Afghanistan v Zimbabwe, 4th ODI, Sharjah January 3, 2016

Battered Afghanistan seek immediate boost

12

Match facts

Monday, January 4, 2016
Start time 1500 local (1100GMT)

Hamilton Masakadza's batting has appeared a level above the rest of his team-mates © Chris Whiteoak

Big picture

Zimbabwe were desperate for a performance that yielded a win to keep the series alive, but were well on their way to another disheartening defeat in the third ODI before two batsmen resorted to attrition and simple basics to provide them with a platform for a morale-boosting victory. Zimbabwe's bowlers would have entered the bout ready to grind out a positive result, but were handed wickets on a platter through some amateurish strokes from Afghanistan's batsmen. Through a host of wickets and impressive individual batting performances, one discernible pattern has stood out this series - the start of an innings sets the tone for the rest of the game.

Zimbabwe, given their relative experience, will have to strive to improve in that aspect to dominate lower-ranked nations. Hamilton Masakadza displayed admirable patience amid an evolving ODI format, and the rest of the batsmen will do well to try and replicate his coup on surfaces demanding extra vigilance. Saturday also proved that the seamers possessed penetrative ability but were aided and abetted by a good start and Afghanistan's questionable approach. Luke Jongwe persisted on good areas and was richly rewarded with a five-for. The bowling line-up, however, has come under severe pressure under a semblance of duress. In conditions where a shoddy period can define the game, can the Zimbabwe bowlers hold their own when the going gets tough?

Afghanistan have had a lot to be proud about after a successful 2015, including a win at the World Cup, but they will have to reconsider their gung-ho attitude with the bat. Save an exceptional counterattacking innings from Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran's stability, their batting has been fallacious. With plenty of time available, the middle order has to prepare themselves to build innings and scores of respectability. The bowling core, though, has enough variation, control and quality to trouble many an opposition. On paper, man for man, Afghanistan's bowling has the edge over their counterparts but consistency will be imperative to their success.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Afghanistan LWWWW
Zimbabwe WLLLLL

In the spotlight

The Afghanistan openers - Mohammad Shahzad and Noor Ali - have each provided an innings of substance, directly affecting the result of the game. With a lack of confidence running through a fumbling middle order, a solid start could go a long way to ensuring the final game of the series is not a decider.

Hamilton Masakadza has brought in an air of security to Zimbabwe's batting order, with steady scores of 47 and 83, but has also importantly combined in strong stands that have perked up the final totals. His potential to build a score and play at two paces could also come to the fore, providing the rest of the batsmen with an example of adaptation.

Team news

Craig Ervine missed the third ODI with the flu, but expect him to slot right back in at No. 4 if he is fit, which could mean that Malcolm Waller, who has scores of 0, 0 and 8, makes way. There is likely to be no changes in the bowling attack that bowled Afghanistan out for 58.

Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Peter Moor, Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Richmond Mutumbami(wk), 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Graeme Creamer, 10, Neville Madziva, 11 Tendai Chisoro

Afghanistan chose to test some of the other members of their 21-man squad, but none of those inclusions made a substantial impact to the proceedings in the last match. The think-tank could juggle the set-up again in order to find the ideal balance.

Afghanistan (probable) : 1 Noor Ali Zadran, 2 Mohammad Shahzad, 3 Mohammad Nabi, 4 Asghar Stanikzai, 5 Samiullah Shenwari, 6 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Mirwais Ashraf, 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Amir Hamza, 11 Rokhan Barakzai/Rashid Khan

Pitch and conditions

Expect the team winning the toss to bat first in conditions that have proved harder to bat as the game progresses. The low and slow pitches of Sharjah will continue to take plenty of turn, and provide just enough to keep the seamers interested under lights. Rain was predicted on the day before the game, but none on match day.

Stats and trivia

  • Before the third ODI, Afghanistan had won five of the previous six ODIs against Zimbabwe

  • The third ODI was the only time in ODI history that both innings had scores of 0 for 2

Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hameed_khalid2003 on January 4, 2016, 10:50 GMT

    Better to give chance to Barakzai as he performed well in the previous match

  • Farhan Kola on January 4, 2016, 7:01 GMT

    all d best to Afghanistan from India. ... they need to work harder in batting department. ..

  • Jawid Ansar on January 4, 2016, 5:57 GMT

    they are in top 10 and they are improving i love my blue tigers and will always support u guys

  • Jawid Ansar on January 4, 2016, 5:53 GMT

    i dont blame. lossing wicket after wicket in underpresure is afghanistan major longest running weakness and it is good that they hv experinced this isuue one agani before world cup 2016. so they can work on it to solve that.

  • Afgun_Mujahid on January 3, 2016, 18:47 GMT

    @mohmmamad bilal ahmad, as far as i can see inzimam has not improved or solved a major problem in Afghanistan cricket and that is lossing wickets consistently when under pressure, lossing wickets unnecessarily. For me until inzimam solve this issue Afghanistan will loss games where they should win

  • cricfanparag on January 3, 2016, 18:30 GMT

    Why Tinashe Panyangara not playing. Is he is in the squad? Haven't seen Tendai Chatara after the world cup. They looked a decent opening pair

  • newgraahm on January 3, 2016, 18:06 GMT

    Still keep Waller , he was run out in the last match and is probably the most explosive of the current Zim squad, again its time Moor took the gloves to strengthen the potential batting line up to maximum with Ervine back. Bowling could still be a problem for Zim , if as expected the pitch offers less..Chigumbura must take his overs ...he has the experience

  • HHHamid on January 3, 2016, 17:15 GMT

    Sorry Javeed Ahmadi is not in Squad instead of Shahidi better to give a chance to Usman Ghani

  • HHHamid on January 3, 2016, 17:12 GMT

    Indeed Afghanistan should consider on middle order batting line which is very weak, they have to give a chance to Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah and Gulbudin Naib Instead of Shafiqullah, Samiullah and Shahidi (Last squad members). Best of LUCK Blue Tigers!

  • Saifullah Samim on January 3, 2016, 16:32 GMT

    Afghanistan as usual have trouble in batting specially ours middle order batsmen, I hope on Monday Asghar will win the toss and bat first ,if Afghanistan team score around 250 they can defend that very easily.

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