Mehluli Sibanda in Harare
ZIMBABWE will be seeking to keep the five-match One-Day International cricket contest against Afghanistan alive by winning the fourth game at Harare Sports Club today.
The home team denied Afghanistan the series win on Tuesday courtesy of a sensational comeback to win the third ODI by three runs.
A win for Afghanistan would have seen the Asians win the series for the third time in a row against Zimbabwe. However, Zimbabwe denied the visitors the early satisfaction.
With two matches to go and the tourists leading 2-1, any of the two teams can still win the series. In fact, the series could be decided today if Afghanistan win, but Zimbabwe can give themselves a chance with a victory.
On Tuesday, Afghanistan seemed to have won the series at 121/5 in pursuit of 130 for victory. However, Zimbabwe showed an unbelievable fighting spirit to pick up five wickets for five runs.
Pace bowler Christopher Mpofu and left-arm spinner Sean Williams played a vital part in that Afghan collapse, with the latter picking up the last wicket.
The Zimbabwe bowlers have been magnificent throughout the series, but have been heavily let down by the batsmen, who have failed to either chase or set challenging scores for Afghanistan.
Williams was brought in for veteran Hamilton Masakadza, but he too failed to add the much needed impetus to the batting line-up.
After an off day from training on Wednesday, both teams returned to fine tune at the match venue yesterday.
Zimbabwe trained in the morning, while Afghanistan had their turn in the afternoon. National team coach Heath Streak said there was a renewed sense of belief after Tuesday’s win. Streak is, however, still concerned by the lack of runs from his batsmen.
“We have kept the series alive, it’s an important game for us to make sure we go into the last game with hopes of winning the series. We threw ourselves a lifeline with the way we bowled and fielded on Tuesday. The batting unit knows it has to improve, our batters are not scoring enough runs,” said Streak.
“The fact is that their job is to score runs, there is certainly not a lack of practice and we are trying to work on their mental side. In as much as we can support them, it’s up to them to implement the plan,” he said.
On possible changes to the starting 11, Streak indicated that with Sikandar Raza still unfit, they will probably back the same players that took to the field on Tuesday.
Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Tarisai Musakanda, Craig Ervine, Williams, Ryan Burl and Malcolm Waller have a heavy load on their shoulders to score runs.
Tendai Chatara, Richard Ngarava, Mpofu, Graeme Cremer and Williams make up the bowling unit, which has been magnificent throughout the series.
For Afghanistan, Mohammad Shahzad is their most destructive batsman, who is capable of dismantling any bowling attack. Other consistent performers with the bat for the tourists are skipper Asghar Stanikzai, Noor Ali Zadran and Mohammad Nabi.
Their slow bowlers, Amir Hamza, Rashid Khan and Nabi have caused all sorts of problems for the Zimbabwe batsmen.
Seamers Gulbadin Naib and Farid Ahmad caused some anxious moments for the Zimbabwe batsmen on Tuesday and they will look to continue with that brilliant show today.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (captain), Peter Moor (wicketkeeper), Ryan Burl, Tarisai Musakanda, Malcolm Waller, Wellington Masakadza, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara, Christopher Mpofu, Nathan Waller, Craig Ervine, Solomon Mire, Richard Ngarava, Carl Mumba, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Mohammad Shahzad (wicketkeeper), 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.