New Zealand Vs Zimbabwe
Starting time: 9:30 am IST
Ahmedabad, March 3: The Kiwis and the Zimbabweans are evenly placed in the tournament so far. They have both inflicted big wins against minnow teams and have each lost, rather emphatically, to Australia. New Zealand thumped Kenya by 10 wickets with 42 overs to spare while losing to Australia by 7 wickets with 96 balls left. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, lost to the Aussies by 91 runs and steamrolled Canada by 175. So March 4, 2011 will mark an intriguing encounter to see which of these two sides will improve their standing in Group A.
NZ leads Zimbabwe by 19 wins to 7 in the head-to-head, most of Zimbabweans wins coming in the period between 1997 and 2001 when the side was arguably at the height of its powers. Since then it has been vastly depleted of talent and experience and relegated to the status of a minnow, while the Kiwis still constitute a top-bracket team.
However, it has been a while since these two teams last faced off in a one-day encounter, the date of such falling as far back as Aug 31, 2005. Since then, the teams have seen pretty dramatic upheavals in terms of team composition. In the Zimbabwean side, just Brendon Taylor, Tatenda Taibu, Charles Coventry and Prosper Utseya remain, while for the Kiwis, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori are the surviving veterans.
So, who will be the key men in Friday morning's encounter? Going by the statistics of the tournament so far, Nathan McCullum emerges the most successful Kiwi batsman with a lone innings of 52 against the Aussies, followed by Martin Guptill who has an average of 49 and Daniel Vettori with 44, followed by Brendon McCullum with 42.
The Kiwis pacemen too have been fairly impressive with Hamish Bennett coming out tops. He has taken 6 wickets from the two matches New Zealand has played, at an average of 13.16 while Tim Southee has managed 4 scalps at 14.50. So the performance of these seamers will be crucial to the Kiwis' fortunes.
Zimbabwe's strong point is their middle and latter order. Tatenda Taibu has notched up a robust average of 52.50 from 2 matches, while Craig Erwine has 42.50. Then Sean Williams, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer have manoeuvered a collective average of nearly 80 runs, whiich could come in very handy in the latter overs.
However, Zimbabwe's primary area of concern will be their openers with Taylor averaging just 8 from 2 matches and Coventry, 9.00. Their spinners will of course be expected to spearhead the attack, lead by Ray Price who has taken 4 wickets at an average of 14.75.
So will the spin of Zimbabwe bamboozle the Kiwis or will the latter's pace prevail?