McCullum as good as his word

BLACKCAPS captain Brendon McCullum exhorted his teammates to be ruthless heading into the final one-day international against Zimbabwe at Napier.

With the series already in safe keeping he rightly reasoned it was important his side maintain the standards they had set throughout the tourists’ visit.

 And McCullum was as good as his word as he belted his fourth one-day century for his country, a belligerent 119 off 88 balls helping New Zealand compile 373 for eight in the day-night fixture at McLean Park, a total easily defended as Zimbabwe expired for 171 in 44 overs.

The victory margin of 202 runs was the second largest recorded by New Zealand, behind their 290-run victory against Ireland in 2008.

The 3-0 series sweep was completed in clinical fashion after McCullum mixed control with flamboyant aggression to treat the Zimbabwe bowlers with disdain on a fine batting surface.

Batting at No 4, McCullum arrived to the crease with New Zealand at a threatening 154 for two inside 23 overs and he guaranteed a robust total after building his innings before unleashing.

His first 50 came off 52 balls and the second 50 arrived after only 27 more, McCullum  accelerating at will against an attack which coughed up far too many full tosses and wide deliveries which were easily manipulated to the short boundaries square of the wicket.

Dropped at long off on 48, he eventually fell off the last ball of the innings having helped himself to seven fours and five sixes.

The New Zealanders were given early momentum by openers Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol, who put on 153 in 22 overs with seeming ease for the first wicket.

Nicol, dropped on 10, smacked six fours and two sixes while Guptill backed up his earlier series scores of 70 and 77 with another high quality 85.

They departed off successive balls, Nicol being trapped leg before wicket by offspinner Prosper Utseya then Guptill was stumped off a wide by left-arm spinner Ray Price.

Having looked a million dollars in striking seven fours and five sixes off 69 balls, Guptill over-balanced as the delivery passed him down the leg side. He then lost his footing entirely and wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu was quick enough to remove the bails with the batsman striking an ungainly pose on the ground.

The remaining batsmen played their part, with Jacob Oram hitting 25 off 24, Kane Williamson 38 off 40 and Nathan McCullum 21 off seven, including three successive sixes off left-arm seamer Brian Vitori, who leaked 26 runs in the 45th over.

The Zimbabwe response followed a familiar pattern after the fall of early wickets took them out of contention and they were never in the running despite skipper Brendan Taylor scoring his second half-century of the series.

Taylor made 65 off 62 balls before being caught at long on by substitute fielder Colin de Grandhomme, who earlier caught Tatenda Taibu for 26 at third man to give left-arm seamer Michael Bates his first wicket on debut for his country.

There was nothing else to recommend Zimbabwe apart from 24 from Regis Chakabva, caught off offspinner Kane Williamson, who ended with two for 13 off three overs.

Rookie legspinner Tarun Nethula had his first success in his second one-day international as well to finish with two for 41 off 10 overs in an encouraging display while offspinner Nathan McCullum was the third slow bowler to impress in taking two for 21.

The two teams now turn their attention to a two-match Twenty20 series, starting at Auckland on Saturday night.

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