Zimbabwe search for an upset
Sunday August 9, 2009
Start time 09.30 (07.30 GMT)
On Sunday, England and Australia take the field for the third day's play in Headingley while Sri Lanka and Pakistan square off at the Premadasa in Colombo. Miles away from both those storied venues, the minuscule environs of the Queens Sports Club will host the first of five ODIs between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The ground is unlikely to be the centre of much attention, yet fans of cricket on both sides will hope that the situation is far better than when Zimbabwe and Bangladesh last kicked off a series in the country.
On that day, February 4, 2007, the match was played out in virtual secrecy. There was no television coverage, no media updates, no live scores. The only people who knew what was happening were the few hundred die-hards inside Harare Sports Club. The situation has improved since then, with Sri Lanka's tour earlier this year getting decent coverage, and this series deserves to be broadcast. For the millions of Bangladesh supporters around the world, this game will hopefully be watched with reinvigorated zest because their team beat West Indies in the Tests and ODIs recently. For fans in Zimbabwe, this is a rare home series to take in.
Zimbabwe won their last low-profile series against Kenya 5-0 but their best player, Tatenda Taibu, is not available after being handed a ten-match suspension. Their opponents this time are undoubtedly favourites after their exploits in the Caribbean and their recent record over Zimbabwe - they beat them 2-1 earlier this year. Bangladesh's players have much more international experience and have been playing more cricket lately. Zimbabwe are up against it and will need to play out of their skins to beat Bangladesh. A victory for Zimbabwe will give them their first notable ODI series win since July 2006, and augur well for their future as an international team after an encouraging performance against Sri Lanka in the last three ODIs at home.
Bangladesh, after massive strides in the West Indies, have few form concerns despite the warm-up defeat. Shakib Al Hasan, the stand-in captain for the current tour of West Indies, will continue to lead the side in the absence of Mashrafe Mortaza, down with a knee injury. He led and played admirably in the recent ODIs and can be counted on to rally Bangladesh again.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe - WWWWW
Bangladesh - WWWWW
Watch out for…Hamilton Masakadza: Zimbabwe's most consistent batsman over the last two seasons has to click at the top. His experience (68 ODIs) puts him in a higher category than many of his team-mates and Masakadza will need to show that responsibility whether opening the innings or batting at No.3. For too long he has squandered starts and not fulfilled the promise of a century on Test debut.
Enamul Haque jnr is a name a few Zimbabweans may be wary of. The left-arm spinner took 6 for 45 - and the historic final wicket - to send Bangladesh fans wild with an inaugural Test victory over Zimbabwe in January 2005, then added 7 for 95 (and 12 in the match) in the drawn second Test. His three ODIs have all come against Zimbabwe, yielding just four wickets, but there's plenty of reason to believe Enamul can add to those figures significantly on this tour.
Picking Zimbabwe's final XI is a difficult task, given the side has not played an ODI since February. Players to have earned recalls for the series are Mark Vermeulen, who last played an international match in 2004, the wicketkeeper-batsman Coventry, who last played for Zimbabwe in 2006, and batsman Chamu Chibhabha. It is foreseeable that the players with the most recent international experience get picked first.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Hamilton Masakdaza, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Vusi Sibanda, 4 Stuart Matsikenyeri, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Prosper Utseya (capt), 8 Charles Coventry (wk), 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Ray Price, 11 Ed Rainsford.
Bangladesh are likely to retain a winning combination, the only exception being the absence of Abdur Razzak who strained his hamstring while batting in the third ODI against West Indies.
Bangladesh: (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Raqibul Hasan, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Naeem Islam, 9 Enamul Haque jnr, 10 Syed Rasel, 11 Rubel Hossain.
Weather and conditions
The weather in Bulawayo at the moment is nice and sunny with no showers on the horizon. "The wicket looks okay," said Shakib. "It has a slight shade of grass but it is compact."
Stats & trivia
"It was a long journey from the West Indies. We were flying for nearly two days. Obviously there was a bit fatigue when we took the field against Zimbabwe A. Our kits also arrived at the last moment."
Shakib Al Hasan believes everything is settled now for Bangladesh
"It's obviously important for us to win and move up the ranks. It's an important series for us, which we need to win to give the Zimbabwean people something to smile about."
Prosper Utseya acknowledges his team is under pressure from home fans