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Zimbabwe faces high-on-confidence Pakistan

Visitor adds Bilal Asif, the off-spinning all-rounder, for the three-match series starting on Thursday

Zimbabwe faces high-on-confidence Pakistan - Cricket News
Pakistan team walks off after winning the first T20I
Pakistan looked a bit out of sorts three months ago, following a 3-0 One-Day International series loss in Bangladesh. A berth in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 was still some distance away. The team was grappling with injury concerns to a number of pacers, while the absence of a senior batsman like Younis Khan meant the onus was on the younger lot to deliver.
 
But all questions were emphatically answered when the team won 3-2 in the ODI series in Sri Lanka. In addition, Pakistan won the Tests and Twenty20 Internationals there to rejuvenate a young side that was in serious need of a confidence boost.
 
The ODI series marked the return to form for Shoaib Malik, who has since gone on to cement his place in the side after being in and out of the mix, while Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, and Ahmed Shehzad also made lofty contributions with the bat.
 
With the ball, Yasir Shah, the leg-spinner, proved why leaving him out for most parts of Pakistan's World Cup campaign was a mistake, while Mohammad Irfan showed signs of form following a lengthy layoff. Pakistan have also now added the uncapped Bilal Asif, the off-spinning all-rounder, to the squad, in order to assess his potential before England come calling in the United Arab Emirates next month. 
 
Therefore, when Pakistan, fresh off a 2-0 T20I series triumph, get on to the field at Harare Sports Club on Thursday (October 1) to face Zimbabwe in the first of three ODIs, it will do so as the overwhelming favourite.
 
Zimbabwe is slowly getting used to life without Brendan Taylor, its most prolific batsman in recent times. The home series against India was an eye-opener in terms of where it stood on the batting front. After coming within touching distance of a win in the first ODI, Zimbabwe was beaten convincingly in the next two matches by a young Indian team under Ajinkya Rahane. But Zimbabwe showed admirable fight to clinch the one-off T20I.
 
Elton Chigumbura's move to No. 4 on ODIs has brought solidity, but the onus is equally on Sikandar Raza Butt and Sean Williams to drive the inexperienced batting unit. With the ball, Graeme Cremer's return has been a welcome change as he lends control in the middle with his legspin.
 
Dav Whatmore, the coach, has harped on the need to build a side. With continuity being the mantra, it's unlikely that Zimbabwe will be cowed down by the recent losses, although nothing galvanises a team more than a win, or a few wins. The recent form of Chamu Chibhabha, both with bat and ball, has been heartening and the team management would hope more of the younger players rise to the occasion. Whatmore's association with Pakistan in the past counts for little now, but his insights would be valuable nonetheless. 
 
The series promises to be intriguing then, because while Pakistan are the stronger on paper, Zimbabwe has shown the willingness to fight, and push opponents far, even if it hasn’t won often.

Teams (from)

Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.

Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Immad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Bilal Asif.

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