Growing teams in need of collective display
Afghanistan are poised to capture a second trophy on this tour unless Zimbabwe, who have lost two matches on the trot now, can get themselves out of their funk
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1600GMT)
Chaos in T20 cricket is always a spectacle, like the last over in a tense chase dragging on for nine balls, including two free hits, two big hits and two massive wickets. Whilst the fans may throng into the stadium hoping for a repeat, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe might well prefer pulling the plug on such amateur hour. Dawlat Zadran had been left to defend 20 runs off six balls, he ended up bowling an over and a half. Elton Chigumbura managed to get himself run-out off a free-hit delivery, and though his eagerness to pinch runs was understandable at that stage of the game, Zimbabwe should not have put themselves in a position that forced them to steal runs.
Both teams have shown growth at various stages of the tour. Afghanistan shot Zimbabwe out for 82 and Zimbabwe shot Afghanistan out for 58. There was a Mohammad Shahzad century that led a cool chase and a Chamu Chibhabha special that will not soon be forgotten. The problem though is such fine performances have occasionally dovetailed with other players not pulling their weight. Greame Cremer picked up a five-for and ended up on the losing side. Afghanistan's bowlers had offered a chase of 176 to their batsmen, who simply self-destructed.
Correcting this discrepancy will be chief among both teams' plans, and there is one last match on this tour to do so. For Afghanistan, the incentive will be adding the T20 trophy to their ODI trophy. And for Zimbabwe, the chance to come away with a squared series and a better account of their fight in unfamiliar territory.
(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Afghanistan aren't quite lacking in players fond on using the long handle, but Gulbadin Naib
's ability to do so in the closing stages of an innings without allowing the pressure of run rates to disorient his plans has stood out. He is 24 years old, and perhaps with time he can address a batting average below 30 in ODIs and T20Is. But for now all he needs to do is see ball, hit ball, which is one of his strong suits.
Zimbabwe's bowlers haven't had the best time of it in the closing stages of an innings, including Luke Jongwe
, who has recently taken over as their death-overs specialist. But having given away 27 runs in the 17th and 19th overs on Friday, he may need to show he is worth the thinktank's faith.
Although Afghanistan have a vast pool of players to choose from, it is unlikely that they will disturb a winning combination.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Usman Ghani, 3 Mohammad Nabi, 4 Asghar Stanikzai (capt), 5 Gulbadin Naib, 6 Karim Sadiq, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Mirwais Ashraf, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Amir Hamza
Zimbabwe may need to rejig their batting order. Hamilton Masakadza is the only one bowlers would worry about among the top four, so perhaps someone like Sikandar Raza could be pushed up the order.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Peter Moor, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Chamu Chibhabha, 4 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Donald Tiripano/ Neville Madziva, 11 Tendai Chisoro
Pitch and conditions
Sharjah offered excellent batting conditions, replete with dew to help the ball come onto the bat more. There isn't much to suggest that will change. A pleasant night is forecast, with temperatures around 20C.
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe have the worst win-loss ratio - 0.235 - among all teams who have played at least 30 T20Is. Afghanistan's 1.466 puts them in fourth place
- Zimbabwe's bowlers, who concede an average of 7.81 runs per over, have the second-worst economy rate among all teams who have played at least 30 T20Is. Afghanistan's 7.13 puts them at fourth again.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo