Sunday, October 18
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)
Such was the ease of their victory over Afghanistan in the opening game that Zimbabwe's cricketers may already be thinking of filling their boots with runs and wickets in the matches to come. An eight-wicket win, with a whopping 160 balls to spare, suggests a total mismatch, but Afghanistan are better than that. They are the sort of side who ride on fearlessness and adrenaline, and it could take just one or two inspired moments to stoke them back to their best.
It is Afghanistan's batting that will be their real worry. Luke Jongwe's early seam and swing brought three top-order wickets, but it was Zimbabwe's spinners that really knocked the stuffing out of the visiting batsmen. Zimbabwe's pair of left-arm spinners, Wellington Masakadza and debutant Tendai Chisoro, took a combined 7 for 37 in 11.1 overs while John Nyumbu, technically the senior bowler among them, was fairly anonymous in his four overs for 0 for 19. The truth is that Zimbabwe didn't really need more from Nyumbu, so complete was Afghanistan's batting implosion. Had Zimbabwe held all of the early chances that came their way, the scale of victory could have been even greater.
One cannot look to the pitch as a reason for the dominance of Zimbabwe's bowlers. After some early zest, it remained flat and true for the rest of the day and Zimbabwe might well have fancied their chances chasing 300 or more. But without runs on the board, the visitors' spin attack could not recreate the pressure that Masakadza and Chisoro had applied, leaking 64 runs in 10.2 overs with a return of just one wicket when the match was already as good as gone.
The task of setting Afghanistan right seems an onerous one for new coach Inzamam-ul-Haq, but this series will at least offer several chances to do that. Zimbabwe's main challenge may be to avoid the complacency that could come with such a massive victory, though one feels that it's too early in the series for that to be a real worry. Zimbabwe have chased victories all year, coming close far more often than they actually crossed the line, and success over Afghanistan will be as important for the team's psyche as it is for their averages. They will want to keep winning.
(Last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Tinotenda Mutombodzi seems to have developed greatly as a player since his debut as a skinny 22-year-old on the tour of the Caribbean in 2013. For one thing, he has filled out a bit, adding a layer of muscle to his tall frame. He remains a canny legspinner, but it is his progress as a batsman that's been the most eye-catching. Mutombodzi captained Mashonaland Eagles to the Pro50 domestic one-day title last season, often scoring useful runs in the lower middle order, and then left for a summer with Thames Valley Division One club Eversley. He topped their batting charts with more than 500 Division One runs in the season, and picked up a reputation for hitting enormous sixes - one of which literally landed in a different post code to the ground he was playing at. He's given hints of his potential since his return to the national set-up, and he is on the brink of a breakthrough innings at this level.
With 1289 ODI runs to his name, Samiullah Shenwari is Afghanistan's leading run-scorer in the format. He has ten ODI fifties - more than any of his team-mates - and adds further value with his attacking legspin. Shenwari has been at the forefront of many of Afghanistan's successes, such as the historic win over Bangladesh at the Asia Cup in March 2014, when he shared a 164-run stand with Asghar Stanikzai and then picked up the vital wicket of Mominul Haque. His team desperately needs that sort of magic from him now, and he is a far better player than his returns with bat and ball in the first game suggest.
Sean Williams sat Zimbabwe's first game out, having initially complained of tightness in his left groin area while batting during the third ODI against Ireland. It is not a major injury and Williams will undergo a fitness test before the second match, but even if he is fit Zimbabwe may not want to risk rushing him back, with a tour to Bangladesh following swiftly on from their engagements against Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Tino Mutombodzi, 7 Luke Jongwe, 8 Wellington Masakadza, 9 Tendai Chisoro, 10 Tinashe Panyangara, 11 John Nyumbu.
It is probably too soon for Afghanistan to consider major changes to the line-ups that clicked during their warm-up games, and the XI that played on Friday still looks close to being their best.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Noor Ali Zadran, 2 Nawroz Mangal, 3 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 4 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Samiullah Shenwari, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Amir Hamza, 9 Aftab Alam, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Shapoor Zadran.
Pitch and conditions
The first rains of the season were lurking in southern Matabeleland ahead of the first match, but the weather seems set to clear for the second ODI. There may be some early cloud cover, which will help seam and swing in the first hour. The pitch will remain a good one for batting, particularly as it flattens out in the afternoon.
Stats and trivia
- Craig Ervine's four catches during the opening ODI equals the Zimbabwean record for most catches in an innings by a non-keeping fielder. Guy Whittall and Elton Chigumbura are the other two players to also hold that record.
- Zimbabwe have won 17 of the 59 ODIs they have played at the Queens Sports Club, a win-loss ratio of 0.435 - a very similar ratio to their record at Harare Sports Club, where they have played twice as many games (winning 36 out of 118 ODIs with a ratio of 0.450).
- Mohammad Nabi has hit 46 sixes in ODIs, more than anyone who has ever played for Afghanistan. Next on the list is Nawroz Mangal with 27.
- No Afghanistan batsman has hit an ODI hundred this year.
"We cannot say that we must win all the matches but we would like to play good cricket in the upcoming games."
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai takes a realistic approach on his team's chances.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town