New Zealand has the look of a more powerful outfit than its rival Zimbabwe.
Led by the bespectacled, stubble-faced, artful practitioner of left-arm orthodox spin and able stroke player Daniel Vettori, New Zealand is equipped to put up a strong performance here on Friday at the Sardar Patel Stadium and thereby get a whiff of a quarterfinal berth in the World Cup competition.
Apart from Vettori, who brings in a 268-match experience, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Scott Styris can be relied upon to impose themselves in pursuit of a timely second victory and bring cheer to the team and the tragedy-struck people at home.
In addition, New Zealand has a competent and skilful bowling department to bring down a motivated and determined opponent that flaunted its spin tricks against a listless Canada and regained its poise.
It's not that the less dominant of the Antipodean sides has been in control of every aspect of its game in the sub-continent's heat, dry surfaces and the turning ball.
Only the second cricketer of Samoan heritage to play for New Zealand, Ross Taylor has often been regarded as a match-winner. Very soon, he will take over the baton from Vettori.
An elegant stroke player and powerful hitter, Taylor admitted on Thursday that his form has been poor in terms of scoring only three centuries in 101 ODIs and he hopes to rectify it in the remaining part of the World Cup.
On Friday, Taylor and the batsmen who will precede him — Martin Guptill, McCullum and Ryder — will strive to succeed against the probing spin bowling of left-arm spinner Raymond Price, off-spinners Prosper Utseya and Greg Lamb and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer.
Taylor has his task cut out. His tally of 138 runs in five ODI innings and 136 runs in three Tests on Indian soil is far from impressive. "Yes, it's disappointing. On the slower wickets, I have probably struggled. I am not sure why," he said.
Plan of action
Coach John Wright has outlined a plan of action. "He talked to the team and emphasised the need to be more consistent and clinical. As a batting unit we need to step up and score about 300-330 which is the par score in this tournament. Our whole batting order has struggled over the last 12 months or so. We need a couple of players to stand up."
While Taylor and his fellow New Zealanders are geared up to face the spin challenge, Zimbabwe is desperate to improve its run-getting ways. Coming a cropper against Australia's pace attack, it posted a sizeable score against Canada at Nagpur.
"New Zealand is a big team. We have to get our basics right and play our best cricket. Taibu and Irvine got the runs in the last match. Hopefully, we will get better in the batting department. Cricket is a funny game. The game is not over until the last ball is bowled, just like the Ireland game yesterday," said skipper Elton Chigumbura.
The teams (from):
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Brendon McCullum, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Hamish Bennett, Kane Williamson and Luke Woodcock.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Brendon Taylor, Charles Coventry, Tatenda Taibu, Greg Lamb, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Regis Chakabva, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Shingirai Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Raymond Price, Terry Duffin and Tinashe Payangara.
Umpires: Aleem Dar and Marais Erasmus; Third Umpire: Rod Tucker; Fourth Umpire: Billy Bowden; Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.