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It is extremely unfortunate that Zimbabwe cricket seems to be lurching from one crisis to another and is frequently at war with its own players. As many as five first-choice players for Zimbabwe have been left out of the squad to face Pakistan and it may be a little unfair to expect the team to compete. Pakistan, on the other hand, is yet to win an ODI in 2018. It has only played five ODI’s away against New Zealand at the start of the year, all of which it lost. They will be supremely confident going into this series, though.
A tiff with the board over non-payment of salaries had already ruled Cremer, Taylor, and Raza out of the series. Now, Zimbabwe’s best two players from the T20 series, Solomon Mire and Kyle Jarvis have been added to the list of missing players thanks to injuries.
A depleted squad, short on confidence, is going to be hard pressed to overcome a full-strength Pakistan side. The fact that Zimbabwe was able to compete with Pakistan and Australia towards the end of the T20 series can be seen as a positive but doing the same over a longer format of the game is a much more demanding task.
Elton Chigumbura makes a comeback into the ODI squad after almost two years while Liam Roche, the former U-19 captain of Zimbabwe gets a call-up. A decent middle-order batsman with the ability to roll his arm over for a few overs as well, Roche will want to use this opportunity to cement his place in the middle order.
Tinashe Kamunhukamwe and Ryan Murray are the other two rookies that have been picked in the squad. Both are batsmen with little first-class experience, especially Murray.
Blessing Muzarabani, the young, tall, fast bowler from Zimbabwe will get a lot of attention because of his ability to get disconcerting bounce from the surface. He may be the one bowler that can trouble the Pakistani batsmen.
Hope is the only thing Zimbabwe can cling to going into this series and the first ODI. The team is short on experience, the skill levels are nowhere near what Pakistan possess, and home advantage is not going to be of much use.
Competing, rather than winning should be the goal for Zimbabwe.
Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Hamilton Masakadza, Tarisai Musakanda, Peter Moor, Ryan Murray, Donald Tiripano, Liam Roche, WP Masakadza, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani.
A wonderful victory in the T20 tri-series against Zimbabwe would have put Pakistan in a positive frame of mind. Going into this series, we don’t think they would be worried about winning the series, because that is almost a foregone conclusion, but they would be keen to try out different combinations.
Babar Azam, Pakistan’s most prolific batsman in this format, is returning from injury and how he goes will be watched with keen interest around the world. Will Sarafaraz push himself up the order in this format of the game as well or will he slip back down? Can Fakhar Zaman continue to blossom into the fearless opener that he promises to be and can Imam Ul Haq make a place for himself at the top of the order?
These are just some of the questions that Pakistan needs to answer on the batting front. Still, its lineup of Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, and Sarafaraz Ahmed are going to be very difficult for Zimbabwe to overcome.
The bowling has been Pakistan’s strength traditionally and this side is no different. They have two quality leg-spinners in Shadab Khan and Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali is a prolific wicket-taker in this format of the game, while Mohammad Amir is among the most skilled left-arm bowler in the world. Faheem Ashraf is rated pretty highly by Pakistan because of his all-round ability but he is the only weak link that we can identify in this phenomenal bowling side.
Pakistan’s competition has to come from within in this match because Zimbabwe is not going to push them. A 5-0 scoreline beckons.
F Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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The weather in Bulawayo is expected to be cool but dry. The Pakistani players should be comfortable considering this is winter season in Zimbabwe. The pitch is going to be flat and offer very little bounce. Run-scoring will be tedious as will be bowling.
Pakistan is going to be the overwhelming favorite going into this match and every other match in this series. There is nothing to suggest so far that backing Zimbabwe could be a viable option.
Back Pakistan to win.