Vettori and Co face Zimbabwe spin test


NEW DELHI – New Zealand’s brittle top order will have to toil for every run against Zimbabwe’s nagging spin attack in Friday’s World Cup Group A match in Ahmedabad. Australia cruelly exposed New Zealand’s vulnerability against raw pace last Friday, skittling them in 45-odd overs for 206, a target they overwhelmed in 34 overs for a ridiculously easy seven-wicket victory.
Zimbabwe, however, will bank on their army of miserly tweakers to straitjacket a New Zealand team grappling with top order woes. After an easy outing against Kenya, New Zealand’s top order simply came unstuck against the pace of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson and meekly capitulated in Nagpur.
Coming off a poor build-up that includes a series whitewash in Bangladesh, New Zealand barely resemble a team that traditionally punches above their weight in big tournaments. Adding to their woes, captain Daniel Vettori (hamstring), Scott Styris (finger) and Kyle Mills (back) are carrying niggles while the team looked jaded in the tournament so far.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, look determined to make the most of their limited resources. Realising their strength lies in spin, they have opened the attack with left-arm spinner Ray Price and had bulk of the overs bowled by their slow bowlers in both their matches in the tournament so far.
Their indefatigable spinners did a decent job to restrict champions Australia to 262-6, bowling 39 of the 50 overs among themselves. Price and off-spinner Prosper Utseya can tirelessly maintain a stifling line and length that makes scoring off them a painstaking task.
Even when they take a break, Graeme Cremer, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams maintain the spin stranglehold, a ploy that has seldom let Zimbabwe down. “Over the last year, our spinners have been our best bowlers and… in any conditions, your best bowlers are your best options,” Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher said in Chennai.