Clinical Kiwis in cruise control
New Zealand rediscovered their ruthless side as they swept past Zimbabwe in World Cup Group A.
The Blacks Caps followed up a crushing win over Kenya in their opening game with a heavy defeat at the hands of Australia, but a 10-wicket triumph in Ahmedabad today saw them climb level on points with Sri Lanka and Australia in the table.
Although Australia have played one game fewer, New Zealand can be hugely encouraged by the efficient manner in which they dispatched a Zimbabwe side for whom their batting remains a serious concern.
They were bowled out for just 162 today, a total which owed much to opener Brendan Taylor’s 44 and a minor lower-order rally after they slipped to 89 for seven, but one which New Zealand overhauled with more than 16 overs to spare thanks to their highest opening stand in World Cups.
Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum made the most of the patent lack of pressure in New Zealand’s ‘chase’ - the term is used loosely - to compile an unbeaten 86 and 76 respectively, but the greatest credit for their victory must go to the bowlers.
Tim Southee, with 3-29, was most prevalent among them, while fellow seamer Kyle Mills took 2-29 and captain Daniel Vettori 2-25 with his slow left-arm.
“It's the performance that we've been looking for,” Vettori said. “Now we have to replicate that against the some of the bigger nations.
“It was right from the start. The way we bowled, the discipline we showed and the performance with the bat from Guptill and McCullum was what we've been looking a long time for.”
Zimbabwe, who won the toss, never recovered from losing Charles Coventry to the eighth ball of the match, run out without scoring as he tried to pinch a single to Hamish Bennett at mid-on.
Tatenda Taibu, playing across the line, was lbw to Southee immediately after seeing Vettori drop a sitter at mid-off, but it was a rare blemish on an otherwise efficient display in the field.
Mills’ reward for having Craig Ervine taken at backward point was to be withdrawn from the attack, but Vettori, his replacement, struck twice in his opening over, including a wicket with his first ball.
That he was a considerable distance down the pitch failed to save Elton Chigumbura, who was adjudged lbw by Marais Erasmus - and then the TV umpire Rod Tucker on review - before Ross Taylor took a splendid one-handed catch at slip to pouch Regis Chakabva’s edged drive two balls later.
Taylor - trapped in front by Scott Styris - and Greg Lamb - run out after being sent back by Prosper Utseya - perished within the space of three overs, and Zimbabwe were thankful for handy contributions from Utseya and Graeme Cremer as they at least threatened respectability.
The latter made 22 before Mills located his outside edge, while Ray Price and Utseya, who made a doughty 36, fell victim to Southee’s accuracy in successive overs.
“From ball one 'til the end, we were not in the game,” said Chigumbura. “Losing wickets is always difficult to come back from, especially if you lose three or four inside the first 15 overs.”
A pursuit that was never likely to cause New Zealand undue concern began with Guptill taking two fours and a six off the first over, bowled by Tinashe Panyangara.
That was the exception in a largely measured partnership during which both players were largely content to take the easy runs - at least until McCullum hurried New Zealand home with a succession of boundaries, most notably a mighty six into the stand at midwicket off Panyangara.
Guptill, whose 68-ball half-century spanned six deliveries fewer than McCullum’s, completed the rout by driving emphatically over mid-on for four. The unfortunate bowler - yes, you guessed it - was Panyangara.