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New Zealand won the toss and elected to field wanting to make first use of the pitch given the overnight thunder showers and overcast conditions which would assist swing. With both games yesterday being truncated due to rain and Duckworth & Lewis coming in to play, Skipper Daniel Vettori felt more comfortable being in control of the chase in the event of a revised target which proved prophetic.
Zimbabwe made two changes to their squad that lost to Sri Lanka bringing in right-hand bat Timycen Maruma and seamer Andy Blignaut in place of Brendon Taylor and Chris Mpofu. They would need to beat New Zealand by 11 runs or more to advance to the Super 8 stage with Sri Lanka. New Zealand, with all their players fit to play, named an unchanged side.
Their openers Hamilton Masakadza and Tatende Taibu had to counter the spin of Nathan McCullum and seam of Shane Bond first up. It was a decent start by Zimbabwean standards as the pair put on 36 runs for the first wicket using the pace of Bond and later Tim Southee to their advantage. Taibu was the first to perish attempting a pull shot off Southee and was snapped up by Jacob Oram at square-leg to bring in the big hitting Andy Blignaut. At the end of the power play Zimbabwe were 54/1 with Oram's first over going for 13 runs prompting Vettori to bring back McCullum. The move worked as a slog sweep by Masakadza found Oram in the deep (on the bounce), who released the ball in a flash albeit a little wide and keeper Gareth Hopkins did well to gather it and throw down the stumps before the batsman could complete the second.
Skipper Vettori brought himself on and struck with his second delivery bowling Blignaut off his glove as the ball clipped the leg stump. Thus began a mind boggling but not unfamiliar collapse as McCullum, in his third over, struck thrice getting rid of Elton Chigumbura, Charles Coventry and Craig Ervine to leave Zimbabwe tottering on 63/6 after 9 overs. Five wickets had fallen for 5 runs in 15 deliveries undoing a decent job done by the Zimbabwean openers as the Kiwi spinners tightened the screws. Scott Styris joined the mayhem getting rid of Maruma attempting a slog over long-on and then bowling Graeme Cremer off the very first ball he faced. He had his third wicket of the over when skipper Prosper Utseya was struck on his pads setting up a hat-trick opportunity for the bowler in his next over. Zimbabwe on 74/9 were in danger of being bowled out with 7 overs still remaining. Vettori drove the final nail in the Zimbabwean coffin when Ray Price went for a big slog sweep and missed the ball completely. Zimbabwe had been bundled out for 84 in 15.1 overs with only three of their batsmen getting into double figures and not a single six hit in the innings! All that remained to be seen was how long it would take New Zealand to get to their target at 4.2 runs an over.
The Kiwi reply got off to a slow start with Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder treating the spin duo of Price and Utseya with respect as the rain clouds began to build. Ryder's natural instinct eventually kicked in as he attempted a slog sweep off Utseya only to top edge the ball to keeper Taibu and New Zealand were 7/1 in the 3rd over. The ball was beginning to grip the surface as an adventurous McCullum scooped it over the keeper's head for four to up the tempo in the company of Martin Guptill. Both batsmen soon switched tactics, running quickly between the wickets instead of trying to slog the spinners over the top and New Zealand were 26/1 at the end of the power play with skipper Vettori in the dug-out keeping an eye on the Duckworth & Lewis equation. And rain it did at the start of the 9th over with New Zealand on 36/1, seven runs ahead of the required score at that stage. McCullum batting on 21 off 25 balls had become the first player to cross 1000 runs and hit 100 fours in International T20's.
But play could not resume as time ran out with the ground staff trying to get the wet outfield ready in time for the next game between England and Ireland. New Zealand had beaten Zimbabwe by 7 runs via the D/L method to finish top of Group B with 4 points and take their rightful place in the Super 8s. The Kiwis are in Group E and are likely to be partnered by Pakistan, South Africa and England, should the seedings deliver the expected results.
Mini Score card:
Zimbabwe 84 all out (15.1 overs, 5.53 rpo)
Taibu 21 (14) Styris 3-5
Masakadza 20 (20) N McCullum 3-16
New Zealand 36/1 (8.1 overs, 4.40 rpo)
B McCullum 22* (26) Utseya 1-21
Guptill 6* (12)
New Zealand win by 7 runs (D/L method)
Also Read:Â Australia vs. Bangladesh Match Preview
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