Zimbabwe hope to trip up vulnerable West Indies
Tuesday, February 24
Start time 1430 local (0330 GMT)
After tripping up against Ireland, West Indies picked themselves up with an emphatic win over Pakistan, but they will have to maintain that level of performance to make sure there are no more stumbling blocks in their path to the quarter-finals. Zimbabwe have shown enough quality over their two games and have designs of reaching the knockouts themselves, not to mention adding further intrigue to a group that has been blown open by Ireland's heroics in Nelson.
Zimbabwe have assembled a pretty solid batting line-up on paper, with quality in the the middle order and a couple of good finishers lower down. But while that stood out against both South Africa and UAE, the bowling is inconsistent, particularly in the death overs. They gave up 146 runs in the last 10 overs against South Africa, and 81 against UAE. This is potentially their biggest worry going into the game against a West Indies side that has twice made 300-plus totals despite Chris Gayle not firing.
While West Indies will be delighted with the form of their lower-middle order, where Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Denesh Ramdin and Andre Russell have all scored vital runs, they can't afford to keep making poor starts. Gayle has made only one half-century in his last 19 innings, a run stretching back to June 2013, and Dwayne Smith has looked unconvincing as an opener, particularly when the new ball moves around. If Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara make inroads early on, they might just catch the West Indies middle order on an off day.
West Indies: WLLWL(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
After 101 ODIs, Dwayne Smith has a batting average of 18.85. He hasn't bowled an over in his last five ODIs. He has thrown away starts in both his matches at the World Cup so far, and will need to do a whole lot better over West Indies' upcoming games to justify his place at the top of the order.
Tafadzwa Kamungozi's quickish legspin has been a valuable addition to Zimbabwe's attack, and he showed excellent control against both South Africa and UAE. He has only picked up one wicket so far in the World Cup, and his ODI bowling average, after 13 matches, is 42.58. Zimbabwe will hope he can add incision to his economy and give them a bit of middle-overs bite.
Darren Bravo hasn't recovered from the hamstring injury that forced him to retire hurt against Pakistan, and Jonathan Carter will take his place.
West Indies (possible) 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Jonathan Carter, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Lendl Simmons, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Andre Russell, 9 Jason Holder (capt), 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Sulieman Benn.
Chamu Chibhabha made a half-century against South Africa with an injured knee and missed Zimbabwe's next game, against UAE. He has failed a couple of fitness tests since then, but the team management will only take a call on him on the morning of the match, and choose between Stuart Matsikenyeri and Regis Chakabva in case he can't play. Solomon Mire also has a small niggle, and could make way for Prosper Utseya if ruled out.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Sikandar Raza, 2 Chamu Chibhabha/Regis Chakabva/Stuart Matsikenyeri, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Craig Ervine, 7 Solomon Mire/Prosper Utseya, 8 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 9 Tinashe Panyangara, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Tafadzwa Kamungozi.
Pitch and conditions
This hasn't been a good World Cup for chasing teams, and that is unlikely to change at the Manuka Oval, going by its recent history. Teams batting first have won three out of four matches played this century, with Sri Lanka pulling off the only successful chase in a rain-curtailed match against India in 2008. Big scores have been common, with teams posting 300-plus totals in two of those games and Bangladesh scoring 267 against Afghanistan last week. The major factor in the bowlers' favour, especially the spinners, is the outfield, which is of comparable dimensions to the MCG.
Stats and trivia
- Elton Chigumbura needs three wickets to become the second Zimbabwean - Grant Flower is the other - to achieve the ODI double of 3000 runs and 100 wickets.
- Chris Gayle is 79 short of 9000 ODI runs, while Brendan Taylor is 88 short of 5000.
- Andre Russell has been not out in three of his last four ODI innings, during which time he has made 157 runs in 78 balls, at a strike rate of 201.28.
"It's very good to see that [Chris Gayle] still hasn't fired and we're still getting 300 runs. I guess when his contribution comes, we'll get somewhere close to 400, hopefully."
West Indies captain Jason Holder is happy with the team's middle-order form
"It's the biggest ground I've been on so far. I've been in New Zealand the whole time, so yeah, it's a bit of a change for us."
Hamilton Masakadza, on the size of the Manuka Oval outfield
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo