Toothless Zimbabwe there for the taking
Zimbabwe v New Zealand, October 20, Harare
Start time 0930 (0730 GMT)
Can a wicket-taking bowler from Zimbabwe please stand up? New Zealand have so far faced a little over 31 overs on tour and clattered 314 for three wickets, one of which came courtesy a run-out. The Zimbabwean attack has been the epitome of toothlessness, at the risk of sounding insensitive to Keegan Meth fans. With the competition shifting to the 50-overs format, the tourists can afford to slacken the pace of their accumulation. However, there will be no let-up in their appetite for runs, unless Zimbabwe can conjure some incisiveness.
It isn't surprising that these teams have clashed only 29 times in ODIs. While both sides frequently figured in the glut of meaningless tri-series in the late 90s, organisers seldom found space to accommodate both in the same tournament. It has been more than ten years since their last bilateral series as well, a period in which they have clashed a mere four times. The last of those games was in the World Cup, when New Zealand emerged easy victors. Ominously for Zimbabwe supporters, the margin of victory in that game was ten wickets.
Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill were in pristine form in that match, as they have been in the Twenty20s here. McCullum in particular has shown a propensity to launch sixes into the stands and trees surrounding the Harare Sports Club. Given Zimbabwe's bowling woes, the ODI series should help him further his reputation for minnow-bashing.
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New Zealand: LWLWW
In the spotlight
A dose of Ray Price's aggression will go a long way towards lifting Zimbabwe on the field. Armed with the mind of a fast bowler, Price trots in and lets the ball grip and rip, before breaking into the most exaggerated follow-through for a spinner since Brad Hogg's retirement. Given the carnage his team-mates endured, Price escaped relatively unhurt in the Twenty20s, but he will have wickets on his mind when the ODIs begin.
Jacob Oram's fairytale return from knee surgery in August 2010 has lasted longer than even he would have imagined. Oram initially expected to sign off with the World Cup, a tournament where he gave his all, most famously in the quarter-final shocking of South Africa. He hasn't batted so far in Zimbabwe, but expect him to unleash his trademark swings to midwicket when he gets in. Zimbabwe will find his wobblers from ten paces tough to get away as well.
Zimbabwe will be anxious to have Tatenda Taibu back after injury kept him out of the Twenty20s. Vusi Sibanda, too, missed the Twenty20-leg, bereaved by his mother's death, but is expected to return at the top. Zimbabwe juggled the batting line-up around in an attempt to find stability, but the lower order misfired in both games. A lack of options, though, might prevent them from making too many changes. Meth could come in for Charles Coventry, who isn't in the ODI squad.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt), 4 Chamu Chibhabha, 5 Tatenda Taibu/Regis Chakabva (wk), 6 Forster Mutizwa, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Keegan Meth, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Ray Price, 11 Kyle Jarvis
Kyle Mills is likely to reclaim his spot in the XI from Graeme Aldridge, who went for 45 runs in four overs on debut. The No. 5 slot will be a toss-up between Rob Nicol and Kane Williamson who both played a Twenty20 each, but were denied the chance to bat by the top order.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 Jesse Ryder 4, Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson/Rob Nicol, 6 James Franklin, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Luke Woodcock
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe have won seven and lost 20 of the 29 ODIs between these sides
- With 192 ODI appearances, Brendon McCullum is the seventh most-capped New Zealand player
"To get over 100 two games in a row sets a benchmark. Brendon and Guppy [Guptill] batted sensibly and complemented each other very well."
Ross Taylor will expect his opening pair to continue to meet their lofty standards
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo