Rob Nicol took four wickets as New Zealand bowled Zimbabwe out for 158 on Friday to win the first of three ODIs by 90 runs.

Nicol atoned for his duck by putting in an outstanding bowling performance, which helped the hosts skittle the tourists in 41.1 overs at University Oval in Dunedin.

Nicol's opening partner Martin Guptill anchored the New Zealand innings with his knock of 70 and the all-rounder's apparently innocuous off-spin helped undestabilise Zimbabwe's reply. Seamer Kyle Mills had earlier removed the top order and finished with three wickets.

Captain Brendan Taylor top-scored for Zimbabwe with 58 from 68 balls and put on 52 for the fourth wicket with wicketkeeper-batsman Tatenda Taibu (20). But the pair were the best hope of the Zimbabwe innings and when they were out - Taibu with the total at 67, Taylor at 97 - the innings steadily dwindled.

A partnership of 34 for the ninth wicket between the veteran Ray Price - playing his 100th ODI - and Keegan Meth was the last show of defiance from Zimbabwe.

Price finished on 26 not out, while Nicol took four 19 from 4.1 overs and Mills three for 26 from eight overs.

Mills dismissed Stuart Matsikenyeri with the last ball of the opening over and, after Matsikenyeri's opening partner Hamilton Masakadza was run out for seven, he then removed Regis Chakabva to leave Zimbabwe 15 for three in the seventh over.

Taylor and Taibu gave the total some substance, occupying the crease for more than 13 overs. But, when Taibu was out in the 20th over, the visitors' progress was too slow to really threaten. At the midpoint of the innings, Zimbabwe were 91 for four and already New Zealand's moderate total seemed unreachable.

Nicol removed Taylor, Malcolm Waller for 12, Meth for 10 and Kyle Jarvis for two to achieve his best international bowling figures.

Earlier, Shingirai Masakadza took four for 46 in a display of controlled medium-pace bowling as Zimbabwe held New Zealand to what seemed an attainable total after winning the toss and electing to bowl.

New Zealand lost their first two wickets for four runs in the first eight balls of the match. But Guptill's innings of 70 and his 88-run partnership with Kane Williamson lifted New Zealand to 92 for three and gave the innings a decent foundation.

Elton Chigumbura captured the wickets of Guptill and debutant Tom Latham (24) and Masakadza rolled through the middle order to leave Zimbabwe a competitive target.

Mixing well-disguised slower balls with deliveries that sometimes surprised the batsmen with pace and bounce, Masakadza helped Zimbabwe put the brakes on New Zealand's scoring after Guptill's dominance.

Guptill had reached his half century - his 13th in ODIs - from only 44 balls, seven fours included. He played some outstanding shots down the ground as he re-established New Zealand's innings after the loss of Nicol to the fifth ball of the innings and captain Brendon McCullum (three) to the eighth.

New Zealand fielded three players on debut Friday and all made contributions. Latham, the son of former Test opener Rod Latham, made 24 from 33 balls, all-rounder Andrew Ellis made 33 from 30 balls, then took one for 34, and Test batsman Dean Brownlie was run out for 19 in his first ODI.