Friday March 12, 2010
Start time 9.30am (13.30GMT)
The fourth game gives West Indies the chance to wrap up the series after their resounding 141-run win on Wednesday, which represented a palpable shift in momentum between the two sides. Importantly for the home side, the win was built upon a solid team effort, lead by Shivnarine Chanderpaul's patient fifty and Darren Sammy's superb use of the conditions, as Zimbabwe unravelled completely after a promising start to their chase.
Zimbabwe's capitulation was all too familiar. They have found themselves similarly poised in previous series, against West Indies in the home series in 2007-08 and twice against Bangladesh last year, having won the first game but then lacking the determination and experience to build on successes with any consistency.
Hamilton Masakadza seems to be the only member of the top order to have come to terms with an unfamiliar bowling attack, but the regular fall of wickets at the other end has forced him to play too tentatively, as was evidenced by the limp, uncertain shot that lead to his dismissal in the third game.
Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya's decision to field first after he won the toss for the third match in a row raised eyebrows among team mates and locals alike, especially as the touring side had gone in to the match with only one specialist seamer - Elton Chigumbura - and five spinners. Zimbabwe had punched above their weight so far on this tour, but a lack of depth, particularly in their batting, means that they struggle to cope with pressure when conditions do not suit them.
West Indies, on the other hand, are beginning to play with a renewed sense of responsibility and purpose after the debacle of their Australian tour. Glimpses of the unity and strength sought by new coach Ottis Gibson are being seen, and the performances of the fringe players, in the absence of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor, will be heartening for them.
Although both Gibson and captain Chris Gayle have repeatedly urged against taking the opposition lightly, West Indies will go into the fourth match confident in the thought that they are one positive performance away from sealing a morale-boosting series victory. It will take a monumental effort for Zimbabwe to bounce back from their trouncing, and the extent to which they are able to do so will be a good indication of how far the team has progressed.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
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The second game at Providence aside, Hamilton Masakadza has made promising starts in every international match of this tour, without being able to push on for a big score. If Zimbabwe are to stage a fightback their brittle batting line-up will rely heavily on his ability to dominate the oppostion's bowlers early on, but he will also need more support from an underperforming middle order if he is to build a matchwinning innings.
Kemar Roach has looked threatening all series, even when the slow, low conditions in the first two games did not suit him, and has snatched seven wickets at an average of just 14.14. Zimbabwe's batsmen have struggled against his pace, and if they find themselves under pressure in the fourth game, he could easily tear through the visitors' batting order to hasten their slide. Though it was Sammy who utilised the conditions most effectively on Wednesday, if the wicket for the fourth game retains its grassy covering Roach will be a daunting prospect.
West Indies seem to be gelling as a unit, and they will be unwilling to tamper much with a winning combination. Ravi Rampaul was the only underperformer in the last game, as Masakadza took the attack to him in the opening overs, and he could make way for Sulieman Benn.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Adrian Barath, 3 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 4 Narsingh Deonarine, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Nikita Miller, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Kemar Roach
The pitch did not quite suit Zimbabwe's decision to play five spinners in the previous game, and with Chris Mpofu by far the more experienced of the two seamers in reserve, he should get a look in. Stuart Matsikenyeri has had a wretched tour so far, with just 41 runs from five innings, and he could make way for Charles Coventry in the middle order as Zimbabwe push for a series-levelling win.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 5 Charles Coventry, 6 Greg Lamb, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Graeme Cremer, 9 Prosper Utseya (capt), 10 Ray Price, 11 Chris Mpofu
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at the Arnos Vale Multiplex normally plays slow and low, and while this was the case in the first game, the grass left on the wicket meant there was some assistance for the seam bowlers, with the ball holding up and moving after pitching. There was some turn too, but Zimbabwe's spinners were not as effective as it was thought they would be. While the weather should be fine, there is a slight chance of rain on Friday.
Stats and Trivia
Zimbabwe's spinners have bowled 124.5 overs so far in the one-day series, taking 13 wickets for 535 runs. Their seamers have been used for just 23 overs, and 16 of these were bowled by Elton Chigumbura.
Since he came back into the team during the tour of Australia, Darren Sammy has averaged 63.00 with the bat (albeit helped by three not-outs) and taken nine wickets at 20.44 in ODIs. Including the opening Twenty20, he has taken nine Zimbabwean wickets at 7.66 on their tour of the Caribbean.
"We still believe in ourselves and each other - that doesn't change after one game - and we know we can hit back in the fourth game on Friday."
Zimbabwe's captain, Prosper Utseya, insists his side have the strength and belief to bounce back from their heavy defeat
"I have to keep improving so that I can be a permanent fixture in the eleven and in the West Indies squad."
If Darren Sammy improves any further on his performance in the third ODI, where he took 4 for 26, Zimbabwe will struggle to reach 100