A depleted Zimbabwe side’s meek surrender in four successive games has gifted Pakistan a shot at clean sweep when they take on the hosts in the fifth and final ODI on this tour, at Bulawayo on Sunday (July 22).
It has been a forgettable winter for Zimbabwe so far, on the field as well as off it. If the loss of five key players at the start of the series due to the payment fiasco wasn’t enough, the hosts lost more sheen when an in-form Solomon Mire and Kyle Jarvis picked up injuries. And the embarrassment of losing out on a finals spot in the preceding T20I tri-series at home was only amplified when Pakistan showed no mercy in the following ODIs, dishing out two 200-plus defeats and as many by nine-wicket margin.
The hosts have been beaten in all three departments – the batsmen have not shown any semblance of a fight, the bowlers haven’t been penetrative and the fielding has been a major let down, too. Several team changes every game haven’t helped their cause either, with none getting a chance to settle into a role. This is Zimbabwe’s last hope of ending the season with a consolatory win, but they’d need to take their game up several notches overnight while the odds are stacked against them.
From shooting the hosts down to a mere 67 to recording their second-biggest ODI win, on Friday, Pakistan have thoroughly bullied Zimbabwe on their way to a 4-0 scoreline. Though this might have not been as competitive a series, it has given Pakistan’s next generation a chance to press their case for a World Cup spot next year. None though have impressed more than Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq at the top of the order, as evidenced by Pakistan two nine-wicket wins. The opening pair is leading the run-charts with 430 and 285 runs respectively, having notched up two centuries each while Zaman’s latest knock was a career-best, record-breaking 210 not out.
As dismal as Zimbabwe’s bowling has been, Pakistan have been served well by the young trio of teenage spinner Shahdab Khan and pacers Usman Khan and Faheem Ashraf as they rested regulars Hasan Ali and Mohammad Amir in the later stages of the series. All three have nine wickets each in four outings. Barring Haris Sohail, who returned home early due to his daughter’s illness, Mohammad Hafeez and Mohammad Nawaz, Pakistan have tested their bench strength in different combinations across the four games thus far. A batting shake-up could be on the cards to get the middle-order some time at the crease, if not to rest the two heavy scorers.
When: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan, 5th ODI, July 22 at 9:15am Local, 12:45 IST
Where: Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
What to expect: If the overcast conditions forecast for the day promise to aid the bowlers, a belter of a track that has seen loads of runs from the visitors already, restores the balance.
Zimbabwe: Despite the wholesale changes the hosts have done to their playing eleven every game, they’re yet to get a favourable result. Depleted due to the absence of some big names, Zimbabwe have struggled to get the balance of the side right and expect the experimentation to continue.
Pakistan: With series whitewash in sight, Pakistan would likely field a full strength side. If they however opt to rest the regulars, there could be a game on the cards for Hafeez and Nawaz who have only warmed the bench so far.
Zimbabwe: Prince Masvaure, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza(c), Tarisai Musakanda, Peter Moor, Ryan Murray(w), Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Liam Nicholas Roche, Donald Tiripano
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed(w/c), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali
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