YOU would have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a re-run.
The setting was different but the plot and the characters were eerily familiar as the Black Caps romped to another big win over Zimbabwe today, clinching a clean sweep of the ODI series.
Three days after batting first, posting 372-6 and winning by 141 runs in Whangarei, New Zealand batted first, posted 373-8 and won by 202 runs in Napier — bringing a predictable end to a profitable three matches.
Just like in Whangarei, a century stand from the Black Caps’ openers laid the foundations for a titanic total and, just like in Whangarei, one batsman ensured they got exactly that. This time it was Brendon McCullum’s century which saw his side compile their largest ever score on home soil, beating a record set as recently as Monday.
The deja vu didn’t end there. Unfortunately for the small crowd at McLean Park, Zimbabwe again made no effort to reach their unreachable target, opting instead for time in the middle. The tourists batted out 50 forgettable overs at Cobham Oval and settled for a similar storyline in the sequel, grinding through 44 overs before, mercifully, being dismissed for 171.
Before the match McCullum talked about the desire to see his side improve in every outing. They did that with the bat yesterday — by one run — thanks in large to the captain’s own blazing innings.
New Zealand may have already had 150 on the board by the time McCullum arrived at the crease, but after losing three wickets in quick succession, he consolidated through partnerships before unleashing at the right time to see his team rack up an insurmountable total.
McCullum was out on the last ball of the innings for 119 from 88 balls, his fourth ODI century, all but ending the intrigue at the intermission.
That conclusion began to be written in the opening overs, as Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol again had New Zealand off to a rollicking start and Zimbabwe were again giving their hosts a helping hand in the field.
Nicol was dropped on 10, and when the openers brought up 150 in the 22nd over the eyes of most fans were fixed on the record books. But just when the cricket almanacs were being cracked open Zimbabwe struck a double blow, with Nicol trapped in front by Prosper Utseya for 63 and Guptill stumped for 85 the very next ball.
After Jacob Oram played on when on 25, McCullum and Kane Williamson continued the inexorable march toward a formidable total with an 84-run partnership. Nathan McCullum joined his brother at the crease when Williamson (38) missed was given out LBW, and the pair brought up the New Zealand 300 in the 45th over.
Aside from Brendon Taylor’s well-made 65, there was little for Zimbabwe to shout about with the bat as they showed few signs of progress made during the tour. Their innings petered out tamely, though they may claim time at the crease will be of benefit when the two-match Twenty20 series starts in Auckland on Friday. — APNZ.