Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Harare August 30, 2013

Rare chance for Zimbabwe to secure silverware

Match facts

Saturday, August 31, 2013
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)

Big Picture

It's not often that you get a second crack at winning a series against a top side if you are Zimbabwe. They may have lost the second ODI by a heavy margin, but that has only meant that the last game of the three-match contest is nicely poised with the series up for grabs. Pakistan were lax in the first ODI, but as they showed in the second, they are unlikely to repeat the mistakes and are favourites to take the series. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, not only need to find their best game, but also somehow concentrate despite the chafing presence of the player payments issue in the background that has put the remaining matches in the series - including the third ODI - under cloud.

But there is something about the way Zimbabwe are playing in this series. They do not appear mere pushovers who are just required to take the field for the other team to stroll to a win. They are making Pakistan work hard, they are handling Pakistan's bowlers appreciably well. Saeed Ajmal has taken a couple of wickets in each ODI, but he hasn't run through the side. Shahid Afridi, a menacing bowler for most teams, has not been able to pick a wicket. Mohammad Hafeez is wicket-less as well and Zimbabwe have managed to cross 200 in both matches.

It's a huge confidence boost for a struggling team against one of the most potent attacks in the world. Zimbabwe would believe that if they are to cause an upset before the Test matches, it has to come through their batting. The top order has been in decent form and the middle order has been contributing valuable runs.

Pakistan, though, would hope their openers come good and play meaningful innings. There is the calming presence of Misbah-ul-Haq and Hafeez in the middle order, but the rest of the batsmen haven't shown consistency or leadership in building an innings. Not yet. That's the chink in Pakistan's armour Zimbabwe need to exploit. It could be their last chance to earn some glory as Pakistan are unlikely to cede any territory when the Tests begin.

Form guide

Pakistan WLWWT (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe LWLLL

Players to watch

Nasir Jamshed, one of the most promising batsmen in world cricket, had an exciting start to the year. Things have fizzled down a bit since then. The selectors' decision to drop him from the Test squad raised a few eyebrows, but with scores of 2, 23, 27 and 32 on this tour, the case against him has only got stronger. Pakistan have two important tours against South Africa and Sri Lanka later this year and this match is Jamshed's last chance to bring himself back into the spotlight.

Brian Vitori has picked up a couple of wickets in both the matches. In the second ODI, he dismissed two specialist batsmen in the first half of the innings, but was taken for runs towards the end. However, in the first ODI, his spells were a mirror image: he was expensive at the start, but incisive towards the end. He bowls with good pace and if he can stay consistent during the match, he is always a threat to pick wickets.

Team news

Questions were asked of Brendan Taylor during the post-match press conference after the second ODI about Timycen Maruma's place in the XI and the absence of Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza. Taylor defended the inclusion of Maruma saying the batsman has looked better in the nets. But with five failures in a row, Maruma may have run out of breathing space. Taylor indicated Zimbabwe might make a couple of changes.

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 4 Timycen Maruma/Sikandar Raza , 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Tendai Chatara, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Brian Vitori, 11 Tinashe Panyangara

Pakistan are unlikely to disturb the winning combination for the crucial match.

Pakistan (possible) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Umar Amin, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Abdur Rehman, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan

Stats and trivia

  • Misbah-ul-Haq is the leading ODI batsman this year, with 894 runs. He has hit 10 half-centuries in this period, which is one-third of his career tally. When he was dismissed for 3 in the last match, it was only the third time this year he was out for a single-digit score. He averages a whopping 59.60 this year, but his strike-rate is 71.57, almost two points below his career strike-rate
  • Brendan Taylor, who has scored 483 runs more than Misbah in his career, has had a poor year till now. He is averaging 23 this year after staying over 40 in each of the previous four years.


"Raza has had a fair run. To me he's new to the side and we know he has got serious ability so we need to try and back him and he's definitely going to contribute but it's not going well for him and that's the nature of the game."
Brendan Taylor on Sikandar Raza

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo