There will be an air of expectation and anticipation at Harare Sports Club when Zimbabwe take on Bangladesh in three T20Is starting Saturday.
Less than two weeks ago, Zimbabwe topped the T20 World Cup qualification tournament, signing off with a rousing show in the final when they beat Netherlands by 37 runs. Bangladesh are a superior side on paper, but not much more than that, especially in T20Is, a format they still haven't quite come to terms with.
So Zimbabwe have reason to believe. Four of their five main batters have strike rates between 126 and 150 in T20Is. Among them, Sikandar Raza has the best strike rate as well as the most runs, and the best innings score. The others - Wessly Madhevere, Sean Williams and Regis Chakabva - are in form too. Raza, the main allrounder in the team, also has recent experience playing the Bangladesh players, having taken part in both last season's Bangladesh Premier League and Dhaka Premier League.
Raza is also Zimbabwe's joint-highest wicket-taker in T20Is this year, though Zimbabwe would have liked to have Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani to give Raza company. But they do have Luke Jongwe and Ryan Burl, who have both been among the wickets of late, and Williams, who has an excellent economy rate in the format this year and bowled well in the qualifiers.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, have travelled without their four most experienced cricketers. Tamim Iqbal has retired from T20Is. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah - who recently lost the captaincy, with Nurul Hasan taking charge - have been rested, while Shakib Al Hasan has taken a break. That's 391 matches worth of experience gone.
Nurul, therefore, has a lot on his plate. A solid wicketkeeper who is known for his innovative batting, Nurul, however, hasn't scored a lot of runs in T20Is recently. Overall, too, 271 runs from 33 T20Is at an average of 12.90 and strike rate of 111.98 shouldn't strike fear in opposition hearts.
But Nurul has stressed on "impact runs" rather than just runs - something the team will expect from him. Nurul will also hope that their new line-up can get them decent totals. The onus will be on Litton Das to lead, while Afif Hossain has a bit of something about him. There's also Munim Shahriar, Anamul Haque and the returning Najmul Hossain Shanto and Parvez Hossain Emon among the batters.
Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam are the main quicks, while Nasum Ahmed should do well too. Bangladesh will also have to find the right time to use Mahedi Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain, while the returning Hasan Mahmud and Mehidy Hasan Miraz will have chances coming their way too.
(Last five completed matches; most recent first) Zimbabwe WWWWW Bangladesh LLLWL
In the spotlight
Sikandar Raza is on a hot streak with bat and ball. He took a career-best 4 for 8 in the qualifier final against Netherlands. He also scored 82* and 87 against USA and Singapore earlier in the tournament, apart from couple of forties against Afghanistan back in June.
Bangladesh's six-hitting problem doesn't seem to have gone away, though Afif Hossain has shown some ability there. Afif has struck 18 sixes in the last 12 months, the most in this team. But it is really low compared to the big teams around the world, with Nicholas Pooran leading with 46 sixes. Afif is one of the few form players in his T20I team, having struck a half-century in the third match in West Indies the other day.
Zimbabwe are likely to be unchanged for the first game on Saturday, sticking with the XI that beat Netherlands in the final.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Regis Chakabva (wk), 2 Craig Ervine (capt), 3 Sean Williams, 4 Wessly Madhevere, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Milton Shumba, 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Tony Munyonga, 9 Luke Jongwe, 10 Wellington Masakadza, 11 Richard Ngarava
Bangladesh have to rebuild their batting in the absence of the seniors. They have Shanto, Shahriar and Emon as options, but none of them are middle-order batters.