NZ debutants shine in opening win
Rob Nicol became just the second New Zealander in history to hit a century on one-day debut as the Black Caps cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe.
Rob Nicol became just the second New Zealand batsman in history to hit a century on one-day debut as the Black Caps cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe on Thursday.
The opener finished unbeaten on 108 as New Zealand controlled proceedings throughout the match, with a 156-run stand in Zimbabwe's innings their only annoyance in the series opener at Harare Sports Club.
Centurion Brendan Taylor and Forster Mutizwa were the stubborn duo, but with no other host batsman reaching double figures Zimbabwe could manage no more than 231 for six after winning the toss and electing to bat first on a benign pitch.
Only six batsmen in history had scored a one-day hundred on debut prior to Thursday, but one of them was Nicol's opening partner Martin Guptill, who enjoyed a 153-run partnership with him as the Black Caps showed just how ordinary Zimbabwe's score was in the conditions.
While Taylor had required a couple of chances to reach his fifth one-day century, the only time that a small home crowd had reason to cheer during New Zealand's opening stand was when Guptill was caught off a free hit.
Otherwise it was easy going, with both openers reaching fifty in good time after they'd cashed in on some poor bowling from Kyle Jarvis at the start of the reply.
Jarvis went for 59 in his six overs and looked a beaten man by the end of it, having failed to bowl one side of the wicket in either of his spells. However he did play a role in the only wicket to fall when he safely pouched Guptill at long-on off the bowling of Hamilton Masakadza.
Without any pressure from Zimbabwe, Guptill's replacement Brendon McCullum was eager to cash in and attacked the bowlers at every opportunity on his way to a fluent 39 not out.
Shortly after reaching his century in 120 deliveries, Nicol had the honour of hitting the winning run as New Zealand coasted home with more than six overs to spare.
The ease with which they maintained their winning run on tour was largely down to debutant Doug Bracewell's opening burst, during which he claimed the scalps of Zimbabwe's top three to reduce them to 21 for four after 11 overs.
Facing the prospect of an embarrassingly low total, Taylor led the fightback with 128 not out and was ably assisted by Forster Mutizwa, who scored his first one-day half-century in two years.
A lack of opportunities was mainly to blame for that statistic, but having forced his way into the national side with a string of impressive performances in domestic cricket, Mutizwa took full advantage of an early summons to the crease as he put on 156 for the fifth wicket with Taylor.
The top order had been guilty of not rotating the strike against some admittedly disciplined bowling from Bracewell and Kyle Mills, and Taylor and Mutizwa set about rectifying that as they gradually resurrected the innings.
Taylor hit just 4 fours on his way to a 66-ball half-century, but opened up brilliantly as his knock wore on and ultimately made Bracewell's figures look fairly ordinary as he clubbed three sixes in the right-armer's final over.
Mutizwa was happy to push the ones and twos on an enormous outfield, and his fourth one-day fifty – but first against a nation other than Kenya – took 85 balls and contained just two boundaries.
He increased the tempo thereafter and added 19 at better than a run a ball before a shoddy flay at a wide delivery from James Franklin ended his innings on 69.
Taylor was pacing his innings to perfection and went to three figures in 109 deliveries, before getting stuck into the final overs to give his bowlers something to defend.
It was never likely to be enough, and the hosts were guilty of sending down far too many loose balls and the resulting lack of pressure made New Zealand's task all too simple.
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