T20I series preview: Zimbabwe vs NZ

New Zealand

Zimbabwe and New Zealand meet for a couple of Twenty20 Internationals before the real deal of three ODI and a one-off Test and it's the the latter's new leadership that will be under the spotlight immediately.

Zimbabwe and New Zealand meet for a couple of Twenty20 Internationals before the real deal of three ODI and a one-off Test and it's the the latter's new leadership that will be under the spotlight immediately.

The Black Caps will be led by Ross Taylor after long-serving skipper Daniel Vettori stepped down following the World Cup and the team also have a new director of cricket in former Australia coach John Buchanan.

Vettori is not in the squad which will play two T20Is and three ODIs, but will return under Taylor's captaincy for a one-off Test at the end of the tour.

Vettori said after the World Cup he was no longer available for limited-overs games because he wanted to prolong his Test career.

New Zealand face what is likely to be a more challenging assignment following the Zimbabwe campaign when they start a two-Test tour of Australia less than two weeks after the Test in Bulawayo.

It is New Zealand's first tour of Zimbabwe since 2005 and is a continuation of the host country's rehabilitation as a Test nation.

Zimbabwe withdrew from Test cricket in 2005 at a time of upheaval, which included a player revolt and culminated in the national side suffering six successive heavy Test defeats that year, including two by an innings against New Zealand.

With stability seemingly restored, and leading former players back in the system as administrators and coaches, Zimbabwe made an impressive return to Test cricket with a 130-run win in a one-off match against Bangladesh in August.

But they were brought back to earth when Pakistan beat them by seven wickets in another one-off game last month.

Pakistan's tour, which had the same six-match itinerary as for New Zealand, provided a sobering reality check for the Zimbabweans as Pakistan won every match.

The home side will hope to improve on those performances against a New Zealand team which includes several inexperienced players.

The New Zealand one-day squad includes 11 of the players who took the Black Caps to the World Cup semi-finals but is missing the retired Scott Styris, Vettori and injured fast bowlers Tim Southee and Hamish Bennett.

All-rounder Keegan Meth was named in Zimbabwe's Twenty20 squad after recovering from a mouth injury suffered when he was hit by a ball during an ODI against Bangladesh in August but promising fast bowler Brian Vitori is still absent with a shin injury.

<B>Key Men</b><br><i>Zimbabwe:</i> With no Brian Vitori around, <B>Chris Mpofu</B> will have to be at the forefront of an inexperienced pace battalion at every turn.

<i>New Zealand:</i> The nation's best batsman by a long shot and now with the added responsibility of the captaincy on his shoulders, this will be a big series for <B>Ross Taylor</B>.

<b>Only T20I Head-To-Head Result</b><BR>WT20, Group B: May 2010: New Zealand beat Zimbabwe by seven runs in Providence

<b>Prediction</b><br>Unable to trump Pakistan last time around, Zimbabwe are more likely to upstage an evolving New Zealand unit and will probably squeeze one win for a <B>series draw</B>.

Online betting firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> has Zimbabwe at 5/2 in the <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>betting</B></a> for a win in the first T20I. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Zimbawe:</i> Brendan Taylor (captain), Charles Coventry, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Keegan Meth, Natsai Mushangwe, Christopher Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa, Raymond Price, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller.

<i>New Zealand:</i> Ross Taylor (captain), Graeme Aldridge, Doug Bracewell, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Andy McKay, Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: 15 October – Harare Sports Club<BR>Second T20I: 17 October – Harare Sports Club

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