Rising Associate v struggling Full Member
March 17, 2014
Start time 1530 local (0930 GMT)
One is a Full Member and one an Associate. That itself tells the story, and also does not. Zimbabwe are probably the poorest advertisement for a Full Member with their chronic struggles - financial, administrative, cricketing. But they continue to be a Full Member. Ireland are probably the best advertisement for an Associate, banging hard on the door of cricket's small and privileged clique with encouraging performances. But they continue to be an Associate. One can argue in favour of changing the status quo in both cases.
In that sense, this is a clash filled with significance, both symbolic and real, for the wider cricketing world. Symbolic because it pits one still included mostly by virtue of being already in against one still excluded mostly by virtue of having never been allowed in.
Real because Bangladesh v Afghanistan and Ireland v Zimbabwe were widely expected to be the two games that would decide who qualifies for the Super 10 stage of the World T20. Bangladesh could have slipped on the banana peel again, like they did in the Asia Cup, but this time, they crushed it. Both Ireland and Zimbabwe will have probably seen that and drawn their lessons from it.
Zimbabwe have endured the embarrassment of a loss to Hong Kong in the warm-ups but rebounded by downing Ireland's fellow Associate high-fliers Afghanistan. Ireland beat Nepal in their first practice game but were then quelled by Bangladesh. Both sides can claim the upper hand on various counts. Zimbabwe have subsisted on training sessions and practice games for months now, while Ireland have recently defeated West Indies in the Caribbean.
Zimbabwe have been to Bangladesh many more times than Ireland have, and their players have been a regular feature in Bangladeshi leagues such as the BPL and the DPL.
Neither side has played in Sylhet, though, and the brand new Sylhet Divisional Stadium would be a fitting location for those seeking to establish a new order to challenge the old, and the old to resist them.
Watch out for
Zimbabwe have not played international cricket since September, so there is little to go by in terms of current form. Hamilton Masakadza struck 93 off just 52 balls, including seven sixes, against Afghanistan in the warm-up. He likes to take his time in the one-dayers, but once in the mood, he can cause plenty of damage in quick time. He also has three T20 hundreds to his name.
Paul Stirling may not have a hundred in the format, but by the time he falls, he's often set the match up for Ireland with his uninhibited hitting. To have a strike-rate of close to 140 over 84 games takes some doing, and to add to that, he can also be utilised for some overs of offspin, something that Ireland will likely find handy in Bangladesh.
William Porterfield spoke highly of the young offspinner Andy McBrine, saying he had impressed over the last six weeks in the West Indies and in the warm-up matches. The combination of the experienced George Dockrell and the rookie McBrine could test Zimbabwe, who have tended to struggle against spin in the past.
Ireland 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Andrew Poynter, 5 Gary Wilson (wk), 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Max Sorensen, 8 Alex Cusack, 9 Tim Murtagh, 10 George Dockrell, 11 Andy McBrine/Stuart Thompson
Zimbabwe have brought along two legspinners in Tafadzwa Kamungozi and Natsai M'Shangwe. The 26-year old Kamungozi last played for Zimbabwe back in 2006. Sikandar Raza has opened with Hamilton Masakadza in both the warm-up matches. Will Zimbabwe continue with the same pairing or go back to Vusi Sibanda at the top of the order?
Zimbabwe 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 4 Vusi Sibanda, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Natsai M'Shangwe/Tafadzwa Kamungozi, 10 Tinashe Panyangara, 10 Tendai Chatara/Brian Vitori/Shingi Masakadza
Stats and trivia
- Ireland beat Zimbabwe in the previous meeting between the two sides, a one-dayer in 2010
- This will be the first T20 between the two sides
- Sylhet will become the 208th international cricket venue
"The fact that we haven't played them in a T20 before does not really matter. When you play against each other in international cricket, everyone knows pretty much everyone."
Ireland captain William Porterfield
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo