Zimbabwe aim to end series on a high
August 21, Bulawayo
Start time 0930 am (0730 GMT)
The Big Picture
An entertaining series comes to a close on Sunday as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh aim to make the most of their final clash in Bulawayo. The five-match rubber has swung from being one-sided in favour of the hosts to fiercely competitive to being dominated by the visitors. Neutral observers will hope that it ends on a high and that a tough tussle decides the last match.
Alan Butcher was scathing in his criticism of Zimbabwe after they took their foot off the gas and played poorly in the fourth match. With the series wrapped up 3-0 in Harare, Zimbabwe may be forgiven for relaxing, but a whitewash would have put them within two points of Bangladesh in the ODI rankings. Even though that is no longer possible, the importance of momentum has not been lost on Butcher and he will want his team to return to their winning ways before Pakistan arrive.
Of special concern will be the batting, which imploded spectacularly on Friday when Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for just 16 runs. The middle order has only had one other real opportunity in the series, in the third match in Harare a week ago, and even then Hamilton Masakadza played an anchoring role. Zimbabwe will be mindful of not developing a soft underbelly and will want the likes of Forster Mutizwa to get vital match time ahead of the big series to come. The bowling unit has come together on almost every occasion, but could use another opportunity to work on defending a total.
Bangladesh restored some pride with their win and will want to prove it wasn't a one-off event. After coming close in the third match, they showed that they can do the business in the fourth. Bangladesh also appear to have settled in the seam department and Rubel Hossain, who has showed promise throughout the series, was the standout performer in their Bulawayo blitz.
Tamim Iqbal finally came good with a smashing 61 and debutant Shuvagoto Hom displayed a temperament that bodes well for the future. A consolation win won't make up for a series loss but it will give them something positive to take from the series as they move forward.
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In the spotlight
On a pitch that will favour spin, the Zimbabwe pair of Prosper Utseya and Ray Price have become the key bowlers for the home team. With Utseya the attacker and Price the container, they have formed a solid pair in the past, but in this series have been overshadowed by the pace prowess of Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis and the maturity of Chris Mpofu. They have taken nine wickets in four matches so far at an economy of 4.65 between them, not their best outing, and will want to use this match as an opportunity to stamp their authority.
Abdur Razzak put on his best performance of the series in the previous match, bowling economically and plucking a wicket at the end of the innings. He has been under severe criticism for his failure to contribute when it's needed and has not adequately performed as a senior member of the squad. With the axe still hovering just above his head, Razzak will want to put an end to the doubts and turn in a solid performance before heading home.
Zimbabwe began playing with their combinations in the last match and rested Brian Vitori and Craig Ervine, bringing back Ray Price and letting Malcolm Waller have his first outing of the series. They will probably want to keep two spinners and if any juggling is to take place in the bowling department, Kyle Jarvis may have to make way for Vitori, if he has recovered from a shin niggle. The middle order is a work in progress and Forster Mutizwa and Craig Ervine may tussle for a place, if Malcolm Waller is to be retained. Keegan Meth has still not had a game, but it may prove difficult to make room for him.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brendan Taylor (capt), 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 5 Forster Mutizwa/Craig Ervine, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 Brian Vitori, 11 Chris Mpofu
Bangladesh will not want to do too much fiddling with an XI that has finally produced and the only likely change is that Shahriah Nafees may come in for Junaid Siddique. The number three spot still hasn't been a run producing one for the visitors and they will want to get some value from this crucial position.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Junaid Siddique/Shahriah Nafees, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Shuvagoto Hom, 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Abdur Razzak, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Nasir Hossain
Pitch and conditions
As spring approaches, the weather is getting warmer and conditions should be perfect for cricket. The pitch is expected to be flat and offer even bounce which will provide a good surface for batting and set up high scoring contest. The spinners should also get some assistance with a hint of turn on offer but, on the whole, the bowlers will have to toil hard for any reward.
Stats and trivia
- Shakib al Hasan averages less with the bat in the fifth game of a series than he does in any other match of a multiple ODI series. His fifth match average is 24.16. He is at his best in the fourth game of a series, when he averages 82.00.
- Chris Mpofu has taken 11 wickets at an average of 28.45 this year, the best yearly average of his career so far.
We need to play a much smarter game of cricket. We want to banish this performance.
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher is disappointed in his team's performance after the 4th ODI
If we can use this momentum and win the next game, we can be satisfied in our hearts that we could take something home.
Shakib al Hasan hopes Bangladesh can capitalise on their win in the fourth ODI and exit on a winning note
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent