T20I series preview: New Zealand v Zimbabwe
Tatenda Taibu owes Zimbabwe a good knock, while Brendan Taylor's side have an opportunity to show some strength of character.
"We've gone up a notch every game in this series. We have been able to raise the tempo of our game and execute better and better in each game, and that was including chopping and changing of the team." – Brendon McCullum, post-third ODI.
This was world's apart from his opposite number Brendan Taylor, who stood on the podium in Napier on Thursday night and was left to stammer his way through an improvised speech. He congratulated the Black Caps, and thanked the sponsors. What he didn't say was that Zimbabwe took it down a notch with every game of the series, lowering the tempo and fielding abysmally.
Taylor shouldn't have to apologise for his team, because he's the one player who has shown some quality when just about everyone else has been incompetent. It's led him to bat with an increasingly furrowed brow, like a man who is not so much looking to stick it to the opposition as prove to his own teammates that it's not as difficult as they're making it out to be.
It's difficult to see things turning around in the two Twenty20 matches, but the least that everyone should expect is some sort of indication that Zimbabwe are trying. Even if they lose, this is a good opportunity for them to show some strength of character.
As already mentioned in a <a href='http://www.cricket365.com/tristan_holme_blogs/story/7498850/A-history-lesson-would-serve-Zimbabwe-well' class='instorylink'><b>separate blog</b></a>, this could start with their fielding. If they continue to drop between two and four straightforward chances every match they will never win, because New Zealand's batsman will punish them and the effect on morale will paralyse Zimbabwe. One man who must surely play is Keegan Meth, whose attitude has been sorely missed.
New Zealand will make late decisions on the fitness of Martin Guptill and Jacob Oram, although McCullum expects both to be available for selection.
"He [Oram] is a bit tight in the calf and Martin's a bit tight in the groin," McCullum said. "With such a brutal schedule, we're a bit cautious with them. I don't expect them to be out at all – it's a matter of looking after them.
"We're going to have to have a look and come up with something with the balance of the teams we want to play in the two games.
"I'd still like to see Martin continue. When you're in that vein of form you want to keep rolling him out there. Jake, it just depends how bad it is but I think it's okay."
Regardless of that, the Black Caps will hand debuts to Zimbabwe-born allrounder Colin de Grandhomme and left-armer Ronnie Hira at some stage, as they test out their options in the lead-up to the World Twenty20. By the end of these two matches, they'll want to have a pretty good idea of their best XI, and their favoured squad of 15, ahead of a three-match T20 series against South Africa.
Allrounder Andrew Ellis has also been added to the squad in the wake of Dean Brownlie's finger injury – Ellis played all three one-dayers against Zimbabwe, but barely had a chance to bat on account of New Zealand's dominance.
<b>Key Men<br>New Zealand:</b> He's currently in a rich vein of form, having made fifty in all four of his innings against Zimbabwe, and <b>Martin Guptill</b> is starting to look like a genuine rival to Ross Taylor in the competition to be New Zealand's best batsman of this generation. If he's fit, expect more runs.
<b>Zimbabwe:</b> Brendan Taylor will bat well – we know this. What he dearly needs though is for someone, <i>anyone</i>, to support him. <b>Tatenda Taibu</b> showed glimpses of form in the third one-dayer, and quite frankly he owes Zimbabwe some runs. As the most experienced member of the side Taibu should be expected to lead the younger players and make key contributions, but a crucial knock in the Bangladesh Test aside, it's difficult to remember when he's done that.
<b>Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>October 2011: New Zealand won by 34 runs in Harare<br>October 2011: New Zealand won by 10 wickets in Harare<br>May 2010: New Zealand won by seven runs in Guyana (WT20)
<b>Prediction</b><br><b>New Zealand</b> to win 2-0. No worries bro.
<a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Online betting</B></a> firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> have New Zealand at 1/7 to win the series and Zimbabwe at 9/2. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>cricket betting</B></a>.
<b>Squads<br>New Zealand:</b> Brendon McCullum (capt), Michael Bates, Doug Bracewell, Andrew Ellis, Colin de Grandhomme, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Kane Williamson.
<b>Zimbabwe:</b> Brendan Taylor (capt), Regis Chakabva, Elton Chigumbura, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingirai Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Keegan Meth, Forster Mutizwa, Raymond Price, Tatenda Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller.
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: Auckland, 11 February<br>Second T20I: Hamilton, 14 February
Kisma News: Hardik Pandya’s reasoning for excluding Umran Malik and Sanju Samson
Going into the T20I series against New Zealand, most Indian fans expected bench players would be given more significant opportunities…
Jofra Archer determined to keep playing Test cricket for England
After an 18-month injury nightmare, the fast bowler is two days into his comeback match in Abu Dhabi.
Glenn McGrath concerned over ODI cricket’s future after seeing almost-empty MCG
Just over 4,000 fans attended Australia’s third ODI against England.
Kisma News: Mohammed Siraj did his best to cement his place in Team India against New Zealand
India’s tour of New Zealand was a series that served little to no purpose for either side except for keeping up bilateral ties…
Jon Lewis: England are ready to grow wings and fly
Lewis was appointed as Lisa Keightley’s replacement last week.
Jofra Archer back in action as Lions warm-up England Test team for Pakistan tour
Archer has not played competitively for 18 months due to longstanding elbow problems and a stress fracture of the lower back.
Teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed added to England squad for Pakistan Test tour
The 18-year-old could become England’s youngest ever men’s Test cricketer if selected in Rawalpindi, Multan or Karachi.
Matthew Mott believes Dawid Malan can make his way into World Cup defence
Malan was one of the few positives to emerge from England’s 3-0 ODI series whitewash defeat to Australia.
Justin Langer hits out at ‘cowards’ in Australia squad for media leaks
Langer departed in February after being offered only a six-month contract extension.
Flat finish and schedule strife – what we learnt from Australia vs England ODI series?
The T20 World Cup champions suffered a 3-0 loss to Australia.