A violent opening stand and a superbly-paced Brendon McCullum ton handed New Zealand their third huge win in as many one-dayers, as Zimbabwe fell 202 runs short of their gargantuan target of 374. Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol added 153 in 22 overs to provide the platform once more, before McCullum's 88-ball 119 propelled New Zealand beyond 370 for the second consecutive innings. Brendan Taylor's 65 was the only knock of note in Zimbabwe's reply with the visitors once more opting to spend time in the middle rather than go for the unlikely win. Zimbabwe were dismissed for 172 in the 44th over.
McCullum consolidated to begin with, following the quick demise of both openers, before exploiting some woeful death bowling to hurtle past 100. Keen not to let the early tempo abate, McCullum opted for the batting Powerplay in the 29th over with Jacob Oram for company, but allowed his partner to attempt the big shots while he turned over the strike. He continued to accumulate alongside Kane Williamson, as the flat Napier wicket and a worsening Zimbabwe attack allowed risk-free progress.
McCullum got a life on 48; Zimbabwe have seemed intent on giving every New Zealand batsman one of those at some point in the series, and it must have been his turn. Having worked his way to a run-a-ball strike-rate soon after reaching fifty, McCullum exploded in the 43rd over, launching Elton Chigumbura over long-off, before carving Kyle Jarvis through cover. Zimbabwe served up full tosses, half-volleys and length deliveries abundantly, and McCullum duly gorged, slapping Chigumbura into the leg-side stands twice in a row, before demolishing the woeful Brian Vitori to complete Zimbabwe's misery.
McCullum's breathless finish was set up by Guptill and Nicol, who began laying waste to the Zimbabwe attack almost immediately, as they carried New Zealand's Whangarei belligerence to Napier. Utterly unafraid of a pedestrian attack that had failed to test them throughout the tour, the pair had seemingly decided they would test themselves - by igniting the New Zealand innings at the most furious pace yet.
Nicol survived two close calls, one lbw shout that was overturned on review, and a top-edged pull that was predictably shelled, but apart from those early stutters, precious little troubled the openers. They blasted seven sixes and 13 fours between them, and took their combined half-century tally to five in three matches. Only Nicol missed out in the first ODI of the series.
Zimbabwe's bowlers rarely bowled two balls in the same place, but their woes were not all their own making against batsmen so cocksure, they could dispatch any ball in their chosen direction. Guptill favoured the leg side as he moved around the crease to pepper the ropes with an array of sweeps, paddles, pulls and pick-ups. Nicol meanwhile preferred to manipulate length by advancing, carting two balls over the stands at square leg.
Spin and a spread-out field stymied the breakneck pace somewhat after the first 10 overs, but while Nicol reined in his game, Guptill continued to attack, beating the field with innovation rather than power. When Taylor brought in fine leg to push long-off back, Guptill shovelled the next ball over his shoulder. When the leg side was strengthened, he shuffled to leg to send the ball screeching through the covers.
Guptill was eventually stumped as he knotted himself up after advancing down the pitch, a ball after Nicol had also fallen, but McCullum's furious innings ensured the base wasn't squandered.
Williamson accumulated busily, before Nathan McCullum thumped 21 runs off seven balls - 18 of them coming from the three successive sixes off Vitori, who became only the fourth bowler to concede over 100 runs in an ODI innings, and that despite bowling one over short.
For the fifth time in as many innings on tour, Zimbabwe's openers failed to reach double figures. As has been the case throughout the tour, Taylor was the only Zimbabwe player that batted positively, even dominating the New Zealand attack at times. Taylor measured out aggression methodically, rarely straying from the routine of rotating the strike after boundary hits, instead of attempting to tear apart a disciplined attack.
Once he fell at 115 for 5, New Zealand simply stayed patient to wait for the remaining wickets. Tarun Nethula had an impressive second spell that yielded his first two international scalps, as he found the confidence to flight and turn the ball after a nervous debut. Doug Bracewell and Michael Bates were both lively, considering the flatness of the pitch, and picked up a wicket apiece, before Nathan McCullum polished off the tail to end the hopelessly one-sided series.