Friday, November 25, 2016
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)
West Indies are yet to cross the line and win a match in Bulawayo on this tour after their tie against Zimbabwe and one-run defeat to Sri Lanka. That leaves them second on the points table, with seven points, while the hosts are third on four, with their points coming from that tie and the rain-ruined encounter against Sri Lanka. Both teams are chasing that winning feeling, and this match is essentially a semi-final, with the winner guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s final.
The statistics favour West Indies: they have three of the top five wicket-takers and the top two run-scorers in this tri-series in their squad. But both teams’ recent form has been unpredictable and inconsistent, and West Indies may well be without strike bowler Shannon Gabriel after he limped off with a hamstring niggle during the game against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, making this a difficult match to call.
The Zimbabweans floundered in the tournament opener, stooping to an eight-wicket defeatagainst Sri Lanka, but the green, seaming conditions they encountered in Harare are a world away from the more benign surface they are likely to find on Friday. Zimbabwe will also be able to draw confidence from their last match against West Indies, as well as the comfort of playing at home in front of a supportive crowd.
Zimbabwe’s best hope may be to play on West Indies’ performance anxiety and build pressure on their lower middle order. Captain Graeme Cremer made no secret of his intention to starve West Indies’ batsmen of boundaries as a route towards building pressure at the beginning of this series, and if his batsmen are able to cobble together a score, scoreboard pressure in the chase may be Zimbabwe’s best way to find a route past West Indies.
Zimbabwe TLLLL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LTWLL
In the spotlight
West Indies’ Nos. 5 to 8 have scored 224 runs at 22.40 in the series, and both times that they chased they were unable to fully close off the game. Whether they are setting or chasing, the West Indies’ lower order will have to find a way to build on the platforms handed to them by the top four, and deal with pressure situations in unfamiliar conditions.
It’s all very well formulating and sticking to a bowling plan, but if Zimbabwe’s fielding is not up to scratch that could all be for nought. Before their dramatic comeback, Zimbabwe missed multiple chances in their last game against West Indies, and coach Heath Streak pointed out that, as proud as he was of the fight they showed, this was one area to improve upon. The cliché ‘catches win matches’ should be ringing in Zimbabwe’s ears.
While Tarisai Musakanda might have seemed the romantic choice for a debut earlier in the series, it’s more likely that Zimbabwe might turn to experience in this situation. Hamilton Masakadza could slot in the opener’s position in place of Brian Chari, who hasn’t been able to take advantage of the Powerplay even when he has looked solid. Masakadza has been somewhat out of sorts recently, but he averages a healthy 34.79 at Queens. There are also questions at the lower end of Zimbabwe’s batting order, and the choice of whether to play Elton Chigumbura or Malcolm Waller as their finisher will have to be made.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Brian Chari/Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sikandar Raza, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Peter Moor (wk), 7 Elton Chigumbura/Malcolm Waller, 8 Graeme Cremer (capt), 9 Donald Tiripano, 10 Tendai Chisoro, 11 Chris Mpofu.
Shannon Gabriel could only bowl five overs during West Indies’ match against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, and given the fast bowler’s susceptibility to injury they might not want to risk aggravating any niggles by playing him again, in which case Miguel Cummins seems the obvious replacement. Sulieman Benn has struggled to make an impact with the ball, and Zimbabwe’s batsmen might find Devendra Bishoo a more difficult prospect.
West Indies (possible): 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Kraigg Brathwaite, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Miguel Cummins.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch being used for Friday’s match is expected to play similarly to Wednesday’s encounter. With a little grass on it, albeit dead, it should hold up through the day and offer a little more for the bat than the ball, without being an absolute road. Friday’s weather forecast suggests a little more cloud cover than the last two days, as well as the threat of thunderstorms in the area.
Stats and trivia
- Evin Lewis and Shai Hope are the two leading run-scorers in this tri-series, with 193 and 173 runs respectively, and they are the only two batsmen from any of the sides to pass 100.
- Zimbabwe have chased 300-plus targets twice, with both times coming in the last five years, and both against New Zealand. Just over five years ago, Zimbabwe had chased down 328 at this ground.
- Craig Ervine is Zimbabwe’s leading batsman in this series, with 115 runs at 57.50 in three innings.
“The mood in the camp is happy and confident. We’re hoping for a good home crowd as well, as the support will definitely help to fire us up.”
Zimbabwe batsman Sikandar Raza is perhaps the most ebullient member of a squad looking forward to Friday’s game.
“We expect a good competition. They played a very good game against us last time, and we don’t expect anything different from them. Their tails will be up, so the situation for us is that we need to buckle down and close off these close games.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder is clear about the challenge facing his team on Friday.