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News

Jetlagged Zimbabwe look to 'soak in conditions' with an eye on T20 World Cup

Australia, meanwhile, will be braced to control the in-form Sikandar Raza

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
27-Aug-2022
Zimbabwe beat Australia in the most recent ODI encounter in 2014  •  Associated Press

Zimbabwe beat Australia in the most recent ODI encounter in 2014  •  Associated Press

While the immediate aim for Zimbabwe is to spring a surprise on Australia over the next few days in Townsville, there are two bigger ambitions in the mind of stand-in captain Regis Chakabva - firstly the T20 World Cup back on these shores in October, then qualifying for the ODI World Cup in India next year.
The first of those will see them alongside West Indies, Ireland and Scotland in the Group B qualifiers. Conditions in Hobart during October are likely to be significantly different to Townsville in late August, but for a team that hasn't been to Australia in seven years, every opportunity is an important one to gather little nuggets of intel and experience that could be useful.
"It's massive," Chakabva said. "It's the first time in Australia for a whole load of guys and they'll be looking to soak in the conditions as much as we can and certainly keeping an eye on that T20 World Cup in a few weeks' time."
The second of the major ambitions - next year's ODI World Cup - will require them to go through the qualifying event which they will host. The belief has grown over recent weeks in what they are capable of in the ODI format, with the series victory over Bangladesh and pushing India close in the last game of that series having been blown away in the first two outings.
"It's obviously a bit of a road for us until we get there," Chakabva said. "We've been trying to work a lot on our game in one-day cricket in particular leading up to that. The tours that we've had, including this one, are all on the path to that qualification for us and certainly, we'll be picking up all the big lessons that we can. We want to take a lot of pride in our cricket and how we go about our games."
"[The India game] obviously gave us a lot of confidence. We'd been speaking a lot before that series, just in terms of how competitive we want to be, and the last game was pretty close to what we want to be doing."
Zimbabwe have barely had time to adjust to the timezone since arriving in Townsville on Thursday evening, but Chakabva was taking it in his stride. "I'm sure we'll be all good by tomorrow, a few sleepy heads on the bus yesterday back to the hotel," he said with a smile. "It's kind of what professional cricket is at this point in time. Don't have a lot of time to get used to conditions so in the couple of sessions we have we just have to get the most out of it."
Can they catch Australia snoozing? It would seem very unlikely with the hosts having named a full strength side minus Pat Cummins (and it's an interesting question as to who he would replace in the XI given the current balance of side). But for most this is their first cricket since the Sri Lanka tour, while Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa and Sean Abbott have been at the Hundred.
The two teams have not played each other since a T20I tri-series in 2018 and in ODIs since 2014 (with Zimbabwe winning the most recent outing) so preparation has been based around footage, with particular note taken of Sikandar Raza's form.
"He's been in great nick, particularly in his last 15 games, he's got a few hundreds there," Aaron Finch said. "He's probably the real strength of their middle order. He's been the really consistent one who's played exceptionally well and throw in his offspin as well, it's been really economical. There's plenty of plans there. We feel like our pace, and our spin group have all the resources available."
"We've sat down as batting, fast bowling and spin group to go through strengths and weakness and identify game plans for each player. I know their top order has changed around a bit. So depending on what they come with we still feel we have some solid plans."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo