About the Match
The Harare Sports Club at Zimbabwe is set to host Pakistan after a busy season of cricket with visitors India and Bangladesh. Zimbabwe plays Pakistan in the 1st T20 of the series on Aug 23. After leveling the series with Bangladesh, Zimbabwe suffered a massive defeat against the Indians in the recently concluded tournament. Pakistan too had a busy season this year first in Champions Trophy in England followed by a bilateral series against West Indies and then the Caribbean Premier League, where most of their players have participated and have done reasonably well. Pakistan is ranked 2nd in the ICC T20 format, whereas Zimbabwe occupy the 12th position. At first glance, it certainly seems to be a mismatch, but Pakistan is a young side and Zimbabwe has surprised with some their performances and the home advantage lies with them and therefore a nice match between is expected in the first game.
Last time around, in their 2011 tour of Zimbabwe, Pakistan won all the matches they played. Going into this series, Pakistan is high on confidence and is backed up by some brilliant performances by its players this season. Mohammed Hafeez and Ahmed Shahzad have excelled with the bat in the Caribbean Premier League, of which they were a part till recently. Sohail Tanvir bowled exceptionally well in the England domestic season. Sohaib Maqsood, who has been the leading scorer for the team recently and Anwar Ali, who is known for his swing bowling are the two recent additions to the T20 squad. Pakistan has been successfully experimenting with team combinations and has become very flexible in its game plans. It needs to be seen if their hard work pays off.
After a crushing defeat to the Indians, the host team had lots to learn from their mistakes. Captain Brendan Taylor, who played well against the Bangladesh team, was not in the right form to take on the world champions. Moreover, the bowlers too lost their competitive edge and posed no challenges to the Indians. Having said so, the Zimbabwe team has worked on their weaknesses and perhaps even changed their game plan to face the Pakistanis. Prosper Utseya’s spin bowling, Sikandar Raza and Vusi Sibanda’s strong opening partnership and the in-form Elton Chigumbura have many a tricks up their sleeves to surprise the visitors. Though the team is down on morale, it is up to the Captain to build some strong foundation, inspire his men and lead them by example.
Going in as favorites, Pakistan has tremendous pressure to do well in this tournament. Zimbabwe on the other hand are going in as underdogs due to their weaknesses reflected in the last series and have been working on building consistency and improve their strategies. The exceptional player performances of the Pakistan Team are bound to pose some serious challenges to the hosts. Though Zimbabwe has been struggling with poor form of its players and other internal issues, they have been exposed to a learning curve all through this season. Will they make use of the lessons learnt and turnaround their fate in this opening match? Will Pakistan continue on their winning stride and win this game? Yes, I think that Pakistan will once again prove its superiority in this shorter version of the game and emerge victorious in the first T20.
Pakistan, 1.14 @ William Hill