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Kiwis may give Bond a rest

S. Ram Mahesh

Cairns may also sit out as the team looks ahead to the final

HARARE: The second leg of the Videocon tri-series begins on Wednesday with the match between New Zealand and Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club. The tournament hasn't hassled bookmakers so far, going pretty much according to form. Zimbabwe was walloped by New Zealand, which then beat India. And Zimbabwe was walloped by India.

"For us to get really competitive, we really need a massive work ethic in all three departments," said Zimbabwe coach Kevin Curran.

"It's tough to turn things around. I'm bringing in a lot ex-Zimbabwe cricketers for the A team and the Academy, so it will take a bit of time."

Talking tough

Curran talked tough on dropping "senior" players, who hadn't performed. On Hamilton Masakadza, who made a Test century on debut, the Zimbabwe coach said, "He's one of our most talented players. But he has to perform, which is the difference between a world-class player and a good player. You can't keep picking those who don't perform."

Zimbabwe cricket is at its lowest ebb at the moment, with many former players pessimistic about the future. "Bangladesh will wipe the floor with us at the moment," said a commentator.

Except for Heath Streak, the other returnees have failed. Streak bowled an excellent first spell against India, moving the ball and — but for a tendency to be a little short in length — troubling the batsmen.

The biggest disappointment has been Andy Blignaut, Zimbabwe's Lance Klusener. Capable of bowling at over 140 kmph and striking it even faster, Blignaut has shown none of the potential he did in 2002-03.

He went for 96 in nine overs against New Zealand (the second most expensive figures after Kiwi Martin Snedden) at Bulawayo and hasn't looked like getting the ball off the square while batting.

"It wasn't a typical Harare wicket," said captain Tatenda Taibu, "the groundsman has a problem with the timing of cutting grass. If he does it too early, it dries up." The wicket for Wednesday's match looked similar. Taibu said he was happy with the way his side bowled. The Zimbabwe skipper has been reduced to picking out positives from lopsided matches, and Wednesday's game should be no different.

Jeetan may play

The Black Caps have no such problems, though their coach John Bracewell flew out of Harare because of the demise of his mother-in-law. New Zealand's professionalism should get it through the rest of this tournament though. Stephen Fleming indicated Shane Bond would be rested because of a sore toe. Chris Cairns is a doubtful starter with a hamstring strain. Kyle Mills should return, and off-spinner Jeetan Patel may get a chance.

Wicket keeper Brendon McCullum, one of New Zealand's many success stories, said, "things are looking pretty rosy, and as long as we keep looking to get better they can only improve. Zimbabwe have had a tough time of it so far, but they're certainly working hard from what we've seen of their training sessions. We need to do the things we do well on Wednesday, and look onward to India and the final."

The teams (from): Zimbabwe: Tatenda Taibu (capt. & wk), Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Keith Dabengwa, Brendan Taylor, Craig Wishart, Andy Blignaut, Gavin Ewing, Blessing Mahwire, Hamilton Masakadza, Waddington Mwayenga, Edward Rainsford, Vusumuzi Sibanda, Anthony Ireland, Prosper Utseya.

New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (capt.), Daniel Vettori, Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Chris Cairns, Hamish Marshall, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Lou Vincent.

Umpires: Daryl Harper (Australia) and Russell Tiffin (Zimbabwe). Third Umpire: Ian Robinson (Zimbabwe). Match referee: Roshan Mahanama.

Hours of play (IST): 1.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. and 5.15 p.m. till close.

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