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The Preview by Firdose Moonda
September 3, 2014
Match factsThursday, September 4, 2014
The tricky equation
Big PictureZimbabwe forced the one-way traffic into a u-turn last week when they beat Australia to put themselves in contention for the final. That possibility faded two days later when Australia beat South Africa by a bonus point to leave the neighbours to tussle it out for the remaining spot, although it is South Africa's to lose.
Zimbabwe will have to beat South Africa and beat them properly. Not only will they need a bonus point but their margin of victory will have to be big enough to see their net run-rate balloon beyond what may be deemed realistic. Instead, the hosts may have to content themselves with smaller success of simply competing with and challenging South Africa.
It has been a tough three weeks of fifty-over cricket for Zimbabwe. They have toggled with various combinations, dealt with suspensions and injuries and have been trapped in a tunnel of defeat until the light came on on Sunday. That one match showed Zimbabwe's promise and the value of regular game time. This could be their last international fixture until they tour Bangladesh in October so going out with a bang will be on their minds.
South Africa will have more immediate matters to take care of. Their plans were thrown slightly off track with the loss to Australia, so they can no longer use the final game for experimentation but rather for practice in must-win situations. Victory is not essential for them but it would significantly ease the passage into Saturday's final, where they can test themselves in a pressure-cooker situation ahead of next year's World Cup.
Form guide(last five completed games most recent first)
In the spotlightZimbabwe's ability to play the complete game has only been on display once in the tournament. The test for them is to see if they can do it again and they will need their batting in particular to pull its weight. Zimbabwe's attack has done a good containing job throughout but their batsmen have been prone to collapses. If both can work as well as they did two days ago, Zimbabwe will be happy to see consistency at last.
The two main concerns for Russell Domingo after the defeat to Australia would have been the recurring problems: South Africa's middle order and their death bowling. Neither may get the opportunity to show improvement in a fixture which could take on a completely different complexion to their previous one but if they do the spotlight will be on JP Duminy and David Miller to see whether they can turn starts into something more significant. The injury to Ryan McLaren* only exacerbates the troubles with their death bowling.
Team newsIt would be cruel to leave out any of the men who beat Australia on Sunday and although Zimbabwe have tinkered with their team in every match, they could go with the same XI. Barring a change in seamer, no-one's place should be under threat.
Zimbabwe: (likely) 1 Sikandar Raza, 2 Tino Mawoyo, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 John Nyumbu, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Donald Tiripano
Had South Africa been 100% certain of their place in the final, they would have used this match for experimentation but they do not have that luxury. The would have liked to go in with their first-choice XI but the hairline fracture to McLaren means they are likely to pick either Wayne Parnell or Kyle Abbott. Morne Morkel could also sit out if his shoulder injury flares up.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Aaron Phangiso, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditionsStrips are being reused and the one on which the final round-robin match will be played is certain to have featured in the tournament before. AB de Villiers has already described the surfaces as tired and Faf du Plessis said South Africa expect a sluggish and spinning pitch, which suggests another session of laboured run-scoring and low run-rates. At least there is less of a chance of any of the players suffering from heat-induced cramp. Temperatures in Harare have dipped from the high 20s into the low ones which should make for more comfortable conditions all round.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"I think the guys know that they still have a job to do and I can't see them growing any big heads before they have improved. I would like us to improve on our rankings I think that if we work hard, with the experience that these guys have, I am sure we can improve on that."
"We feel that Zimbabwe is a threat now. They play well in these conditions and the prepare wickets that suit them. We expect a slow-turner in the next match. We need to beat them now. I don't think it's time to rest players."
Faf du Plessis said South Africa are planning to present their best-side to Zimbabwe for the final group stage match
* September 3, 2014 4.40pm GMT This story was updated to include news of Ryan McLaren's injury
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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