Zimbabwe face stiffer test without Chigumbura
Friday, May 29, 2015
Start time 1600 local (1100GMT)
For Pakistan fan's hungry eyes, just the sight of international cricket would have been enough. But they have got much, much more.
After their team swept the T20 series, they posted the highest ODI score ever in Pakistan to ensure they are one game away from a series win. As a team, Pakistan have produced what their supporters wanted and as individuals, they are performing promisingly. Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are among the runs, Wahab Riaz keeps taking wickets, the spinners have sewn up the opposition and everything seems to be going right for everyone, except Zimbabwe.
They would always have expected to be spectators on this stage, which was more about cricket returning to the country than the actual contest, but they would not have wanted to play only the supporting role. Zimbabwe are competing better than they have in a long while. But not only are the results not going their way, they have also lost their captain, Elton Chigumbura, to an over-rate ban - after he scored his maiden ODI hundred.
While the line-up is holding steadier, everything they seem to be able to do, Pakistan are doing better and Zimbabwe may have reached the point where they are wondering how good they have to be, to be good enough.
Pakistan WLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
While all the other quicks are getting carted around the park, Wahab Riaz had remarkable figures of 3 for 47 from 10 overs in the first ODI. Wahab's short ball is proving to be his most potent weapon against a Zimbabwe line-up who wobble on the back foot and unless they've been practising the placement of their hooks and pulls, Wahab's work should remain fairly simple in the rest of the series.
Prosper Utseya used to be the reliable offspinner who could control the middle section of an opposition innings. That was before his action was declared illegal, a finding that could have ended his cricket career. But Utseya, who has become a fixture in the Zimbabwe team over a decade, did not let it. He transformed himself into a wily medium-pacer and a handy lower-order finisher and the results are paying off. He performed with both bat and ball in the last match and with all his new tricks, who knows what Utseya will offer next?
After their resounding victory in the first game, Pakistan would have little reason to change anything. They may want to include Junaid Khan, most likely at the expense of Hammad Azam.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Azhar Ali (capt), 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Haris Sohail, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Anwar Ali, 8 Hammad Azam/Junaid Khan, 9 Mohammad Sami, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Yasir Shah
Hamilton Masakadza will lead in Chigumbura's absence but the captain is not the only man Zimbabwe have to replace. Craig Ervine, who did not bat in the first game, picked up a hamstring injury and will have to sit out. That could open the door for both Charles Coventry and Roy Kaia, who will make his debut if he plays. Zimbabwe may look to give Tawanda Mupariwa a place in the attack, ahead of either Chris Mpofu or Brian Vitori.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 4 Charles Coventry, 5 Roy Kaia, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Richmond Mutumbami (wk) 8 Prosper Utseya 9 Tinashe Panyangara, 10 and 11 Two of Tawanda Mupariwa/Chris Mpofu/Brian Vitori
Pitch and conditions
Runs have rained in Lahore so far and that's expected to continue, along with the heat. There's no respite as temperatures will be in the 40s again with no rain expected until the series is over.
Stats and trivia
- While Pakistan set a record with their total in the first match, Zimbabwe also achieved something significant. Their 334 for 5 was their fourth-highest ODI score and highest against a Test team
- Pakistan's previous ODI series win came in December 2013, against Sri Lanka in the UAE
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent