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Can past exploits inspire Zimbabwe?


Udayan Nag,Cricketnext.com
Jan 25, 2012 at 04:37pm IST

There was a time when New Zealand and Zimbabwe were well-matched on the international scene, even though it was not for top honours on the rankings chart.

Though none of the current squad was present during Zimbabwe’s previous tour of the country more than a decade ago, they would be well served to remember the exploits of their predecessors in 2000-01.

After having drawn the one-off Test in Wellington, then-captain Heath Streak smashed Craig McMillan for a six in the third and deciding one-day international at Eden Park in Auckland to take his side to a narrow one-wicket win and with it, a memorable series triumph.

Can past exploits inspire Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe's overall record in New Zealand is not as lopsided as some of their other records.

In fact, Zimbabwe's overall record in New Zealand is not as lopsided as some of their other records, which are heavily stacked in favour of the opposition against whom they have been pitted. Since embarking on their maiden tour of New Zealand during the 1995-96 series, the Zimbabweans have managed to draw three Tests, while losing just two matches. Of the 12 ODIs played between the two teams in New Zealand, Zimbabwe have won four and lost eight.

This time around, the tour consists of a one-off Test at Napier's McLean Park, which will be followed by three ODIs and two Twenty20 fixtures thereafter.

Recent form suggests that New Zealand will be clear favourites in the upcoming series, keeping in mind that they had the wood over Zimbabwe during their visit there late last year.

But Zimbabwe can take heart from the fact that after being outplayed in the T20 clashes, and hammered in the first match of the ODI series on that occasion, they stretched the New Zealanders in the second game and went a step further in the third and final ODI where they chased down a target of 329.

The Brendan Taylor-led side almost pulled off a stunner in the one-off Test in Bulawayo when they went down by just 34 runs while chasing a target in excess of 350, keeping in mind that the hosts opted to go for the win rather than settling for a draw.

However, New Zealand will be buoyed by their victory over Australia in Hobart, which enabled them to end the Test series on an even keel. The home team will also be looking to cash in on the unavailability of Zimbabwe’s strike pace bowler, Chris Mpofu, who has been ruled out because of a lower back injury.

Mpofu's absence is a huge blow considering Zimbabwe have struggled to come up with a competitive unit on a regular basis since the players' rebellion in 2004.

Even though the numbers don't add up for the tourists as they gear up for the task ahead – New Zealand would be the bookmaker's choice by quite a distance - it will be interesting to assess where exactly the Zimbabweans stand as far as rubbing shoulders with the more fancied teams are concerned.

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