| New Zealand made light work of Zimbabwe as former number seven batsmen Rob Nicol led from the front [AFP]
Rob Nicol hit a century on his one-day international debut as New Zealand romped to a nine-wicket win on Thursday in the first match against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club.
Nicol, 28, made 108 not out as New Zealand chased down a modest target of 232, winning with 39 balls to spare.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor admitted it was a disappointing outcome after he made an unbeaten 128 to enable his side to post 231-6 after suffering a disastrous start in which the home side crashed to 21 for four off 11 overs after winning the toss.
"Forster and I did a decent job that way, but 230 was never good enough. We're a better side than this"
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor
Taylor and Forster Mutizwa (69) put on 156 for the fifth wicket.
"To rebuild from where we were this morning was quite tough," said the Zimbabwe captain.
"Forster and I did a decent job that way, but 230 was never good enough. We're a better side than this."
Opening bowler Doug Bracewell, another debutant for the Black Caps, put Zimbabwe under early pressure, taking the first three wickets to fall.
But Taylor and Mutizwa stopped the rot with a brave stand that took the total to 177 before the latter was caught by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum off the bowling of James Franklin.
Taylor, a 25-year-old right-hander with a highest ODI score of 145 not out in South Africa last year, continued to sparkle in sunny, slightly cloudy conditions and slammed three sixes in a penultimate over that yielded 21 runs.
Mutizwa hit three fours and one six off 98 balls.
Zimbabwe's bowlers were again unable to exert pressure on an in-form New Zealand top-order.
Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill put on century opening-stands in both Twenty20 internationals which preceded the three-match 50-overs series - and once again the total soared into three figures before a wicket fell.
In the shortest game, Guptill was partnered by Brendon McCullum, but New Zealand captain Ross Taylor decided to move Nicol up the order to bat with Guptill in the first ODI.
Nicol, who played in three Twenty20 internationals before making his bow in the slightly longer form of the game, put on 153 in 29.3 overs with Guptill, who made 69.
"On a flat wicket you need to bend the ball sideways and that they did. Full credit to Rob Nicol, who before this game was batting at number seven"
NZ captain Ross Taylor
He became only the seventh player to score a hundred on his one-day international debut.
The only New Zealander to achieve the feat previously was Guptill, who made 122 not out against the West Indies in Auckland.
Nicol made his runs off 131 balls and hit 11 fours.
Partnered by the in-form McCullum, Nicol added an undefeated 79 for the second wicket. McCullum made 39 not out.
Ross Taylor said his bowlers had put New Zealand in a strong position.
"On a flat wicket you need to bend the ball sideways and that they did. Full credit to Rob Nicol, who before this game was batting at number seven."