Zimbabwe need to rally around Taylor
Zimbabwe v New Zealand, October 25, Bulawayo
Start time 0930 (0730 GMT)
For New Zealand to complete an all-round annihilation of Zimbabwe in this one-day series they need to achieve only one more thing - dismiss Brendan Taylor, for cheap.
During comprehensive victories in the first two ODIs, New Zealand denied Zimbabwe's bowlers wickets, scored with ease, benefitted from an extraordinary number of dropped catches, and ran through ten of their batsmen without too much trouble. Only Taylor has stood up to them, twice, with unbeaten centuries that dragged Zimbabwe from despair to totals that could have been defended, if his bowlers and fielders had stood by him.
The third ODI in Bulawayo is the last chance for Zimbabwe's batsmen to find form ahead of the only Test against New Zealand at the same venue. They adopted different approaches in the previous two games but both failed. In the first one-dayer, Zimbabwe's top order tried to be aggressive but lost wickets early and quickly. In the second, they were cautious and slow at the start, but lost several wickets as the pressure to accelerate grew. Both times Taylor bailed them out with assistance from one sidekick. Zimbabwe need for Taylor to be able to launch the innings without him needing to repair it as well.
Though they managed only one New Zealand wicket in the first 37 overs of the second ODI, Zimbabwe's bowlers did create several chances. Keegan Meth, whose mix of in-and-out swing New Zealand found hard to read, had a couple of close lbw shouts turned down, and then their fielders dropped Brendon McCullum not once, or twice but four times. Zimbabwe's out-cricket, which was a hallmark of their tenacious teams of the late 1990s, had deteriorated to worrying standards.
New Zealand have only one area of concern going into the third ODI. Their middle and lower-order batsmen haven't had enough time in the middle. Rob Nicol, Martin Guptill and McCullum have been greedy so far but New Zealand do have a tour game ahead of the Test to give the rest of their batsmen some match practice.
Form guide(most recent first)
New Zealand: WWLWL
In the spotlight
Keegan Meth's return to the team for the second ODI, after recovering from a severe mouth injury, was an impressive one. He scored an aggressive 20 in the lower order before bowling a testing opening spell. Meth has the gift of swinging the ball both ways at medium-pace and the use of a new ball from either end increases his effectiveness. He also has pluck, and Zimbabwe could use more cricketers like him.
New Zealand's middle-order batsmen haven't had much to do in this series. The match was all but won when they got a small opportunity in the second ODI and three of them got out cheaply, giving Zimbabwe the faintest of hopes. It was left to Kane Williamson and Jacob Oram, batting at No. 8, to secure victory. Ross Taylor and co will want to be more clinical if given the chance in Bulawayo.
Fast bowler Chris Mpofu had a poor second ODI, conceding 49 in 7.2 overs for one wicket. Zimbabwe could replace him with Kyle Jarvis.
Zimbabwe: (probable): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt), 4 Tatenda Taibu, 5 Forster Mutizwa (wk), 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Keegan Meth, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Ray Price, 11 Chris Mpofu/Kyle Jarvis.
New Zealand had rested fast bowler Kyle Mills from the previous game because he had a slight groin strain. If they decide to play him, Mills could replace any one of Doug Bracewell, Graeme Aldridge or Andy McKay. Since New Zealand have already won the series, they might consider giving their inexperienced new-ball attack of Bracewell and Aldridge more match practice.
They also played an all-seam attack in the previous game and a spinner, most likely Nathan McCullum, could come in if the Bulawayo surface is slower. Jesse Ryder could return for BJ Watling if he has recovered from his stomach bug.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (wk), 4 Jesse Ryder/BJ Watling, 5 Ross Taylor (capt), 6 Kane Williamson, 7 James Franklin, 8 Jacob Oram, 9 Nathan McCullum/Kyle Mills/Andy McKay, 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Graeme Aldridge.
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe have lost their previous five matches in Bulawayo - four ODIs and a Test. Before that, they had beaten a second-string Indian side by six wickets in an ODI in May 2010.
- Brendan Taylor has scored 235 runs in the ODI series, which is equal to the aggregate runs scored by all of Zimbabwe's other batsmen.
"It was slightly better today but we're up against a good side so it's always going to be tough whatever total you post, then when the wicket flattens out it's always going to be hard defending."
Brendan Taylor after his side lost the second ODI.
"We stuttered a little bit at the end but I think we had it under control. We would have liked to have finished it off a bit more professionally but we'll take the win."
Ross Taylor after New Zealand stuttered ever so slightly before going up 2-0.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo