Adam Parore: Zimbabwe unlikely to surprise

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The Irish have pulled off a cracking upset; the Dutch gave England a fright, too.

But if there are any alarm bells ringing in the New Zealand camp ahead of tonight's contest with Zimbabwe, it would be very surprising. And frankly I'd be worried if that was the case.

New Zealand have historically had problems playing top-class spin bowling and good quality fast, or fast-medium bowlers.

But the Black Caps generally handle the lightweight opponents in World Cup pool play pretty comfortably.

Zimbabwe are expected to bowl plenty of overs of spin, but not of the calibre of Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani spinners, or of England's Graeme Swann or even South Africa's newcomer Imran Tahir.

Zimbabwe may be showing signs of improvement, but they're still some way short of New Zealand, provided Dan Vettori's men play with the skill and competitiveness they are capable of.

It was surprising that two of the senior players, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram, were left out of the New Zealand team which was thumped by Australia last weekend.

In my book, experience is a critical factor when it comes to big games in a World Cup.

It should have been a no-brainer that those two would be playing.

That's not to say they would have prevented the beating New Zealand took in Nagpur, but it seemed strange that they were sitting on the wrong side of the boundary.

That selection bungle should be put right today in Ahmedabad. New Zealand will want a strong, cohesive performance against Zimbabwe to inject life into their campaign with tough games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka still to come.

What to do about the minnows?

The International Cricket Council has said the 14 teams will reduce to 10 for 2015 - that is, the nine test-playing nations and most likely Zimbabwe, who play international ODIs. The trade-off is more T20 opportunities.

It's not ideal, but some of the games at the cup between two lightweight nations are not much chop from a broadcasting perspective.

The ICC needs to be aware of improving the overall quality, while keeping the associate countries part of the plan. It's a tricky balancing act.

To this point, India and South Africa stand out to me as the pick of the teams with a chance of winning the cup. Australia will be there, or thereabouts, and have looked pretty solid. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are chipping away and will rate themselves as decent contenders.

England look off the pace, with a bowling unit who seem unable to defend anything. Their inability to prevent Ireland getting past their 327 told a story of bowlers being tired, not thinking properly and being ripe for the taking.

Unless they can rediscover urgency, accuracy and aggression with the ball and in the field, their chances of winning the cup for the first time are remote.

- NZ Herald

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