Tuesday, 20 October
Start time 9.30am local (0730 GMT)
The Big Picture
The last time Afghanistan came to Zimbabwe, in 2014, a four-match one-day series was shared 2-2, and indications are that this series could shape up in a similar manner. Afghanistan gave a far better account of themselves in their 58-run victory in the second match, which should give them a renewed sense of belief.
Despite the defeat, the morale in Zimbabwe's squad is still good and there are no panic stations yet. Just a handful of fringe players turned up for an optional net session on Monday as many of the Zimbabweans chose to recharge their batteries, which is fine so long as that translates to energy and enthusiasm on the field. Afghanistan, meanwhile, are buzzing after their win, and Zimbabwe need to match their passion with an aggressive, dominant style of their own.
In these sorts of situations, teams often turn to their captain to lead the way. But the problem for Zimbabwe is that their captain is struggling with his own form. Elton Chigumbura is no longer really an allrounder, having bowled just once in his last ten international outings. Of greater concern is his batting, given he has scored just 221 runs at an average of 20.09 in in 12 innings since his unbeaten century against India in July.
That is not so far below his career average that it suggests a complete bottoming out of his form, but more worrying is his strike rate. Apart from one innings against Pakistan, Chigumbura has not been middling the ball; he had a strike rate of 59.34 in the third ODI against Ireland, and failed to score a single boundary in his 54-ball 25 against Afghanistan on Sunday. It was an innings that was somewhat dictated by circumstance, and one sensed that Chigumbura failed to execute a Dhoni-style late assault. The sooner Chigumbura gets his strut and swagger back, the better for him and his team.
International football at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on Sunday clashed directly with the cricket, resulting in a lower than normal turnout for a weekend match in this cricket-starved city, and mid-week games are never that well attended, so Zimbabwe are going to have to raise themselves without massive support from the stands.
Form Guide (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe LWLWW Afghanistan WLLLL
In the spotlight
Luke Jongwe is one of Zimbabwe's brightest young finds. Though he had an off day with the ball on Sunday, he has achieved his best returns for Zimbabwe with both bat and ball in this series, taking 3 for 16 in the first game and attempting a fightback with his exuberant 33-ball 46 in the second. As Chigumbura's role with the ball fades, Zimbabwe are on the look-out for an allrounder and Jongwe appears the most likely candidate.
Before Mohammad Nabi's maiden effort on Sunday, no other Afghanistan batsman had hit an ODI hundred this year. That is partly due to the paucity of their international engagements, but it is also indicative of the way their batsmen tend to play, slipping naturally into a mode of all-out attack. Nabi is no different, and his six towering sixes on Sunday are a testament to that, but his innings also showed what a galvanising effect one long innings can have on the rest of the team. He has set an example for the rest of the top order to follow.
Sean Williams spent the Sunday lunch break receiving throwdowns from batting coach Andrew Waller, under the supervision of Dav Whatmore, and on Monday morning, he passed a fitness test. It seems natural that Williams will slot right back into Zimbabwe's XI to strengthen the batting. But what is less clear is who will miss out when he comes back. Tendai Chisoro has not done much wrong in the two games he has played, so it may be offspinner John Nyumbu who makes way.
After their sterling performance in the second game, Afghanistan's XI sure ain't broke, so there's no real reason to fix it. The form of middle-order batsman Nawroz Mangal on this tour will, however, soon become a concern.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Noor Ali Zadran, 2 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 3 Mohammad Nabi, 4 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 5 Nawroz Mangal, 6 Samiullah Shenwari, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Amir Hamza, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Aftab Alam.
Pitch and conditions
Tuesday is expected to be hot and sunny, though there may be some cloud cover. The fresh pitch in use for the third match should retain its typical Queens Sports Club character, and the best time for batting will be between late-morning and mid-afternoon, with a hint of early movement for the seamers and a touch more grip for the spinners in the afternoon. There was also definite reverse swing for Afghanistan late on Sunday afternoon. Generally, though, it should be a good strip to bat on.
Stats and trivia
Afghanistan's victory batting first bucks the trend at Queens Sports Club. In 63 ODIs at the venue, 37 have been won by the side fielding first, with only 23 won by the side batting first. There has also been a tie, while two games ended as a no-result.
Aftab Alam has the best record at the venue for an Afghanistan bowler. He has picked up seven wickets at 20.42 and has an economy rate of 4.66 in the four matches he has played here.
Elton Chigumbura needs 90 more runs to become the sixth Zimbabwean to score 4000 or more runs in ODIs.
"I thank my coach and captain for giving me a chance at No. 3. It was a good decision for me and for my team."
Mohammad Nabi revels in the batting promotion that lead to his first hundred in ODIs.
"When I got to the wicket I said to Elton 'I'm just going to hang around a bit and see how it goes from there.'"
What Luke Jongwe apparently said to his captain before clubbing seven fours and a six in his blazing knock.