Thursday, August 21, 2014
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)
There are times when a couple of days can make a difference but the ODI series between Zimbabwe and South Africa is an example of how breaks can have no effect.
The first and second matches were near carbon-copies of each other, with the only real difference being the margin of Zimbabwe's defeat. Although their bowling improved, particularly at the death, they made the same mistakes with the bat. Soft dismissals and lapses in concentration led to their unravelling and have left Sean Williams stuck with the tail, twice. Temperament is the missing ingredient but whether that can be found in such a short space of time remains to be seen.
South Africa do not have many areas to tweak despite being bowled out by Zimbabwe's hard-working but limited attack. Hashim Amla earns himself a rest, but the likes of AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller may want to improve on their returns but for the rest, the final match will simply be more of the same: an opportunity to get match time and with a World Cup looming. There is depth in bowling resources, but with the return of the first-choice trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander for the upcoming tri-series, competition for a place in the final XI is still high.
The people to whom this final match might mean most to are the Bulawayo fans. This will be their last sighting of international cricket for at least another 12 months and as the crowds have shown, it is something they treasure watching.
(last five completed games, most recent first)
Zimbabwe LLLLW South Africa WWWLW
In the spotlight
Zimbabwe's top order slumped to 34 for 3 and 45 for 4 in the first two matches and will want to avoid another repeat. They have already changed their opening pair and might shuffle it again with Hamilton Masakadza dropping to No.3 and Sikandar Raza fronting up first. Brendan Taylor will also be under pressure after only 20 runs from two outings.
The strength of South Africa's top order did not allow David Miller to be a factor in the opening match. Miller had similar issues in Sri Lanka and is realising the better the top four get the less time he may have at the crease. He will have to make an impact in short and sharp bursts while finishing an innings. If Miller gets it right, South Africa could mount totals too large for Zimbabwe to scale.
Zimbabwe are still struggling to find a bowling combination that works and may want to look to one of the Test seamers, if the management feels they have had enough downtime. Tinashe Panyangara or Tendai Chatara could come in for Luke Jongwe or Neville Madziva. They don't have too many options in the batting department besides Timycen Maruma and may have to opt for the same top-order and hope they can produce better results. Legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungoz is also in with a chance to play.
Zimbabwe: (likely) 1 Sikandar Raza, 2 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 7 Luke Jongwe/ Tinashe Panyangara 8 Neville Madziva/ Tendai Chatara, 9 John Nyumbu, 10 Prosper Utseya, 11 Brian Vitori
Having won the series, South Africa might indulge in making use of all their reserves. Rilee Rossouw is expected to take Hashim Amla's place at the top of the order. Marchant de Lange and Mthokozisi Shezi could replace Kyle Abbott and one of the spinners respectively.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Rilee Rossouw, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 JP Duminy, 5 AB de Villiers (capt), 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Kyle Abbott/ Marchant de Lange, 10 Aaron Phangiso, 11 Imran Tahir/ Mthokozisi Shezi
Pitch an conditions
With quick turnaround between matches, the surface is not expected to play too differently to the first two, which were dry and slow. Some turn will be on offer as well but so are runs with proper application. The weather in Bulawayo has warmed up significantly from the first match and is expected to reach 27 degrees on Thursday.
Stats and trivia
This is the sixth three-match ODI series between South Africa and Zimbabwe. South Africa have whitewashed Zimbabwe in all of the previous five.
Brendan Taylor is the only Zimbabwe batsman among the top 50 in the ODI rankings. He is 24th.
"We have to improve on our batting. This is the last chance in the series for all departments to play well. Giving early wickets away is criminal, especially on a wicket that is batting friendly. We will have to re-strategise."
Elton Chigumbura wants more from his top-order in the final match
"We will definitely make a few changes. We came here to win the series and we still want to win the last ODI but we will see about a few changes."
South Africa's time to experiment has arrived as AB de Villiers confirmed