September 14, Harare Sports Club
Start time 0930 (0730 GMT)
Zimbabwe will want to stop their series against Pakistan from spiralling into a failure and the final ODI is their last chance to do so before the Twenty20s start. So far, they have dramatically swung from a team that can compete fiercely, to one that can be comprehensively outplayed by the same opposition.
Their problems are as much in the mind as they are to do with skill and, if Zimbabwe hope to punch above their weight, they will have to start by showing more self-confidence. It's a problem that has plagued them in the past and although they gained belief from the Bangladesh series, that good work is now on the verge of being undone.
On a good batting surface, they will have to apply themselves with less inhibition than they have done so far. Importantly, Zimbabwe will have to show more energy and purpose in the field to back up the performances of their bowlers. Harare does not offer much for either the seamers or the spinners but if they can maintain accuracy and discipline, they should be rewarded.
For Pakistan, two of the three things they set out to achieve on this tour have been completed. They have created a chance to introduce a few more youngsters into the team and test different combinations, which was one of the major aims of their journey. Although they were pushed hard in the first match, they regrouped strongly to put on a sterling all-round performance in the second.
Mohammad Hafeez has underlined his role as a premier allrounder but some of the other members of the squad will also want to use the opportunity to make an impression - particularly the youngsters and players making their comebacks. Sohail Tanvir has made a convincing comeback while Imran Farhat also put his hand up. It will be up to the other fringe members of the squad to capitalise on the chances they may get, especially against opponents struggling to stay above water.
Form guide (most recent first)
In the spotlight
The decision to move Brendan Taylor down the order has worked well but his replacement at the top, Chamu Chibhabha, has yet to put on a convincing performance. Chibhabha has not played for the national team since December last year and missed out on the World Cup squad. He has over 2500 runs in domestic cricket and has shown signs of real improvement recently. Like many of his fellow players, Chibhabha has shown immense commitment and spent large amounts of time during the Test match hitting balls in the nets with Grant Flower. Now, he has to apply his technique on the field.
He is a livewire behind the stumps, but Adnan Akmal has not had the same feistiness with the bat. Kepler Wessels criticised his temperament in one-day cricket and his inability to accelerate the run-rate. Although he has only batted once in the series so far, Adnan will want to cement his place by putting on a convincing performance with the bat, as well as with the gloves. His List A statistics indicate that he is capable of scoring quickly, with a strike-rate of 82.70, but he will want to outdo his average at that level, which is just 21.31.
Zimbabwe's idea of playing two frontline seamers and two spinners backfired on them on Sunday and they may choose to return to a three-pronged pace attack with Kyle Jarvis returning in place of Prosper Utseya. The No. 6 position is still a contentious one and Malcolm Waller had not been able to make it his own in two attempts. Craig Ervine, Forster Mutizwa and Regis Chakabva are all part of the squad and one of the three could be given the opportunity to make a case for themselves there.
Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 6 Craig Ervine / Forster Mutizwa / Regis Chakabva, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Ray Price, 9 Brian Vitori, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Chris Mpofu
Pakistan have given themselves an ideal opportunity to experiment, but will have to juggle cleverly to include their fringe players. Rameez Raja and Yasir Shah could be brought into the side although it will be harsh to drop Imran Farhat after his impressive showing in the second match. One of Junaid Khan, who injured his ankle during that match but returned to complete his spell, or Aizaz Cheema may have to make way for Sohail Khan, and Asad Shafiq could to slot in at No. 3 although Pakistan are unlikely to leave Younis Khan out.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Farhat / Rameez Raja, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan / Sohail Khan, 11 Aizaz Cheema
Pitch and conditions
Despite Zimbabwe's tentative approach to batting in the first innings on Sunday, the Harare pitch remains batsmen-friendly. Any advantage for the seamers will dissipate after the first hour of play and chances are the team that wins the toss will bowl first to exploit that. Another perfect summer's day in Africa is expected to close off the ODI series.
Stats and trivia
- Mohammad Hafeez is enjoying his most successful year in ODI cricket. He has played 23 matches, and scored 865 runs at an average of 43.25. All three of his centuries were scored in 2011.
- Elton Chigumbura suffered his worst averages with the bat, 21.06, and the ball, 158.50, when he was captain last season. Since being relieved of the responsibility, he has scored 107 runs at an average of 21.40 and taken five wickets.
"I do firmly believe that we have progressed and one of the reasons for that is a more consistent selection policy. We stick by our players and give them a chance to succeed."
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher will not make too many changes despite the team's poor run of form against Pakistan
"It looked easy but we really worked hard for it. We did all the basics right."
Mohammad Hafeez, Man of the Match in the second ODI, says that Pakistan have been tested though they haven't been beaten
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent