After a pasting in the first game in Mirpur, Bangladesh have regrouped well to take a 2-1 lead but the manner in which they achieved that crucial last win left their captain Shakib Al Hasan thoroughly frustrated. Their batting hasn't been dominant apart from the second game, when Shakib led from the front with his fourth ODI century. Luckily for the hosts the bowlers have compensated for that by relentlessly chipping away at the wickets and not allowing any decisive top-order partnerships to develop.
Much of that success has been due to their phalanx of spinners who, with their various styles, have exposed the chinks in the opposition's batting order. Zimbabwe's batting is thin in terms of form and numbers; there have been no significant scores bar Hamilton Masakadza - who went past 1000 runs in the calendar year with his eighth 50-plus ODI score in 2009 - and Elton Chigumbura. The bowlers have compensated for that to an extent, not allowing any massive scores, but the lack of top-order partnerships have told.
Zimbabwe have their backs to the wall and need to win the next two. The scenario is somewhat similar to this year's home series against Bangladesh, which they conceded 3-1 after winning the third ODI to boost hope. Their last bilateral series win against Test-match opposition came against Bangladesh at home in 2006, by a 3-2 margin. Zimbabwe lost 11 of their 12 ODIs in 2008 and have won 13 of 23 matches in 2009. Even in series defeats to Sri Lanka and New Zealand over the past year they fought in periods, very nearly pulling off an upset or two on bowler-friendly tracks. They need to recapture that intensity now.
Bangladesh have held the upper hand against their opponents in the last couple of years but the head-to-head record still stands about equal at 22-23 in favour of the home side.
Form Guide (most recent first)
Bangladesh -W WLWW Zimbabwe - LLWWW
Watch Out For
Like Bangladesh, the batting will be the worry for Zimbabwe as well. Chamu Chibhabha has failed to go past 40 in his last 11 innings since his 51 against Ireland in Nairobi in October 2008, and a match-winning score seems due from one of Zimbabwe's premier batsmen.
Nazmul Hossain performed well in the last game, taking 3 for 13 from 4.1 overs. He was the sole fast bowler in the XI then and struck once at the top and twice to snuff out the tail. Bangladesh are heavily reliant on spin and so the pressure is on a young fast bowler like Nazmul, who would probably not have been playing had Mashrafe Mortaza been fit. He would want to reduce his economy rate of 5.51 and make as much of an impact before the slow bowlers are brought on to bowl.
Bangladesh have only named a squad for the first three games. Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, said the XI would probably be very similar to the last game.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Raqibul Hasan, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Naeem Islam, 9 Enamul Haque jnr, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Nazmul Hossain
Zimbabwe didn't announce their 12 on the eve of the match. If Prosper Utseya and Tatenda Taibu are fit they will automatically slot in.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Tatenda Taibu/Forster Mutizwa(wk), 5 Charles Coventry, 6 Stuart Matsikenyeri, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Prosper Utseya/Malcolm Waller, 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Ray Price, 11 Kyle Jarvis
Pitch and conditions
In Chittagong the batsmen usually have a lot more going for them than in Dhaka or Mirpur. The pitch at the stadium is made of brown clay and is expected to be slower, though firmer, than the Mirpur one. Though it is likely to be sunny, the stadium's proximity to the sea means rain is always a possibility.
"If you keep giving suggestions to a player who is not in form then more times than not it has a negative effect and it doesn't help. He knows what he needs to do and that goes for every player in or team." Tamim Iqbal believes a struggling fellow opener Junaid Siddique just needs a bit of luck.
"He is not performing but the team is winning so why change a winning combination? Besides, we don't have any one better at the moment and unless someone else is scoring lots of runs and saying pick me then I don't see any reason why we should change anything." Siddons offers his support to an out-of-form Junaid.
"I had consciously started slowly in the last match and plan to play the same way in the remaining matches as that approach has brought be runs in the West Indies and Zimbabwe also. I admit this is not what the crowd wants but for greater consistency I have to adapt." Mohammad Ashraful says his paced innings in the last match was a deliberate plan.