Zimbabwe and Afghanistan resume their rivalry on neutral ground, when the two face off in the first of two cricket T-20 matches in Sharjah.
The two nations will go into a three-match one-day international series, as they fine tune for the World Cup qualifiers, that will be hosted by Zimbabwe early next month.
BY Kevin Mapasure
The two teams are focused on building a strong squad for the qualifiers, but their minds will have to switch on to T-20 action.
Zimbabwe captain, Graeme Cremer is wary of the Afghanistan spin threat and they will have to find a way to combat the threat.
When asked at a Press conference yesterday about their chances against Afghanistan in this series, Cremer said: “Afghanistan are always a tough team to beat. They have a solid batting line up and some great spinners in their side.”
Zimbabwe took to the United Arab Emirates the squad that played in the tri-series against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but replaced Ryan Murray and Chris Mpofu with Ryan Burl and Brian Vitori.
Vitori is likely to mark his return to international cricket following a 12-month ban imposed by the International Cricket Council over illegal deliveries.
Zimbabwe’s best batting weapon against spin, was meant to have joined the squad, but an injury ruled him out and there is concern he might not be ready for the World Cup qualifiers.
Afghanistan are confident that they can upstage Zimbabwe in the spin-friendly conditions.
Addressing the Press conference, Afghanistan skipper, Asghar Stanikzai said: “We are well prepared for this series. We have quality spinners in our side which will be helpful considering that the wicket at Sharjah is well suited for the spinners.”
He added that the inclusion of Mohammad Shahzad has further strengthened the batting line-up.
Afghanistan’s head coach, Phil Simmons also expressed confidence in the team.
Answering a question on how he rates the current team, he replied: “The team is good. Coming from Kabul’s cold weather, it was hard to start with. But over the last two weeks, they have worked really hard so we are getting to where we want to be.”
After the T-20 series, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will test each other out ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, where they are in the same group, which will be based in Bulawayo.