ZIMBABWE ran Pakistan close in the first ODI, before being thoroughly beaten in the next one to lose the series 0-2. As much as the visitors might want to believe otherwise, it does seem the second game is a more accurate reflection of where both teams are at in terms of skill level.
After looking rusty in the opener, Pakistan turned it on in style in the second ODI. Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Muhammad Musa were lively in their opening spells which had Zimbabwe reeling, before non-regular bowler Iftikhar Ahmed took the spoils with his maiden ODI five-for.
In contrast, Zimbabwe’s new-ball attack lacked both menace and discipline as the Pakistan openers made merry in the powerplay. There was more positive intent here, something the hosts were guilty of not showing in the first ODI. Haider Ali, on debut, perhaps embodied that change in attitude in his brief stay during which he smashed a couple of sixes before falling prey to a sweep shot at a time when he could’ve just milked the singles.
There are World Cup Super League points to play for in the final ODI, but expect Pakistan to test the bench strength again as they look to identify players who can perform a role for them going into the future. Captain Babar Azam had promised as much before the series.
For Zimbabwe, it is a matter of finding support for the likes of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, as it so often is. The two have looked in good touch at different times, and with a little help they might be able to find the runs that could test Pakistan. Their spinners have shown that they could be useful in the middle overs, even if the pace department needs some extra oomph.
What to expect: There has been movement on offer for the seamers in Rawalpindi, although it was not as significant in the second ODI with some of the grass taken off. But the new ball should still do something. The weather should be clear all day again.
Pakistan: A raft of changes could be in the offing for Tuesday. There could be debuts for left-handed middle-order batsman Khushdil Shah and legspinner Usman Qadir, and left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar could get a look-in too. Vice-captain Shadab Khan, who hasn’t featured so far due to injury, may return if he’s fit. There is Fakhar Zaman waiting on the bench as well.
Probable XI: Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam(c), Haider Ali, Mohammad Rizwan(w), Khushdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed/Zafar Gohar, Shaheen Afridi/Wahab Riaz/Faheem Ashraf, Usman Qadir, Muhammad Musa, Haris Rauf.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe played the same team in the first two matches. But they might want to make a change or two for the final one. We could see Ryan Burl come in to strengthen their middle order while also offering a new dimension to the bowling with his legspin. Elton Chigumbura is another option. One of them, or another seamer altogether, might come in for seamer Carl Mumba who’s had a poor tour so far.
Probable XI: Brian Chari, Chamu Chibhabha(c), Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor(w), Sean Williams, Wesley Madhevere, Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl/Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava.– CRICBUZZ