For the last ten years, a Zimbabwe side consisting of Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza has always posed a threat to Bangladesh. They would regularly feature in their pre-match discussions and plans would be put in place to dismiss them. And when they were dismissed, there was often the feeling that the bulk of the job had been done.
They have played match-winning knocks against Bangladesh individually in addition to assembling a century partnership and two fifty-plus stands together. But for the first time against Bangladesh since December 2006, neither of them will be in the Zimbabwe line-up. Taylor had retired from international cricket earlier this year, and Masakadza hasn't played for Zimbabwe since October after he was dropped due to poor form.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura paid tribute to the pair but said that the current squad has players to replace them.
"Those guys played a big part in Zimbabwe cricket," Chigumbura said. "It is unfortunate that they are not with us in this tour. At the same time, it is a positive for the guys who are here to replace them. The guys here are best to replace them."
A few minutes later, Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, however, said that the visitors would miss both batsmen but he was wary of a comeback from Zimbabwe who went down to Afghanistan.
"Masakadza and Taylor used to be their main players," Mashrafe said." [Sean] Williams wasn't around and [Craig] Ervine played against us only a few times. Those two were their best cricketers. But I think they have a balanced batting line-up. They would want to win after their losses to Afghanistan."
Chigumbura will be Bangladesh's big wicket this time, while the likes of Williams, Ervine and Sikandar Raza would also be expected to take charge of the batting.
"I am accustomed to coming in to finish the game, also to put up a respectable score," Chigumbura said."It is part of my job to make use of it. I have to use my experience to play the best cricket I can to put the team in a good position."
The other advantage for Zimbabwe is their head coach Dav Whatmore, who knows many of the hosts' senior players, having coach Bangladesh between 2003 and 2007. Chigumbura felt that Whatmore's inputs would be helpful for his team.
"He has done a lot of things to us," Chigumbura said." He has been here before and coached some of the [Bangladesh] guys who are playing now. He has prepared us before coming here. Some of our players also have played club cricket here. It is important to use that information as a team to make sure we come out on top."
Despite concerns about their form this year, Chigumbura was happy to open the Bangladesh tour on a positive note after Zimbabweans beat BCB XI, comprising Mashrafe, Mushfiqur Rahim, Sabbir Rahman, Liton Das and Imrul Kayes, by seven wickets on Thursday.
"I thought the guys played well," Chigumbura said. It is a warm-up game so we had to give everyone a chance in terms of bowling. The batters showed good composure. They played with freedom. It is something to look forward to in this series."
Apart from strong knocks from Ervine, Williams and Chigumbura, legspinner Graeme Cremer also showed his worth by taking the first three wickets when there were no signs of a breakthrough.
"I don't want to pick one individual to make a difference, Chigumbura said." The whole team has a role to play to win the game. Obviously [Graeme] Cremer has his part. At the end of the day, it will require a team effort.
"We have to assess the wicket whether spinners or spinners will take wickets. I haven't seen the wicket yet. It might be assisting seamers more than spinners. Our bowlers have to realise quickly they each have to play a big role."