ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Pakistan v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Group A, Pallekele
Pakistan seek Pallekele revival
March 13, 2011
March 14, Pallekele
Start time 2.30pm (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
In their opening three matches, Pakistan quietly assembled three confident victories - including an 11-run win over the much-fancied Sri Lanka team - and displayed the kind of unlikely unity and focus that made them seem like serious World Cup contenders. Add a charismatic leader in inspirational form and the echoes of 1992 had their fans dreaming. But then, on their last outing in Pallekele, Pakistan's enchanting instinct for implosion returned spectacularly as they tumbled to a 110-run defeat to New Zealand.
Kamran Akmal's incompetence enraged all but his blindest supporters and allowed Ross Taylor to flog 114 off a shambolic final six overs of the innings. Just as it looked as though his time had surely past, Pakistan's team management stood firmly behind Kamran, and his younger brother Umar - the only alternative behind the stumps - picked up a finger injury. There are doubts over whether Umar will play, even just as a batsman, which would deprive Pakistan of their second-highest run-scorer in the tournament and means they are likely to persist with the eight-batsman strategy. Up against a Zimbabwe side that has failed to match the scrapping resilience of some of their past World Cup outfits, Pakistan can expect an immediate revival in their fortunes. A win would take them to eight points, level with New Zealand in the Group A table.
Meanwhile, the wave optimism surrounding Zimbabwe in the lead-up to the tournament has been dashed by a series of heavy defeats. Until Sri Lanka gifted a clutch of late-over wickets, Zimbabwe had gone 78.1 overs and given away 448 runs without taking a wicket across their two defeats to New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Their decision to play two specialist seamers against Sri Lanka was at odds with the spin-heavy strategy that had underpinned their progress over recent months, but perhaps betrayed the lack of confidence in captain Elton Chigumbura. Since taking over as leader 18 matches ago he taken only two wickets, at 158 each, and his batting too has fallen: averaging 17.57 in that period. A naturally free-spirited player, the burdens of leadership haven't sat comfortably and his team might be better off allowing him back to the ranks soon.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for...
Among the carnage that was Pakistan's fielding effort against New Zealand, Umar Gul stood out. Finding swing first up and reverse swing later he carries the seam attack. Lasith Malinga and Kemar Roach have shown that the lesser teams are vulnerable to a tirade of yorkers and, when on song, nobody is as skilled at delivering them as Gul.
Brendan Taylor has provided the iconic shot of a lacklustre Group A with his take on the upper cut. In the first World Cup since the Twenty20 revolution really took hold, it displays the huge challenges facing modern bowlers. Outside of that, his classic, upright driving a tight defence make him Zimbabwe's best player, and for a while against Sri Lanka he looked as good as any top-order batsman in the tournament. Pakistan's bowlers have folded under the pressure of a Taylor before and if Brendan can get going Zimbabwe may yet spring a surprise.
If Umar Akmal misses out, there is a likely recall for Asad Shafiq while Ahmed Shehzad can expect to hold his place despite making 36 runs from his four outings. Shoaib Akhtar's woeful effort against New Zealand will prompt calls for Wahab Riaz's inclusion.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Kamran Akmal (wk), 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Asad Shafiq/ Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Umar Gul.
Regis Chakabva's entry to the top of the order provided a perfect foil for Taylor against Sri Lanka as the pair added 116 within the first 20 overs, so with his position fixed the main change could come with dropping Tinashe Panyangara, who conceded 51 from six wicketless overs and recalling Charles Coventry to slot into the middle order where he has had success in the past.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Brendan Taylor, 2 Regis Chakabva, 3 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 6 Charles Coventry, 7 Greg Lamb, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Ray Price, 11 Chris Mpofu.
Pitch and conditions
Pallekelle has not quite matched Bangalore for gratuitous run-fests but has certainly aided the batsmen in its few games so far. Ross Taylor found the boundaries small enough to clear seven times in his unbeaten 131 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka coasted to 327 against Zimbabwe last Thursday. It's harder for the team batting second under lights, so the toss is important.
- In four World Cup meetings between the sides Pakistan have won three with the Bulawayo tie in 2003 being rained off
- The 349 Pakistan made against Zimbabwe in Kingston in 2007 is their highest World Cup score
- In 40 matches between the sides Pakistan have only lost twice, the last time being 13 years ago
"I feel I have done my preparation and it's just a matter of executing my skills"
Brendan Taylor's pre-match words are as well-drilled as anyone else in the world