Mohammad Isam, Daily Dhaka Times: Bangladesh currently have the third-best win-loss ratio in ODIs this year after Australia and New Zealand. Zimbabwe have the third-worst, just above Scotland and UAE. Bangladesh have won ODI series against Pakistan, India and South Africa this year, while Zimbabwe recently lost both ODI and T20 series to Afghanistan, at home.
Among the five international contests currently ongoing, this seems to be the least fashionable. But don’t count out a Bangladesh-Zimbabwe encounter so easily. Both sides have plenty to play for.
Bangladesh will be keen to end the year on a high after their most successful stretch in international cricket. They have become a different team with a ready line-up of stroke-makers, accumulators and finishers. They possess a bowling attack that offers variety and guile while they are fielding better than ever. They are also led by a man whose humility balances out his hunger for success.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, are a different side since the exit of Brendan Taylor during the World Cup earlier this year. The likes of Chamu Chibhabha, Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams now hold the batting key with their captain Elton Chigumbura providing the late flourish. In Craig Ervine they have a steady hand who doesn’t get flustered too easily. The bowling attack is led by another steady figure – Tinashe Panyangara. Spinners Wellington Masakadza, Tendai Chisoro and Graeme Cremer all have the skills to put the skids on the Bangladesh line-up.
For the first time in the history of this contest, Zimbabwe have to deal with a Bangladesh team that is ranked far above them, at No. 7 in the ICC ODI rankings while they are at No. 10. This could be motivation enough for the visitors while the home side will be having to maintain their form.
In the spotlight
Sean Williams has been Zimbabwe’s most valuable players with both bat and ball in 2015, and much will depend on his work in the middle order. Williams has previous experience in Bangladesh, and will be expected to play spin well. His left-arm spin will also be handy.
Among the youngsters in the Bangladesh team, only Liton Das doesn’t have a big score in international cricket. This will be a great opportunity for the No. 3 batsman to launch himself.
Bangladesh could stick to their tendency of using eight batsmen but Mashrafe’s lack of fitness and the absence of Soumya Sarkar means they need a bit of cover in the pace bowling front. Al-Amin Hossain could be included if that’s how the management feels, replacing either Liton Das or Imrul Kayes.
Bangladesh: (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Liton Das, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Nasir Hossain, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Arafat Sunny, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Zimbabwe have a number of spin-bowling options but from the evidence of Thursday’s practice match, legspinner Graeme Cremer should be ahead of Wellington Masakadza and John Nyumbu. Among the pace bowlers, Luke Jongwe could be expected to share the new ball with Tinashe Panyangara after Jongwe’s three-wicket haul in Fatullah.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sean Williams, 5 Regis Chakabva, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8 Tendai Chisoro, 9 Luke Jongwe, 10 Graeme Cremer, 11 Tinashe Panyangara
Pitch and conditions
The pitch in Mirpur will be hard but there will be moments when the ball will keep low, and there will be minimal turn. Even though the temperature hasn’t dropped, it is officially winter in Bangladesh, so dew could come into play after sunset. Weather, otherwise, should be clear.
Stats and trivia
- This will be the first time in almost five years that Hamilton Masakadza won’t be involved in a Bangladesh-Zimbabwe ODI.
- Bangladesh have won eight out of the 14 bilateral series between the two sides since 2001.
- Zimbabwe are the only team against whom Tamim Iqbal has more than 1,000 ODI runs.
“I am still not 100%. I needed a bit more time to recover and do training. But since it is for Bangladesh, I will take that risk and hopefully I can last till the end.”
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza
“The most important part is about to come in the first ODI tomorrow. We just have to make sure what we did yesterday, and not change too much.” – Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent.