Cricket: NZ thrash SAfrica, Zimbabwe stun Sri Lanka
SYDNEY: New Zealand hammered home their status as World Cup dark horses with an emphatic 134-run warm-up win over South Africa on Wednesday while whipping boys Zimbabwe stunned Sri Lanka by seven wickets.
Just three days out from the start of the marathon six-week event, both South Africa -- who rested match-winners Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn -- and Sri Lanka looked lacklustre.
In Christchurch, Kane Williamson top-scored with a 53-ball 66, dotted with nine fours. Skipper Brendan McCullum smashed a typically muscular 59 off 45 balls with seven fours and a six.
Their efforts lifted the home side to an impressive 331-8 in 50 overs.
Seamers Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott all took two wickets each but strike bowler Morne Morkel went wicketless, conceding 31 runs off seven overs.
New Zealand pace bowler Trent Boult showed the vaunted Proteas attack how to make the most of the conditions at the Hagley Oval with the 22-year-old returning 5-51 off 9.2 overs.
It could have been more embarrassing for South Africa but JP Duminy (80 not out) and Philander (57) lifted their side from 62-6 with a 121-run seventh-wicket stand, which put a little gloss on the gloomy picture.
"We are not too fazed about the result. It's about time in the middle, and overs under the belt," said Duminy after his team were bowled out for a paltry 197.
Come Sunday, when South Africa face Zimbabwe in their first pool match at Hamilton, "we will be ready to go -- we won't read too much into this", he insisted.
"Everybody got a bit out of it. It's nice to take wins but we are happy with where we are."
Boult said the game helped his chances of selection for a starting spot on Saturday when New Zealand open their World Cup campaign at home to 1996 champions Sri Lanka.
"There's a good amount of competition amongst us bowlers. I enjoyed today, it was coming out well at both ends of the wicket," said Boult.
"We wanted to get the most out of the opportunity."
Zimbabwe warmed up for Sunday's clash against South Africa with a shock seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka at Lincoln.
Sri Lanka, who were also World Cup runners-up in 2007 and 2011, posted a challenging 279-8 in 50 overs with Dimuth Karunaratne top-scoring on 58 and Jeevan Mendis making 51.
Slow left-arm bowler Sean Williams helped apply the brakes with 3-35 in 10 overs.
In reply, Hamilton Masakadza smashed 117 not out at almost a run-a-ball with eight fours and three sixes.
He and skipper Brendan Taylor (63) put on 127 for the third wicket before Masakadza and Williams (51 not out) added an undefeated 119 for the fourth.
Sri Lanka used nine bowlers but could still not make significant inroads.
Zimbabwe's run chase was so easy that there were still 28 balls left when they hit the winning runs.
At the Sydney Cricket Ground, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit 91 and Umar Akmal 65 as the 1992 champions beat England by four wickets.
England made 250-8 in their 50 overs with Joe Root scoring 85 and Gary Ballance contributing 57.
Pakistan reached their target with seven balls to spare after Misbah and Akmal put on 133 for the fifth wicket.
Pakistan begin their World Cup against old rivals India in Adelaide on Sunday. (AFP)