January 23, 2008
Start time 9.00am (0300 GMT)
The series decider has implications for both teams with the visitors having far more to gain out of a win. Bangladesh were expected to beat Zimbabwe convincingly - Mohammad Ashraful hoped for a clean sweep at the start of the series - and a loss in the final ODI would add humiliation to a largely disappointing winter. A victory for Zimbabwe will give them their first 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.
Much will depend on the batting. Zimbabwe's loss in the second ODI in Mirpur was once again a consequence of the failure of their batting line-up. In their last ten ODIs, Zimbabwe have managed a score of above 200 just once, and relied extensively on the lower order to revive them. Prosper Utseya praised his team's discipline at the end of a nerve-wracking win in the first ODI and acknowledged his top-order's consistently poor performance, but a scoreline of 47 for 6 in the second ODI would be of some concern. With the team averaging just 15.06 per wicket in its last ten ODIs - Zimbabwe's bowlers have conceded just 23.49 runs for each wicket in the same period - the task ahead of them doesn't get easier. As the team winning the toss is likely to field first the performance of the top-order could prove decisive in the outcome.
Bangladesh, too, have had batting woes up the order: Ashraful replaced Mushfiqur Rahim at No.3 after the wicketkeeper's miserable run in the tri-series, but scored 4 and 5 in the last two ODIs. However, Mehrab Hossain jnr's inclusion as opener clicked - Mehrab scored 43 in Bangladesh's successful run-chase - and, for once, they had a match-winner other than Shakib Al Hasan as Raqibul Hasan scored an important half-century to see his team through. Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, said ahead of the series that batting was the major worry and his views were confirmed when his team was skittled out for 124 in the first ODI. Despite an improved display in the second, their vulnerability to spin - Zimbabwe's spinners have taken 13 wickets in their two ODI wins on this tour - and their failure to shut out Zimbabwe after having them six down for under 50 in both the matches will be on their minds as they attempt to win their first ODI series in seven attempts since April 2008.
Form guide (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
Watch out for
Tamim Iqbal has managed just 74 runs in his last five games, but made a fluent 21 off 27 balls in the second ODI. He first came to the limelight with his aggressive show against India in the 2007 World Cup, and has notched up seven more half-centuries and a hundred since then, but the upcoming decider is just the stage he needs to break the poor run of scores he's had in the recent past.
Hamilton Masakadza's blazing 77 against Sri Lanka in Harare almost caused an upset, but he's since failed to provide his team the explosive starts he is capable of. Forty -five runs in his last five innings provide a distorted indication of his ability, and with his team as desperate for a good start as the opposition, Masakadza needs to bat more responsibly.
Bangladesh are likely to retain a winning combination with the impressive performance of Mehrab Hossain jnr bringing in some relief after Junaid Siddique's failure in previous encounters.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mehrab Hossain jnr, 3 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Raqibul Hasan, 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Naeem Islam, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Nazmul Hossain, 11 Rubel Hossain.
Opener Vusi Sibanda's form has been a worry; he averages just 11.4 in his last ten innings. However, Zimbabwe's batting options are limited, and too many of their batsmen are struggling at the same time. Dropping him for the decider, given the absence of a suitable batting replacement, may prove a big risk.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 4 Stuart Matsikenyeri, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Prosper Utseya (capt), 9 Ray Price, 10 Tawanda Mupariwa, 11 Ed Rainsford.
Stats and Trivia
Tamim Iqbal has been Bangladesh's highest run-getter since January 2008 with 881 at 28.41, but has struggled in his five innings this year. Ashraful is second in the list with 742 at 26.50.
Bangladesh have won nine matches in Mirpur, and lost ten. They average 26.32 per wicket at the ground, but just 19.43 in their last five games.
"Of course we need to pull up our socks and try our best for the game on Friday. It is a final for the both of us and we will definitely try to win it"
Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya calls for improvement in the final.
"I will try to play better in the next match and put on some runs on the board. I am not thinking of the captaincy as I am getting support from all and I am trying my best."
Mohammad Ashraful hopes to improve his own form.