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Zimbabwe, NZ in virtual shootout

Bloemfontein: Zimbabwe didn’t need to beat a Test-playing nation to reach the Super Six, but they’ll need to overcome three in-a-row if they want to make the World Cup semi-finals. Their first assignment is New Zealand.

New Zealand go into Saturday’s second-round match at Goodyear Park as favourites, despite losing the last series between the nations 1-2 in Zimbabwe in 2000-2001.

To gain the respect of the top cricket nations, Zimbabwe must prove they deserved to advance beyond the first round. “In a way, I’m quite happy that we have to play really well if we want to go to the semi-finals,” said veteran batsman Andy Flower. “We want to feel that we deserve to be here.”

There was a setback for Zimbabwe Friday, as opening batsman Mark Vermeulen suffered a hairline fracture to his skull at nets. Vermeulen was struck by a ball from Travis Friend which reared sharply off the pitch.

“It reared up just back of a length,” Vermeulen said. “I tried to pull it, but it got big on me. They say my skull is fractured just above the left eye. I’m down but not out and I should be able to play Monday or Tuesday.”

New Zealand, meanwhile, named an unchanged side. Lou Vincent and pace bowler Kyle Mills were not considered because of i njury.

Working in New Zealand’s favour has been a steady improvement in form throughout the tournament, climaxed by a first-ever win over South Africa in South Africa in a thrilling match at the Wanderers.

With Chris Cairns running into form with the bat at the same time as Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle, New Zealand are looking stronger. TEAM

NEW ZEALAND: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Scott Styris, Chris Cairns, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Chris Harris, Andre Adams, Daniel Vettori, Shane Bond.

ZIMBABWE (from): Heath Streak (captain), Andy Blignaut, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Doug Hondo, Doug Marillier, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga, Tatenda Taibu, Guy Whittall, Craig Wishart.

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