New Zealand crushed Zimbabwe by 202 runs in the final one-day international in Napier on Thursday to complete a 3-0 series whitewash over the out-classed tourists.
Zimbabwe again failed to fire as New Zealand, inspired by a man-of-the-match century from skipper Brendon McCullum, plundered 373-8 in their 50 overs and then routed the Africans for 171 with six overs to spare.
Captain Brendan Taylor, whose brisk 65 off 62 balls was the high point of the Zimbabwe innings, was left looking for positives from a series in which the gulf between the teams progressively widened.
“We’ve got to just keep trying to climb that ladder and become better players,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot to learn and we’ll be better for it after this tour.”
Returning to the ground where they suffered a humiliating defeat by an innings and 301 runs in a one-off Test last month, Zimbabwe let themselves down with loose bowling and shoddy fielding on a flat wicket.
New Zealand capitalised after winning the toss and electing to bat, with a 153-run opening partnership from Martin Guptill (85) and Rob Nicol (61) laying the foundation for their side’s third-highest one-day international total.
McCullum piled on the agony with a swashbuckling 119 from 88 balls, including five sixes, as Zimbabwe’s Brian Vitori suffered the indignity of becoming only the fifth player to concede more than 100 runs in an ODI.
Vitori haemorrhaged 105 runs in nine overs for just one wicket, at one point conceding three sixes in three balls to Nathan McCullum, the New Zealand skipper’s brother, in a horror over that yielded 26 runs.
Zimbabwe have two Twenty20 matches remaining on the tour, the first in Auckland on Saturday, in which to salvage some pride.
The home side rode their luck at times but always looked comfortable against a Zimbabwe attack that has failed to adapt to New Zealand conditions.
Opening batsman Nicol, a centurion in the last one-dayer, was given out lbw for four in the first over but survived after appealing to the third umpire, who ruled he had got an inside edge off a Vitori inswinger.
He should have been out two overs later when a mis-timed pull shot sailed to square leg, only for Tinotenda Mawoyo to ground the catch.
Guptill made the most of the short McLean Park boundary, bringing up his fifth consecutive one-day half century in 38 balls, including four sixes and four fours.
Prosper Utseya eventually broke the opening partnership, trapping Nicol lbw, while Guptill went after a bizarre stumping the next ball.
The batsman played and missed at an innocuous Ray Price delivery, called a wide, then took off for a single, believing the ball had skidded past wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu.
However, the ball had lodged under Taibu’s arm and the wicketkeeper gleefully pulled it out and whipped off the bails as Guptill tried to scramble back to his crease.
It was one of the few pieces of good fortune to go Zimbabwe’s way and the tourists’ run chase began poorly when openers Tino Mawoyo (9) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (5) went cheaply.
Captain Taylor and Taibu combined for a 67-run stand before debutant seamer Michael Bates and substitute fielder Colin de Grandhomme broke the partnership.
Bates snared his first ODI wicket when Taibu holed out to de Granhomme, who had a dream cameo, also catching Taylor at long-on and playing a part in Malcolm Waller’s run-out.
Zimbabwe never matched the 7.5 runs an over required for victory and Taylor’s departure at 5-115 meant there was no real prospect of batting out 50 overs.
New Zealand’s bowlers shared the spoils, with leg-spinner Tarun Nethula and part-timers Nathan McCullum and Kane Williamson taking two wickets apiece.
The Black Caps will face a sterner challenge against South Africa, who arrive in New Zealand next week for a tour that includes three Tests, three ODIs and three T20s.