Having beaten New Zealand with a brilliant batting performance in the opening one-dayer, the Zimbabweans would have been hopeful of putting up another good show and stealing the series. However, the Kiwis are renowned for making fightbacks, and this quality of theirs came to the fore again, against the Zimbabweans. Bowling was definitely New Zealand's weak link in the first ODI, but their bowlers made a stunning recovery to lead their side to a terrific win. If anything, the Kiwis exposed Zimbabwe's batting frailties, and in the end, did enough for their batsmen to chase the target down without any pressure.
Looking at the way the match progressed, Zimbabwe's batting collapse, when they lost five early wickets put them on the back foot from where there was no way back for the hosts. The early loss of experienced opener Hamilton Masakadza was a big blow, but Chamu Chibhabha's dismissal after getting a start was equally disappointing. Chibhabha has been in very good form right from the time the India series began. And while he has impressed most, he has definitely shown an inclination to not carry on after getting his eye in. This is definitely an aspect of his game that Chibhabha will need to improve.
Zimbabwe's decision to promote the in-form Craig Ervine was an interesting one. The hard-hitting batsman had struck a hundred in the previous game, but he is a middle order bat. His chances of success when he bats higher in the order may not be that high. Of course, one innings is too little to make a judgment, but in the wake of the batting collapse, they would be compelled to do a rethink. The quick wickets of Regis Chakabva and skipper Elton Chigumbura made matters worse for Zimbabwe. The hosts should also be disappointed that they gave away wickets to part-timer Grant Elliott.
It wasn't a completely shambolic performance from the hosts. Sikandar Raza displayed a lot of gumption to score a century under pressure. It was thanks to him that Zimbabwe managed to put up some sort of resistance. He was well supported in an unexpected manner by Tinashe Panyangara, who proved that batting on the surface wasn't all that difficult. Unfortunately, it was a case of too little too late. The story of Zimbabwe's innings was the excellent bowling effort by New Zealand, after they were completely torn apart by the hosts in the first match.
Ish Sodhi was the standout performer for the Kiwis with the ball. Zimbabwe have always struggled when it comes to spin, and the second ODI was another proof of the same. Nathan McCullum was again economical, but it was Elliott's spell that was the surprise factor. The poor form of Matt Henry and Mitchell McClenaghan remains a concern for New Zealand, but they would be pleased with the manner in which their openers responded. Martin Guptill was due for a big score anyways, and Tom Latham grabbed the opportunity in the absence of Brendon McCullum to make his mark. Overall, a highly satisfying effort from the visitors.
-- By A Cricket Analyst