Taylor faced 120 deliveries and hit seven fours and five sixes, three of them in the 49th over, the best over for Zimbabwe as it contributed 21 runs in the game.
It was Taylor’s fifth ODI century but Zimbabwe’s total of 231 for six was not adequate as New Zealand overhauled that with the partnership of Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill combining for 153 before Guptill was dismissed by Kyle Jarvis for 74.
Zimbabwe welcomed back Vusi Sibanda and Tatenda Taibu to the team – while New Zealand were without Jake Oram due to illness.
Zimbabwe’s decision to bat first on winning the toss caused some comment, given the fact that the team’s batting second at Harare Sports Club has a much better victory record than going in first.
Zimbabwe had started off disappointingly and looked in serious danger when they at one time were at 21 for four but the partnership of Taylor and Foster Mutizwa brought the team back in contention with a total of156 before Mutizwa went off for 69.
There were, however, less important contributions for Zimbabwe from the other batsmen with Elton Chigumbura contributing nine runs, Prosper Utseya 7, Chamu Chibhabha 6, Vusi Sibanda 5, Tatenda Taibu 4, while Hamilton Masakadza was dismissed for a duck.
This was not enough as Nicol finished on 108 not out aided by Brendon McCullum who smashed 39 not out.
In the process, Nicol became the second New Zealander to hit a century on debut and the seventh in the world to achieve that feat. He was duly named man of the match.
The two teams will meet again in the second of the three match series on Saturday.
Zimbabwe’s performance in the first game, however, has cast doubts on whether the hosts will be able to stop the New Zealanders from winning the series the same way they did in winning the two Twenty20 matches.