The Zimbabwe cricket team will be hoping for an improved performance against a buoyant Pakistan team that gave them a thorough hiding in the one-off Test match when the two teams meet in the first one-day international (ODI) at Queens Sports Club today.
Zimbabwe competed well against Pakistan in a three-and-a-half-day Test match before a combination of poor fielding and a batting collapse saw them lose control of the game as the tourists romped to a convincing seven-wicket victory.
This will be Zimbabwe’s biggest in limited-overs since the ICC World Cup on the sub-continent and Brendan Taylor and his men will be eager to impress on home soil.
Pakistan will go into the series as clear favourites, but going by the tourists’ unpredictability and Zimbabwe’s history of causing upsets, the hosts will feel they can sneak in with another favourable result.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be riding on performances from both their batsmen and bowlers, who were outstanding in the Test match.
Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who foxed Zimbabwe’s batsmen with his clever variations and deceiving dosar, could well be the ace in the Pakistan line-up given the way the Queens Sports Club pitch favours spinners.
For Zimbabwe the pressure will be on their batsmen, who except for opener Tino Mawoyo, failed to show the same form they displayed in the preceding series against Bangladesh.
Mawoyo who played an unbeaten century (163) is being modelled as specialist Test batsman and will not take part in the ODIs which will shift pressure onto shoulders of his colleagues to deliver.
Zimbabwe’s new-ball pair of Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis struggled on the flat pitch in the Test match while the spinning pair of Ray Price and Greg Lamb looked threatening at times.
Lamb, however, is likely to make way for Prosper Utseya with Christopher Mpofu coming in as the first change bowling option in the three-man pace attack.
Skipper Brendan Taylor will be looking to get the disappointment of the Test match behind him and is expected to open the batting with Vusi Sibanda.
For Taylor’s men to compete against Pakistan, they need to play to their strengths and cut down on mistakes and also hope their senior batsmen like Hamilton Masakadza and Tatenda Taibu come to the party.
A good performance from the senior guys will stand the hosts in a good stead and will definitely rub off on the youngsters.
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher wants the team to lift themselves for the limited-overs series:
“We would expect the attitude to be as positive as it was going into the Test match. We want to let Pakistan know that they are in for a good game of cricket.” Butcher said.
Zimbabwe will be hoping for a better performance at Queens Sports Club where they have lost seven out of their nine ODIs played in Bulawayo since August 2009.
It remains to be seen if they will break that jinx against a Pakistan team which has been impressive in ODIs since their showing at the World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals.
Since then they have gone on to beat West Indies in a five-match series, although they lost two dead rubbers, and also beat Ireland in a two-match tourney.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Brendan Taylor, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Tatenda Taibu, 5 Craig Ervine/Chamu Chibhabha, 6 Elton Chigumbura/Regis Chakabva, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Chris Mpofu.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar/Imran Farhat, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Adnan Akmal, 8 Junaid Khan, 9 Rameez Raja, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Sohail Tanvir