ZIMBABWE opted to bowl in the three ODIs against India last month and lost all three matches.
However, they opted to bat in the second T20I and their bowlers restricted India to 135, setting up Zimbabwe’s first ever T20 win against the maiden World T20 champions.
Graeme Cremer produced a match-turning spell of 4-0-18-3 that day, and in the third ODI against New Zealand on Friday, he finished with 10-0-44-3, albeit in a losing cause.
Those numbers, and the fact that Zimbabwe also chased down 304 in the first match of the ongoing tour augurs well for the hosts ahead of the only T20 on Sunday.
Opener Chamu Chibhabha will also look to replicate his performance of a quick fifty against India, after his solid but slow 65-ball 32 on Friday.
Still, Zimbabwe’s slow batting approach was not to blame for their ODI series loss, as the team simply served their wickets on a platter and squandered a golden chance to register another series win against the World Cup finalists.
Zimbabwe may not be too worried about their bowling – Tinashe Panyangara led a disciplined attack after seven of their bowlers failed to pick a single wicket in the 10-wicket mauling in the second ODI.
New Zealand have played only one T20 this year and three in the last 12 months, losing two out of those.
Out of their last eight matches, going back to March 2014, they have won only three. The uplifting statistic for New Zealand will be that they have never lost to Zimbabwe. Yet.
Work remains to be done in their bowling line-up to ensure that record remains intact. They allowed Zimbabwe to chase down 304 in the first ODI, lost steam after early wickets for a Sikandar Raza hundred at No. 7 in the second, and let the hosts cruise to 97 for 0 before Zimbabwe derailed on their own.
While the spinners – Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum – lead the wicket charts with five apiece and an economy of just around five, the pacers need to step up for more convincing wins in the absence of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
With two wins from their last four international matches, Zimbabwe’s chances are not as bad as everyone thought they would be.
In the spotlight:
The racks of New Zealand’s middle order cupboard seem a bit bare after Ross Taylor was ruled out of the remainder of the tour. His hundred in the first ODI was the only contribution from the middle order as the bulk of the runs have come from Kane Williamson (187), Martin Guptill (169) and Tom Latham (140). No other batsman, who will play tomorrow, has put together 80 runs so far.Advertisement
Wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva got two innings in the ODI series and produced scores of 2 and 3 at Nos. 4 and 7 respectively. He has also dropped catches and missed stumpings.
Zimbabwe have fielded three men behind the stumps recently – Richmond Mutumbami, Charles Coventry and Chakabva. A quick start, or even a fifty, could help Chakabava’s place in the squad before Pakistan arrive for three T20s and as many ODIs next month.
From the XI that beat India by 10 runs, at least two changes will come in: Elton Chigumbura missed that match because of injury, and Chakabva will keep in place of Coventry.
Prosper Utseya was left out of the third ODI in place of offspinner John Nyumbu and that may remain unchanged.
New Zealand may not feel the need to change their winning XI from Friday, especially after Ben Wheeler returned frugal figures of 9-1-34-0 after coming in for Matt Henry.
Probable Zimbabwe Squad:
Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine (wk), Elton Chigumbura (captain), Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Graeme Cremer, Tinashe Panyangara, Neville Madziva, John Nyumbu.