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Pakistan, Australia in Zimbabwe with No.1 spot to fight for

Zim T20I tri-series, preview

Zimbabwe, under new coach Lalchand Rajput, have their task cut out in the tri-series at home.

In the MRF Tyres ICC Twenty20 International Rankings, Pakistan are on top, with Australia third and Zimbabwe way behind on No.12.

Pakistan have named a strong squad for the tri-nation T20I series in Zimbabwe starting from Sunday, 1 July. They have more than just the series title to fight for: Australia, if they go undefeated in the series, could take their spot at the top of the rankings.

Pakistan's strength is in their bowling attack, which will be led by their star paceman, Mohammad Amir, and leg-spinner Shadab Khan, the No.2 bowler in the format. But their batting is strong as well, with the likes of Fakhar Zaman and Hussain Tala at the top, and the experience of captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle. 

However, they will miss Babar Azam, the No.1 batsman in the format, as he recovers from injury. 

Recently, Australia lost a five match ODI series and a lone T20I to England
Recently, Australia lost a five match ODI series and a lone T20I to England

Australia are confident in the format, but touring Zimbabwe after almost four years, they will have to regroup after a difficult tour of England.

Since the ball-tampering incident in South Africa, Australia, under new coach Justin Langer, have not won a single match across formats. With Steve Smith and David Warner serving their 12-month bans, and mainstay fast-bowling trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins recovering from injuries, Australia were thrashed by England 5-0 in the one-day internationals and lost the one-off T20I as well.

They were thrice bowled out for below 250 in the ODIs. Against Pakistan's power-packed bowling attack, the onus will be on their batsmen. 

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, the host country, have a mountain to climb. They are without some of their most experienced players, but coming in is Elton Chigumbura, their former captain, who last represented his country in 2016.

Hamilton Masakadza will hold the key for Zimbabwe
Hamilton Masakadza will hold the key for Zimbabwe

They also have the experience of Hamilton Masakadza, Kyle Jarvis and Chamu Chibhabha, and big-hitters like Cephas Zhuwao, Tarisai Musakanda, Brian Chari and Blessing Muzarabani. Overseeing the side will be new coach Lalchand Rajput, and they'll want to give the home fans something to cheer about. 

A few months ago, the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers 2018 in Zimbabwe threw up interesting results and fantastic matches. Spectators will be hoping for more of the same in the week leading up to the finals on 8 July. 

Key Players

Kyle Jarvis (Zimbabwe): Known for his raw pace and gritty bowling, Jarvis has played 11 T20Is for his country, taking 13 wickets. He has the ability to touch 140kph, and could prove to be dangerous.  

Shoaib Malik (Pakistan): The middle-order batsman smashed a 27-ball 53 and an unbeaten 22-ball 49 in the two-match T20I series against Scotland, which Pakistan won 2-0, in June. He hit one boundary and 10 sixes in the series and will look to carry on with his good run of form.

Shoaib Malik registered scores of 53 and 49* in the two-match T20I series against Scotland
Shoaib Malik registered scores of 53 and 49* in the two-match T20I series against Scotland

Aaron Finch (Australia): 
Though Australia lost the lone T20I to England, the T20I captain's brilliant 84 from 41 balls was the standout performance. His innings was studded with seven boundaries and six sixes. He's keen to prove a point and his leadership could be crucial as Australia look to build with one eye on the World T20 2020. 


Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (c), Elton Chigumbura, Cephas Zhuwao, Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Tarisai Musakanda, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Tendai Chisoro, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Blessing Muzarabani, Chris Mpofu, Ryan Burl, Solomon Mire, Ryan Murray, Wellington Masakadza.

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Sahibzada Farhan.

Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth.

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