Zimbabwe eye rare series win
August 16, Harare
Start time 0930 (0730 GMT)
The Big Picture
Zimbabwe are within sniffing distance of ending their drought of five years without an ODI series win over a Test-playing nation. They have beaten Ireland and Kenya in recent times, but their previous series win against a Test playing-country was in August 2006 when they beat Bangladesh 3-2 at home. Much has changed since then, and should Zimbabwe pull off this victory it would underline their notion that this is indeed a new era for their cricket.
So far they have outplayed their opposition convincingly, bowling with aggression and batting with composure. They have all the ingredients to cook up a successful summer - a new-ball bowler, Brian Vitori, who looks better and better with every match, back-up seamers like Elton Chigumbura, who play a supporting role but can also take wickets, a top order that can play seam and spin with equal conviction, and, as they showed in the last match, a middle order that can finish the job.
It all looks a little too easy for Zimbabwe at the moment and they may want to challenge themselves by trying to defend a total rather than chase one down, especially since their middle order has not spent enough time at the crease. Perhaps those ideas will be left to Bulawayo, if the series has been won by then, and there is room for experimentation before welcoming Pakistan and New Zealand.
For Bangladesh, disaster looms, according to Shakib Al Hasan, who called his team situation a crisis. Their mistakes have become more glaring as the series has progressed and are now in urgent need of attention.
The top order appears to need superglue stuck to their spikes so that they will stay at the crease and avoid forcing the middle and lower orders to fix their mistakes. The top four have failed - their execution has been poor and their application non-existent. Although they are fronting up against a good attack, they are also been given a pitch and conditions conducive to batting, and if Bangladesh are to come back into this series, they are going to have to learn patience very quickly.
The Bangladesh bowlers have not been given much to work with but they have also not shown much perseverance and have tended to give up after getting an early breakthrough. The left-arm spinners have not threatened and it will be up to the offspinners and seamers, who showed that they can extract some reverse swing, to take wickets. A more determined effort is required from Bangladesh if they are to go to Bulawayo with any thoughts of restoring respectability.
Form guide (most recent first)
In the spotlight
He has been out cheaply in both matches so far and even though he leads a winning team, Brendan Taylor will want to produce with the bat as well. Taylor's perennial problem has been a lack of footwork and after being bowled by his opposite number in the first match and edging while playing away from his body in the second, it may be an issue he wants to address as the summer continues.
Nasir Hossain rescued a tattered Bangladesh innings on debut in the previous game and immediately impressed with his handling of the short ball. On first glance, there is something distinctly different about Nasir when compared to other Bangladesh batsmen. Rather than mistiming his pull shot or being hurried into it, he plays it with skill and grace and his maturity at the crease was evident in his well-paced 63. He was only given two overs with the ball, but it will be interesting to see how he performs in that department as well.
With a series win just a match away, Zimbabwe are unlikely to tinker with a successful XI. Kyle Jarvis is still waiting for his opportunity, but may have to hang on until Bulawayo to get it, even though Chris Mpofu struggled a little in the second match. Regis Chakabva will also have to bide his time before getting a look in.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brendan Taylor (capt), 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 5 Craig Ervine, 6 Forster Mutizwa, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 Brian Vitori, 11 Chris Mpofu
A continually failing top order should call for some change and Bangladesh may have no choice but to finally bring Junaid Siddique in. One of Tamim Iqbal or Imrul Kayes should pay the price for their poor showings so far. However, the selectors have been hesitant to drop either and Siddique may slot into the middle order ahead of Shahriar Nafees or Mohammad Ashraful. Abdur Razzak is likely to keep his place, more for his batting than his left-arm spin, meaning that Suhrawadi Shuvo will have to sit out again.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes / Junaid Siddique, 3 Shahriar Nafees, 4 Mohammad Ashraful, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Nasir Hossain, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Rubel Hossain
Pitch and conditions
The surface should remain good for batting, as it has done through the one-off Test and previous two ODIs, with all the strips on the square known for being flat. The first hour has had something for the bowlers though, with just a little bit of extra bounce and movement on offer. Later in the day, the pitch has slowed down, but there is not a lot of turn. Batting should be a reasonably easy task and the bowlers will have to stick to good lines and lengths and bowl wicket-to-wicket to get results.
Stats and trivia
- The team chasing has won 50% of the time at Harare Sports Club in its 19-year history as an international ground. However, in the last two years, the team fielding first has won 64.2% of the time and in the last year, that increases to 80%.
- Imrul Kayes' batting average in day matches, 27.41, is almost 10 runs fewer than it is in day-night matches, 37.09.
"We have to do what we have done so far and be hungry on the day."
Vusi Sibanda says Zimbabwe must be careful not to get complacent after dominating proceedings so far
"We should put on 260 every time we bat but our top order is not scoring runs, I would love to see those top order guys scoring some runs for the team."
Shakib Al Hasan indicates that the middle order is being left with too much to do
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent