Zimbabwe look to prove credentials against big guns
September 8, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Start time 0930 (0730GMT)
The Big Picture
Zimbabwe return to the format they are most comfortable with, after a Test match that would have left them feeling exposed. This will be their biggest test in limited-overs cricket since the tri-series against India and Sri Lanka last year, and they will want to use it as an opportunity to show their proficiency against teams regarded as tougher opposition than the likes of Bangladesh, Kenya and Ireland.
As a unit, they have progressed and started off the recently-concluded one-day series against Bangladesh with two easy wins in Harare. But Bangladesh fought back hard in the third match and, although they lost that match and the series, put Zimbabwe under pressure in Bulawayo. The hosts did not respond in the way they would have liked to, losing both matches there.
Some have suggested that the Queens Sports Club is jinxed for the local team. Brendan Taylor was having none of the conspiracy theories though, and said the hosts only have themselves to blame for the poor showing at the venue and he would like them to change that record.
Pakistan's returns in ODI cricket have been solid since their showing at the World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals. They beat West Indies in a five-match series, although they lost two dead-rubbers, and also beat Ireland in a two-match series. They would be unhappy with anything less than a win here.
The visitors are keen to experiment with different combinations and have made it clear they will allow everyone in the squad to get a game. It is a way of testing their fringe talent, an important goal for the team going forward. They will do so without the services of coach Waqar Younis, who is on his last assignment, and will want to end his tenure on a high note.
Form guide (most recent first)
In the spotlight
The spotlight belonged to his new-ball partner Brian Vitori in the series against Bangladesh, but Kyle Jarvis has been plugging away quietly, and was the most successful seamer in the Test match against Pakistan. Jarvis is undoubtedly the quickest of the Zimbabwe fast bowlers, and extracts good bounce and movement from the pitch. He is disciplined and accurate, and has earned high praise from the convenor of selectors, Alistair Campbell, and the coach, Alan Butcher, being termed the man who will lead Zimbabwe's attack going forward.
Mohammad Hafeez has always had a problem with converting impressive starts to big scores. But this year, he has managed a couple of ODI centuries and his hundred in the Bulawayo Test showed he may be ready to take on more responsibility. His position at the top is vital because Pakistan have struggled to find another consistent opener. Ahmed Shehzad has been dropped from the squad, the experiment with Taufeeq Umar as an ODI opener in the series against Ireland did not go well, and now Hafeez could be partnered by any one of Taufeeq, the uncapped Rameez Raja or a returning Imran Farhat.
Regis Chakabva may get a chance in the middle order during the one-day series with Greg Lamb not in the squad. Prosper Utseya will be the second spinner to Ray Price, while one of the quicks, most likely Brian Vitori, who was unsuccessful on the Bulawayo pitch during the Test, will be rested. Elton Chigumbura has been included in the ODI squad, after missing the Test with injury, but it is not clear whether he will be ready for the first game, meaning Malcolm Waller could come in.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Brendan Taylor, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Tatenda Taibu, 5 Craig Ervine, 6 Regis Chakabva, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Ray Price, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Chris Mpofu.
Pakistan have four options for the openers' positions, with Hafeez the only one guaranteed a place. There may also be a contest on for the No. 3 position with Asad Shafiq having shown an inability to convert starts and Pakistan handing Azhar Ali an ODI debut in the second game against Ireland. Given the conditions, Yasir Shah could come in as an additional spinner, to partner Saeed Ajmal. The offspin of Mohammad Hafeez will also come in handy. Junaid Khan will likely keep his place and Sohail Tanvir should get a chance as well, after being left out of the Test match.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat/ Rameez Raja, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Adnan Akmal, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Yasir Shah, 11 Junaid Khan
Pitch and conditions
Bulawayo has heated up beautifully and summer has come a few weeks early. Temperatures are topping 30 degrees Celsius, which means the pitch will dry out quickly. The grass covering on the Test track couldn't prevent it from breaking up, and Vusi Sibanda reported cracks as early as the first day. The strip has always been favourable to spinners and is expected to be the same for the ODI. It should remain a good surface for batting as well, but the seam bowlers will have to work hard if they are to get any reward.
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe have lost seven out of nine ODIs played in Bulawayo since August 2009
- Misbah-ul-Haq has captained Pakistan in three ODIs so far, with a 100% win record
"We would expect the attitude to be as positive as it was going into the Test match. We want to let Pakistan know that they are in for a good game of cricket."
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher wants the team to lift themselves for the limited-overs series
"We came with a lot of youngsters and everyone must get a chance to play. But our goal still is to win."
Misbah-ul-Haq says Pakistan will not sacrifice victory for the sake of experimentation
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent