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Zimbabwe v Afghanistan, 1st ODI, Bulawayo - Preview

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Hit For Six!

The visiting side has won the last two exchanges against the home side and is one spot ahead on the ICC ODI rankings as well

Since the 2015 World Cup, Zimbabwe has played 36 One-Day Internationals, winning just nine and losing 24. Afghanistan, meanwhile, has won ten of its 19 ODIs during this period. That’s a better record than that of the home side, but Afghanistan can hardly imagine taking it easy when the two teams meet for the first of five ODIs in Bulawayo on Thursday (February 16).

Both teams fared decently in their most recent international assignments, although Zimbabwe last played an international three months ago, when it beat West Indies to make the 50-over tri-series final at home but lost to Sri Lanka in the title round. Afghanistan, too, haven’t played ODIs since October last year but it won the inaugural Desert Twenty20 Challenge, which also featured Ireland, Scotland, Oman, Hong Kong, Namibia, Netherlands and United Arab Emirates.

The series against Zimbabwe puts Afghanistan in a rather unique position of being pre-series favourites, if only marginally, against a Test-playing team. It is ranked higher in the ICC ODI rankings as well – No. 10 to Zimbabwe’s No. 11 – and won the two ODI series between the two sides in the 2015-16 season. When the teams last met in a five-match ODI series – December 2015 to January 2016 – Zimbabwe lost the first two matches before bouncing back to win the next two, but failed to close out the final game as Afghanistan sneaked home in a two-wicket thriller.

Afghanistan will take on a relatively new-look Zimbabwe outfit in their five-match ODI series starting Thursday
Afghanistan will take on a relatively new-look Zimbabwe outfit in their five-match ODI series starting Thursday

This time, however, the home side would look to impose itself from the outset.

Crucial to its chances will be Graeme Cremer, Sikandar Raza and Craig Ervine, the experienced trio in the relatively new-look squad. Zimbabwe left out seven players from the squad that made the final of the tri-series – Chamu Chibhabha, Tendai Chisoro, Hamilton Masakadza, Brian Chari, Carl Mumba, Tinashe Panyangara and Sean Williams – while the uncapped Richard Ngarava, Ryan Burl, who impressed with a fine century for Zimbabwe A against Afghanistan A on February 5, and Nathan Waller were included.

Solomon Mire’s inclusion is a huge boost for Zimbabwe, who has another allrounder in Elton Chigumbura to bolster the squad. Mire, the 27-year-old hard-hitting batsman, has figured in ten ODIs previously, and last played for Zimbabwe against India in the World Cup in Auckland in March 2015. He then moved to Australia, where he has been starring in club cricket since 2012, and also featured for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, will count on the likes of Mohammad Shahzad, Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, and Noor Ali Zadran to fire with the bat, and hope that Samiullah Shenwari, the allrounder who was in good touch during the Desert T20, continues in the same vein. On the bowling front, Mohammad Nabi, Dawlat Zadran. Rashid Khan and Amir Hamza should make a difference.

Zimbabwe will be eager to make the most of its home advantage, but Afghanistan, given its past record against the opponent, will fancy its chances in what should be a closely contested series.

Teams (from)

Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Peter Moor, Ryan Burl, Tarisai Musakanda, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Wellington Masakadza, Donaldo Tiripano, Tendai Chatara, Christopher Mpofu, Nathan Waller, Craig Ervine, Solomon Mire, Carl Mumbai, Richard Ngarava.

Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Ihsanullah Janat, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shaheedi, Samiullah Shenwari, Najeebullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Kareem Janat, Dawlat Zadran, Farid Ahmad, Aftab Alam.

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