Jacob Oram, the New Zealand allrounder, has given his team a "ten out of ten" rating for their 141-run victory against Zimbabwe in the second ODI at Cobham Oval, Whangarei. The result followed a 90-run win in the first match in Dunedin and gave New Zealand the series 2-0 with one game to play.
"Dunedin, we were maybe six out of ten. Today we were ten out of ten the beauty of today is that we didn't scrape through with a patchy, scratchy performance like we had in Dunedin," Oram said. "Today was really professional. We just have to nail them [Zimbabwe] again because next week it's the big fish from South Africa."
Oram played an important role in his team's commanding performance, scoring 59 off 28 balls to build a platform from which New Zealand reached 372 for 6. He launched his attack on Zimbabwe from No. 3, a position he hasn't batted at for nearly a decade. Oram said the decision to go up the order was a tactical one.
"It was to take advantage of the wind blowing across to the short boundary and to take the Powerplay straight away," Oram said. "It was not exactly six and out but it was to have some fun and see how we go. I haven't scored the amount of runs that I would like to. I understand the reasons for that. Today was really nice, you only hit a few out of the middle and you remember the feeling again."
New Zealand took the batting Powerplay in the 25th over, two balls after Oram came to the middle, and scored 44 for 0 in the five-over block. It boosted the home team from 132 for 1 to 176 for 1 by the 29th over.
"The start that we had was so good, it gave us an opportunity where we could put them [Zimbabwe] away tactically as well," Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, said when asked about Oram's promotion and the timing of the batting Powerplay. "It gave Jacob an opportunity to get into the game with the bat, which he hasn't been able to do for a while.
"All the stars kind of aligned and, with the short boundary on the left-hander's side and the wind going way, it felt like the right option. And with being able to take the Powerplay at that time again, we felt like we might be able to get their seamers back early. If not, we felt Jacob would be able to tear into their spinners."
Oram aside, New Zealand's innings was anchored and powered by Rob Nicol, who scored 146 off 134 balls before falling in the 49th over. It was his second hundred in five ODIs and McCullum called it "sublime".
"To have been able to play the role that he [Nicol] did, with the way Martin was going at the start, and to be able to get Martin on strike and read the situation as well he did. Once Martin left, he worked well with Jacob and then kicked on from there. It was a brilliant innings. It was Rob's second hundred in not many games and it's shown his ability to step up from domestic cricket. He has a real presence on the international stage so very excited for him.
"We asked a lot of the team after Dunedin. We won ugly down there. But to come up today, start as well as we did. We were brilliant with the ball too under some interesting circumstances."
Zimbabwe were reduced to 17 for 3 in their chase and, after their captain Brendan Taylor fell, they appeared to focus on batting through the 50 overs instead of trying to win. They finished on 231 for 8.
"It's tough from Zimbabwe's point of view. They are obviously low on confidence and looking to spend some time in the middle," McCullum said. "Once they lost Brendan Taylor, I felt they were pretty set on trying to bat the 50 overs and I guess they achieved that, but it was pretty hard to take 10 wickets on that wicket with that sort of mentality. I wouldn't begrudge our bowlers for their efforts in trying to knock over our opposition."
The second ODI was the first international match played at the Cobham Oval in Whangarei, and Oram said the pitch was "outstanding".
"Right up there with some of the best I have played on in New Zealand. It actually looked like a Napier wicket and it played like a Napier wicket. It had bounce and pace. You could just hook through the line. You enjoyed bowling on it, because it gave you a little bit of bounce. If you bent your back, there was something to be had."
New Zealand have already won the series and have a chance to complete a 3-0 sweep in Napier on February 9.