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Cricket: Pressure on Zimbabwe to keep the series alive

20/02/2017 00:00:00
by Cricbuzz
 
Back in the team ... Solomon Mire
 
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ZIMBABWE and Afghanistan first met in a One-Day International (ODI) in 2014. Since then, the two nations have been involved in three bilateral series and the Asian side have the wood on their African counterparts, winning two and drawing the other.

The third ODI on Tuesday (February 20), in that context, is crucial for Zimbabwe to keep the series alive, else it will be the third consecutive series that they would have lost to Afghanistan in a span of less than two years.

Asghar Stanikzai has gone in with a simple mantra in the first two ODIs - win the toss, put runs on the board and then allow his spinners to dictate terms. It has worked beautifully for Afghanistan as Mohammad Nabi, Amir Hamza and Rashid Khan have scalped 11 wickets between them in the two encounters.

The other thing also clicking for Stanikzai and Co. is the contribution from the top order. Mohammad Shahzad has been among the runs, Rahmat Shah has carried his domestic form into the ODI series, scoring 31 and 53 and the skipper himself has led from the front with a fifty in the first game. And once the foundation is laid, the likes of Nabi, Najibullah Zadran and Rashid Khan have shown what they can do lower down the order.

Afghanistan have their bases covered in the pace bowling department as well. Dawlat Zadran and Gulbadin Naib have been used smartly by Stanikzai. The results can be seen in Naib's figures, he is the most economical bowler so far in the series. Overall, the side have all areas covered for any sort of conditions.

Zimbabwe have to find a way to break their losing spree. They have won only two of their last 13 limited-overs internationals. Graeme Cremer has a very young side at his disposal. Experienced players like Sean Williams, Chamu Chibhabha and Tinashe Panyangara, have been overlooked for the series.

Solomon Mire returned to the side after a gap of two years and showed an inclination to get on with things, which the team lacked before. The 27-year-old got Zimbabwe off to a flier in the second ODI and registered a 49-ball fifty, but the hosts failed to capitalize on the start and kept losing wickets at regular intervals.

The spin bowling department also looks bare. Cremer has had not support at the other end. The likes of Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller have filled in some overs, but the lack of a genuine spinner can be seen.



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That might also be one of the differences between the two sides. Wellington Masakadza can be an option for Zimbabwe to pair up with Cremer. They need to come up with a combination that will stop the Afghanistan juggernaut, else a tenth international win on the trot looks certain.

When: February 21, 09:30 AM Local time

Where: Harare Sports Club (HSC), Harare

What to expect: With an early morning start we can be certain that there will be some moisture around and it would help the fast bowlers. But in the previous two games the pitch eased up and has helped the Afghanistan spinners. The weather is set to be pleasant and there should be no rain interruptions.

Squads:

Zimbabwe (From): Ryan Burl, Tarisai Musakanda, Craig Ervine, Peter Moor(w), Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Graeme Cremer(c), Solomon Mire, Richard Ngarava, Chris Mpofu, Tendai Chatara, Nathan Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Wellington Masakadza, Donald Tiripano, Carl Mumba

Afghanistan (From): Mohammad Shahzad(w), Asghar Stanikzai(c), Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Amir Hamza, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Ihsanullah Janat, Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Janat, Fareed Ahmad, Aftab Alam


 
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