The hosts are missing several of their key players, but will want to build on their T20I performances and stage an upset or two against a raring Pakistan outfit.
Zimbabwe v Pakistan
Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Friday 13 July, 09:15 local, 07:15 GMT
Riding on their recent success in the Twenty20 International tri-series last week in Harare, Pakistan will take some confidence going into the first of the five-match one-day international series against Zimbabwe.
Unlike their gallant victories in the shortest format of the game, Pakistan's 50-over form has been a mixed bag. Their most recent ODI series against New Zealand resulted in a 5-0 thrashing in January earlier this year. The string of losses saw Pakistan slip to No.5 on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI rankings for men and they will have to win the five-match ODI series here by at least a margin of 4-1 or better to not fall further to sixth place.
They have the talent and form to achieve that and will be aiming for nothing less than a clean sweep against a depleted Zimbabwe outfit.
The possibility of a change at the top is not the only matter of interest as seven teams playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 will be on view during this period.https://t.co/ni5svs4mux via @icc@MRFWorldwide@BCCI@ECB_cricket— ICC Media (@ICCMediaComms) July 10, 2018
Fakhar Zaman was outstanding in the T20I tri-series and was named Player of the Series for his 278 runs in five outings. He will again shoulder the responsibility to get the side off to a blazing start along with Imam-ul-Haq, who has shown good temperament in the handful of matches he has been a part of.
Babar Azam's return to the ODI side, having missed the last few games due to a fractured wrist, will bolster the Pakistan batting unit, while Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed will provide much-needed experience.
Their bowling attack has also been steady. Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali will lead the pace attack, while in Usman Shinwari and the returning Junaid Khan, the visitors have the advantage of variety. Yasir Shah's return to the national fold since his hip injury will add further punch to the bowling department, while it remains to be seen whether Pakistan, already having Shadab Khan in the mix, will go with two leg-spinners or not.
Zimbabwe have some concerns. Already missing some of their key players in Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Graeme Cremer and Craig Ervine, the hosts were further jolted with Solomon Mire and Kyle Jarvis having to withdraw from the ODI series due to injuries.
Mire, who was in resplendent form during the T20I tri-series, suffered a gluteal tear during the last outing against Australia, while Kyle Jarvis fractured his right arm attempting a catch in the opening T20I against Pakistan.
The responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Hamilton Masakadza, the captain, and the likes of Elton Chigumbura, Chamu Chibhabha and Malcolm Waller.
Zimbabwe have called up three uncapped players, Liam Roche, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe and Ryan Murray, and the trio will be keen on showing that they belong at the highest level.
Roche, 18, is a former captain of the Zimbabwe U-19 side while Murray, 20, is a wicket-keeper batsman who was picked for the ODI tri-series in January but is yet to make his debut. Kamunhukamwe, 23, has had an impressive first-class season.
It will be tough for the hosts, but with young blood in their side, they will be hoping to cause an upset or two against higher-ranked Pakistan.
Hamilton Masakadza (Zimbabwe): Leading a side that has key players missing will be no easy task for Masakadza, but he will have to make do with what he has. He hasn't been in the best nick recently, but with a lot riding on his shoulders, the captain will be keen to lead the way.
Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan): The hard-hitting opener has had an excellent run in the last few months or so. Averaging 45.83 in the 50-over format, the left-hander's no-holds-barred attitude has earned him accolades. He will want to get Pakistan off to quick starts.
It is quite chilly in Bulawayo with temperatures hovering around 15°C. With a 9:15am start, the new ball in all likelihood will swing early on, something which both sides will be keen to exploit. It is a generally not a very high scoring ground, looking at the scores from the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 earlier this year.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (c), Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Ryan Murray, Peter Moor, Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Liam Roche, Malcolm Waller, Brian Chari, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza, Richard Ngarava, Donald Tiripano
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Usman Khan, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Haris Sohail
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