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The Preview by Dustin Silgardo
October 16, 2011
The Big Picture
The heady heights of a Test win must be a distant memory for Zimbabwe, even though it was only two months ago that they beat Bangladesh in their comeback Test. They have now lost nine international games on the trot and are coming to terms with what looks like it will be a long, hard slog to prove they are worthy of Test status.
Though they are inexperienced at Twenty20 cricket, this may be the format most likely to provide Zimbabwe rare wins against Test-playing nations. The brevity of the game means there is not much time for a better side to make the difference in quality count, and an individual performance or a single phase of play can often be enough for an underdog to cause an upset.
Zimbabwe's problem in Twenty20 cricket seems to be the inability to get off to quick starts with the bat. They had an opportunity to beat Pakistan after they kept them to 141 in Harare during the recent home series, but the top order floundered and left the middle order too much to do.
From the strength of the side New Zealand put out in the first Twenty20 international it is clear they are not treating this series as one to test new players; not surprising considering their embarrassing 0-4 defeat to Bangladesh just a year ago. They have beaten Zimbabwe by 10 wickets in both their last two encounters, the first being in the World Cup, but even if Zimbabwe do break through the opening pair, a middle order featuring Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder and James Franklin looks imposing.
With Brian Vitori out injured, 22-year-old Kyle Jarvis has been entrusted with being Zimbabwe's spearhead. Spin is Zimbabwe's strength at home but if Jarvis can provide a couple of early strikes it will make Ray Price and Prosper Utseya's task easier. Jarvis will have to quickly forget the 32-runs-in-three-overs mauling he was subjected to on Saturday.
Brendon McCullum grabbed the headlines in the first Twenty20 with his 81 off 46 balls, but his brother Nathan McCullum once again showed why he is fast becoming one of New Zealand's most-important players in the limited-overs formats. With Daniel Vettori having retired from the shorter formats, Nathan McCullum is New Zealand's lead spinner, and this tour is a chance for him to adapt to that role.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch for the first Twenty20, at the same ground, was flat, and Zimbabwe's score of 123 was well under-par. Brendan Taylor had said at the toss his side were aiming at 160, but the way the New Zealand openers went about things, even that may have fallen well short. Pakistan smashed 198 in a Twenty20 here in September, and with the weather in Harare surprisingly cool for this time of year, conditions should be good for batting.
Zimbabwe went in with just three specialist bowlers in the first T20I, and after their part-time seamers went for 58 runs off five overs, they may consider bringing in either Chris Mpofu or Keegan Meth for a batsman. Tatenda Taibu did not recover from an earlier injury in time for the first game, while Vusi Sibanda missed the first T20 as his mother died on the morning of the game. Taibu, if he is fit, will replace Regis Chakabva.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt), 4 Forster Mutizwa, 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Regis Chakabva/ Tatenda Taibu (wk), 8 Keegan Meth, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Ray Price, 11 Kyle Jarvis
New Zealand should go in with the same side, with 21-year-old allrounder Doug Bracewell getting another chance after making his international debut on Saturday.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jesse Ryder 4, Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson, 6 James Franklin, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Luke Woodcock
Stats and trivia
"I thought we batted poorly, there were just too many dot balls and in the end 123 was never going to be enough to trouble New Zealand."
Alan Butcher, the Zimbabwe coach, points out the reasons for Zimbabwe's loss in the series opener
"When you have been out of cricket for so long, the way we backed up the bowlers in the field was excellent."
Ross Taylor, New Zealand's captain, appreciated his players' efforts six months after their last international game
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