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The clouds of concern hovering over the chances of the T20I trilateral series between Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and Australia have cleared and Pakistan is all set to take on Zimbabwe, the hosts, in the first match of an important series which will be played at Harare on 1st July. This series is important for all the teams in many ways. First and foremost is that fact that this is the only series to be played in this Cricket loving country until August 2019. For Australia and Pakistan, it could be a testing ground for their limited-overs outfit, especially for Australia who had a winless series against England recently. Zimbabwe will be without many of their key players due to uncertainty in financial terms whereas Pakistan will be in with a full-strength squad.
Graeme Cremer, their most successful T20I bowler, was sacked from captaincy around three months ago. With many other senior players expected to pull-out of this series, Zimbabwe are yet to name the captain of their squad. There's also a split among players as some of the players have opted in to play while others have pulled out of the series because of the non-payment of outstanding salaries issue. Brendan Taylor has been pretty vocal about the situation, and he along with Graeme Cremer, Sikandar Raza, Craig Ervine and Sean Williams have decided to pull-out of the series.
With no Tests scheduled for over a year and this being the only competitive Cricket played on Zimbabwean soil, Lalchand Rajput, their interim coach, will have his task cut out to instill confidence and morale in this young Zimbabwe squad. Their last campaign was in the World Cup qualifiers where Zimbabwe did well but failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Zimbabwe still have the services of experienced Hamilton Mazakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Kyle Jarvis and Elton Chigumbura. Zimbabwe are playing at home and they will in no-way be a walk-over and Pakistan may have to work hard to get past them in the first match.
Solomon Mire, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, Tarisai Musakanda, Peter Moor, E Chigumbura, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chisoro, Blessing Muzarabani, Kyle Jarvis, John Nyumbu.
Pakistan are ranked numero uno in World T20I rankings and they have a reputation to maintain. For the first time in many years, the men in green are going into a series as favorites. They've kept the squad more or less the same which was in their massive wins in Scotland with Sahibzada Farhan making his way into the squad. Mohammad Amir was denied rest considering the importance of winning this series.
Sahibzada Farhan is expected to replace Babar Azam at the top as he is recovering from an injury he sustained earlier. The series may well act as breeding ground for younger players like Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Usman Shinwari and Shaheen Afridi with senior players expected to retire sooner rather than later.
Barring the Scotland series, the Pakistani skipper has been struggling with form. He'd like to continue to build on the rhythm against Scotland, but it won't be an easy task on slow surfaces of Zimbabwe. Yasir Shah has been added to the squad and considering the slow surfaces of Zimbabwe and Australia having troubles in facing spin, both he and Shadab Khan are expected to start in the playing eleven.
Pakistan looks to be solid and well-balanced on paper. Although they have a history of being unpredictable, they have a strong team and will be the team to beat in the series.
F Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Hussain Talat, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan.
With pitch likely to slow down with the progression of the game, expect both the captains to win the toss and bat first.
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Pitches were on slower side the in World Cup Qualifiers held earlier this year. It's going to be a hot day on Sunday and the track will assist the spinners more as the game progresses. Powerplay will be the best time to score and chasing anything over 160 is going to be difficult on a slow and slow surface of Harare.
Pakistan is going into the series with a full-strength squad while Zimbabweans are without many of their key players. Having said that, it won't be easy to beat Zimbabwe at home. Pakistan are in terrific form and having beaten Scotland comprehensively, they'll be brimming with confidence. Cricket is an unpredictable game with the shortest format even more so but considering the team on paper and form, expect Pakistan to thump Zimbabwe in the opening game of the series.