It is difficult to recall a more ragged looking performance than that in Bulawayo which represented New Zealand's effort in its 21-run loss to Zimbabwe.

Ragged in the bowling, ragged in the field and ragged in the batting.

Despite the makeshift look to the bowling attack, New Zealand should have been able to knock off the 274 runs it needed for victory.

These were clearly the sort of batting conditions teams cry out for in One-Day Internationals, with a fast outfield to boot.

From its position of 189 for three New Zealand was in a position to run home to win and to extend its unbeaten record for the summer.

But the middle-order, mis-shapen by injury and illness as it may have been, choked and what should have been a canter became a calamity.

Zimbabwe was in the box seat under the circumstances, it had the runs on the board, and Heath Streak's tail-end batting was the difference between the sides in the final analysis.

Concern for New Zealand has to be the toothlessness of the attack. Chris Harris' illness denied it a calming influence at the 15-over stage while a changed role for Nathan Astle, which saw him bowling at the death, meant a disjointed bowling effort.

However, the sight of Geoff Allott breaking through the hapless Alistair Campbell's defences on 96 was encouraging. How Campbell must suffer when he gets into the 90s nowadays.

But Allott has had enough frustrations with his back to have no room for sentiment for the hard luck of others. He is a cornerstone of New Zealand's one-day aspirations and as Kiwi bowlers test the supply of scanning machine photographs, or whatever medical people do to look at their subject matter, the sight of Allott taking wickets is especially heartening.

Watching Craig McMillan step into the bowling breach to finish with two for 41 was another comfort.

But if New Zealand is to finish this series in front tonight, and take an element of confidence to Kenya for the fourth match against Zimbabwe, it needs more runs from its leading batsmen and tighter bowling. Seven no-balls and 11 wides add up to 18 extra deliveries for the Zimbabweans to score from.

When the final margin is only 21 runs that statistic alone tells plenty about what New Zealand must do tonight, whoever finally takes the field.