AFTER Pakistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe, the visitors needed a morale-boosting win to salvage some pride. In the final ODI in Rawalpindi, Zimbabwe posted a consolation victory in what turned out to be a contest full of sharp twists and turns. After the match ended in a tie, Blessing Muzarabani scripted a famous victory for his side by picking up the wickets of Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah in the Super Over. Eventually, Sikandar Raza hit the winning runs to seal the deal.
As the two sides shift their focus to the first T20I in Rawalpindi on November 7, Zimbabwe would be hoping for Muzarabani to continue spearheading the attack. In the final ODI, one of the key points to notice was the tall paceman didn’t just extract awkward bounce but also varied his pace. His variations could also come in handy in the shortest format of the game. Tendai Chisoro, the spinner, and Donald Tiripano, the seamer, need to back up their key bowler. Incidentally, Chisoro also had some decent outings in the ODI series, picking up a couple of scalps in each of the first two matches.
Brendan Taylor (pictured) and Sean Williams would have to again shore up the batting unit. Both the experienced batsmen notched up a hundred each in ODIs. The Zimbabwe camp would be slightly concerned about Sikandar Raza and Craig Ervine struggling to find form in the 50-over format. Moreover, Raza has also struggled to make his presence felt in T20Is, averaging just 13.37.
What about their opponent, Pakistan? The home side left out experienced campaigners like Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mohammed Amir for the limited overs. So the focus would be on some of the younger players to come through and shine brightly. Abdullah Shafiq, the top-order batsman, with a strike rate of over 130 in T20s, is one of them. Haider Ali, who cracked a fifty on his T20I debut in England, would also look to impress.
Babar Azam, the skipper, will be expected to lead from the front, with Mohammed Hafeez giving him support. The experienced all-rounder was in very good nick in England, ending up with two fifties. Meanwhile, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz would lead the pace attack. Mohammad Hasnain, who impressed in the final ODI by extracting nifty movement at pace, could also come into the equation. Imad Wasim, who is renowned for his skills in the T20 format, is set to play a key role with his ability to tie down the opponent. The hosts would also be buoyed by Iftikhar Ahmed’s good showing in the ODI series.
When: Pakistan vs Zimbabwe, 1st T20I, 10:30am GMT/ 3:30pm local
Where: Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium
What to expect: The pacemen could find some assistance off the wicket at Rawalpindi. Meanwhile, the weather is expected to be clear again.
Mohammad Hafeez could return to the limited overs side. Hasnain’s impressive show in the final ODI could tempt the selectors to have a look at him.
Probable XI: Babar Azam(c), Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan (w), Khushdil Shah, Imad Wasim, Usman Qadir/Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain/Haris Rauf Zimbabwe
The visitors could be tempted to play the same side that came out on top in the cliffhanger in the final ODI.
Probable XI: Brian Chari, Chamu Chibhabha (c), Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor (w), Sean Williams, Wesley Madhevere, Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chisoro, Carl Mumba, Blessing Muzarabani,
What they said
“I think we can absolutely beat the bigger teams. We’re tired of competing and getting beaten. That’s no longer acceptable.” – Sean Williams