Dunedin: Allrounder Rob Nicol took four wickets as New Zealand bowled out Zimbabwe for 158 on Friday to win the first of three one-day internationals by 90 runs.
Nicol atoned for his duck when opening New Zealand's innings by putting in an outstanding bowling performance which helped the hosts skittle Zimbabwe in 41.1 overs at University Oval.
Nicol's opening partner Martin Guptill anchored the New Zealand innings with his knock of 70 and the allrounder's apparently innocuous off-spin bowling helped to destabilize Zimbabwe's reply. Veteran paceman Kyle Mills had earlier removed the top of the Zimbabwe lineup and finished with three wickets.
New Zealand's Doug Bracewell bowls in the first ODI against Zimbabwe in Dunedin. (AFP)
Captain Brendan Taylor top-scored for Zimbabwe with 58 from 68 balls and put on 52 for its fourth wicket with wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu (20). But the pair were the best hope of the Zimbabwe innings and when they were out — Taibu with the total at 67, Taylor at 97 — the innings steadily dwindled.
A partnership of 34 for the ninth wicket between the veteran Ray Price — playing his 100th one-day international — and Keegan Meth added 34 but that was the last show of defiance from Zimbabwe.
Price finished 26 not out while Nicol took 4-19 from 4.1 overs and Mills 3-26 from eight overs.
Mills dismissed Stuart Matsikenyeri with the last ball of the opening over and, after Matsikenyeri's opening partner Hamilton Masakadza was run out for 7, he then removed Regis Chakabva to leave Zimbabwe 15-3 in the seventh over.
Taylor and Taibu gave the total some substance, occupying the crease for more than 13 overs. But, when Taibu was out in the 20th over, the visitors' progress was too slow to really threaten New Zealand. At the midpoint of its innings, Zimbabwe was 91-4 and already New Zealand's moderate total seemed unreachable.
Nicol removed Taylor, Malcolm Waller for 12, Meth for 10 and Kyle Jarvis for two to achieve his best international bowling figures.
Earlier, Shingirai Masakadza took 4-46 in a display of controlled medium pace bowling as Zimbabwe held to New Zealand to what seemed an attainable total after winning the toss and electing to bowl.
Masakadza toiled into a strong wind for 9.3 overs as Zimbabwe bowled out New Zealand in the 49th over of its innings on a greenish pitch.
New Zealand lost its first two wickets for four runs in the first eight balls of the innings. But Guptill's innings of 70 and his 88-run partnership with Kyle Williamson lifted New Zealand to 92-3 and gave its innings a foundation.
Elton Chigumbura captured the wickets of Guptill and debutant Tom Latham (24) and Masakadza rolled through the middle order to leave Zimbabwe a competitive target.
Mixing a well-disguised slower ball with deliveries that sometimes surprised the batsmen with pace and bounce, Masakadza helped Zimbabwe put the brakes on New Zealand's scoring after Guptill's dominant innings.
Guptill had reached his half century — his 13th in one-day internationals — in 82 minutes from only 44 balls with seven fours. He played some outstanding shots down the ground as he re-established New Zealand's innings after the loss of Nicol to the fifth ball of the innings and captain Brendon McCullum (3) to the eighth.
New Zealand fielded three players on debut Friday and all made contributions. Latham, the son of former Test opener Rod Latham, made 24 from 33 balls, allrounder Andy Ellis made 33 from 30 balls, then took one for 34, and Test batsman Dean Brownlie was run out for 19 in his first one-day international.