A shock defeat for South Africa against Netherlands
earlier on Sunday has ensured that India will not face a must-win game against Zimbabwe to qualify for the semi-finals. Rohit Sharma's men are already through the final four as a result of South Africa's exit, and victory against Zimbabwe will seal their place at the top of Group 2 and set-up a semi-final showdown against England in Adelaide on November 10.
While India have three wins in four games, it hasn't been a smooth ride. In their opening match against Pakistan, they needed a Virat Kohli
masterclass to give them a memorable, come-from-behind victory. Then, in their previous game, Bangladesh needed 85 from nine overs with all ten wickets remaining before slipping up. Zimbabwe are no pushovers either and India, as R Ashwin
said in the pre-match press conference
, will have to be "as clinical as possible".
Zimbabwe might be all but out
of the tournament following their defeat to Netherlands earlier in the group stage, but they have put in spirited performances throughout. After dominating the qualifying tournament, they topped their group in the first round at the World Cup, and beat Pakistan in the Super 12s to give themselves a shot at the semi-finals. However, their batting let them down
in the subsequent games.
With their attacking style of play, Zimbabwe have won millions of hearts, especially back home. On Sunday, they will have a chance to sign off in style in front of a packed MCG.
India WLWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
scored a scratchy half-century against Netherlands. KL Rahul
struck 50 off 32 balls against Bangladesh. But overall, they have failed to give India good starts. In four matches, India's average opening stand is 13 at a run rate of 4.27. Only Pakistan and Namibia have had worse starts in the tournament
. Zimbabwe's fast bowlers will test the India openers once again, especially if they are batting first.
In seven innings at the World Cup, Regis Chakabva
has scored only 45 runs at an average of 6.42
and a strike rate of 77.58. The wicketkeeper-batter started the tournament at the top of the order before being moved down to No. 6 for a couple of games. Against Netherlands, he came in at No. 3 but scored only 5 off 16 balls despite two dropped chances. Chakabva is someone who can score quickly, and runs from his bat could help alleviate Zimbabwe's batting issues.
Barring a late injury or illness, it is unlikely India will make any changes to their playing XI. The same could be said for Zimbabwe as well.
India (probable): 1 KL Rahul, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Wessly Madhevere, 2 Craig Ervine (capt), 3 Regis Chakabva (wk), 4 Sean Williams, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Milton Shumba, 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Richard Ngarava, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Blessing Muzarabani
Out of five matches in Melbourne so far in this World Cup, only the first one was unaffected by rain. The last three were washed out and the one before that, between England and Ireland, was curtailed. Luckily, there's no forecast for rain on Sunday. Given it will be a fresh pitch, expect some help for seamers, but the batters should enjoy the ball coming onto the bat.
"It [match-ups] is a feature that is existing, and it is definitely paying dividends. But as a playing unit, to only believe in that and say this is what it is and this guy will bowl to this person, you can't work like that. But I think it is giving a tactical edge to teams."
R Ashwin on match-ups
"This is a great opportunity to bowl against some of the best guys in the world, so there's no reason why our guys would not want to actually get out there and produce the goods. How often do you get the opportunity to put Virat Kohli in your pocket? So I'm pretty sure that our fast bowlers will be raring to go come tomorrow."
Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine
November 6, 0330 GMT - This preview was updated to reflect India's qualification for the semi-finals following South Africa's defeat to Netherlands