The One Day International (ODI) series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe starts today at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore with a day-night game under what could be searing hot conditions. The next two matches of the series too will be played at the same venue.
Pakistan will be in a positive frame of mind after its clean sweep of the two-match T-20 series. However, a closer look will prompt some introspection among the Pakistan management. Both the games were close affairs. Had Zimbabwe possessed a slightly better bowling combination, Pakistan would have lost both the games.
The format of 50 overs is a different ball game altogether. And that should worry the Pakistan fans. The team has lost all its matches in its previous ODI series – against Bangladesh, of all teams. A series defeat against Bangladesh was unimaginable a few years ago. However, the changing dynamics of world cricket force everyone to imagine the unimaginable.
The defeat against Bangladesh has condemned Pakistan to the ninth position in the ICC world ranking. That means if the status quo is maintained, Pakistan will not qualify for the Champions Trophy. As things stand now, Pakistan will have to score a 3-0 win over Zimbabwe to improve upon their ICC ranking points.
Head to head stats
The last time Zimbabwe won a match against Pakistan was in 2013. In total, they have managed just three wins against Pakistan in the ODI arena. Only one of those wins came in Pakistani soil. That was achieved in 1998.
The Zimbabwe team has done something no team in world cricket was willing to do. Forget willing to visit, the other teams are not even willing to even consider the idea of visiting Pakistan. The African team must be hoping to score their first win of the tour in one of the next three games.
Preview – Pakistan
Pakistan’s T-20 hero Mukhtar Ahmed is not part of the ODI squad. In his absence, skipper Azhar Ali will be the mainstay of the batting line-up. He was appointed the captain after the world cup. He made a disastrous start to his captaincy stint by losing all three matches of the Bangladesh tour. Still, to give credit where it is due, he was the best Pakistani batsman on the tour. He will look forward to extend his personal form and to receive more support from his team mates.
Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan and Yasir Shah will come back into the team. Ahmed Shehzad too has been recalled. Wahab Riyaz, who was rested for the final T-20 match, will also feature in this match.
It is really surprising that Pakistan selection committee still retain the likes of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. At least one of them can be omitted. They may still produce an occasional match-winning performance or two. But in the long-term interests of the team, it is better to groom a new off-spinning all-rounder. Mohammad Sami’s selection too is a bit surprising.
Preview – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s batting can withstand the best of bowling attacks, as they have shown in the world cup. Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Vusi Sibanda and Elton Chigumbira are high quality batsmen. They are technically sound and have the right temperament for the 50-over format.
Zimbabwe’s bowling lacks guile and menace. Packed with an assortment of gentle medium paces, the bowling unit often dishes out run-of-the-mill stuff. The bowlers may not worry Pakistani batsmen too much. That is why Zimbabwe’s best chance of winning the match is in chasing.
Pakistan is overwhelming favourite to win this match.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Hammad Azam, Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Sami, Junaid Khan
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams
Match officials for May 26:
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK) and Russell Tiffin (ZIM)
TV umpire: Ahmed Shahab
Match referee: Azhar Khan (PAK)