper Utseya and Ray Price play, one of the three seamers will have to sit out.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Stuart Matsikenyeri, 2 Regis Chakabva, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Tatenda Taibu, 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Keegan Meth 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 and 11 Kyle Jarvis/Brian Vitori/Shingi Masakadza
Pitch and conditionsA fair strip, offering plenty for the batsmen is likely to be prepared. Weather in Auckland on Saturday evening should be clear and mild.
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe have only played 18 Twenty20s and have won just three, all away from home. Their last victory came in February 2010 against West Indies.
- Martin Guptill was the top scorer in New Zealand's HRV Cup with 504 runs at an average of 72.00. Ronnie Hira and Michale Bates were the highest wicket-takers, with 14 scalps each.
Quotes"The gap between two teams is always narrowed, the shorter the game. So it means we will have to be more efficient in all areas."
Despite Zimbabwe's poor showings so far Brendon McCullum still anticipates a fightback as the format shortens again
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent