The momentum is with Afghanistan after the historic ODI series win, but the home side has the edge with the ball
Buoyed by its come-from-behind victory in the One-Day International series, Afghanistan would look to carry forward the good work into the two-match Twenty20 International series against Zimbabwe, the first of which takes place in Bulawayo on Monday (October 26).
Afghanistan has made four changes to its squad for the T20I series. Dawlat Zadran and Noor Ali Zadran, two of the team's best performers in the ODI series, have been left out along with Hashmatullah Shahidi and Najibullah Zadran, both left-hand batsmen. Drafted in are Usman Ghani, the 18-year-old batsman, Karim Sadiq, an offspinning allrounder, and Gulbadin Naib, the medium pacer.
Mohammad Nabi, who has flourished after his promotion to No. 3, and Mohammad Shahzad are the two experienced batsmen in the Afghan lineup, and would be key to the team’s success. Shahzad, in particular, will be a key player with his ability to hit a long ball. Samiullah Shenwari, the legspinning allrounder and an outstanding fielder, could play a decisive role for Afghanistan too.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, would want to turn things around after a disappointing series loss. Sean Williams, who scored a fighting century in the last ODI, Sikander Raza, Richmond Mutumbami, Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura have been in decent touch with the bat for them, and Zimbabwe would hope a couple of them make a big impact impact in the T20I series.
While both teams seem equally placed with the bat, it is with the ball that Zimbabwe holds a bit of an edge, especially with Dawlat not in the mix. Tendai Chisoro, the left-arm seamer, and Wellington Masakadza, the left-arm spinner, bowled with great control for it in the ODIs, picking up important wickets and going at less than 4.50 runs an over.
In the absence of Dawlat, easily Afghanistan’s best bowler in the ODI series, Shapoor Zadran, the tall left-arm seamer, has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is riding a wave of confidence after it became the first associate nation to beat a full-member team in a bilateral ODI series. But, while momentum may be in Afghanistan’s favour, Zimbabwe has shown that it is a hard team to beat at home and will be keen to make amends.
Zimbabwe: Chamu Chibhabha, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Brian Chari, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza, Tino Mutombodzi, Luke Jongwe, Wellington Masakadza, Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tendai Chisoro, Neville Madziva, Tinashe Panyangara, Craig Ervine.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (c), Aftab Alam, Amir Hamza, Fareed Ahmad, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Sadiq, Mirwais Ashraf, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Nawroz Mangal, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Shapoor Zadran, Usman Ghani.