The city of Bulawayo is ready to host the Total Sports Marketing Zimbabwe Cricket Cup One-Day International (ODI) Series at Queens Sports Club. A lot of entertainment and intensity is expected during this tour,which also includes the two-match TSM Zimbabwe Cricket Cup Twenty20 International Series.
There is a rivalry between the two sideswhere the limited overs format of the game is concerned, and Zimbabwe will be guarding against complacencyespecially given the significance of the points on offer that contribute to the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings.
When Afghanistanlast toured Zimbabwe in July 2014, they played a four-match ODI series at Queens and proved that they are a force to be reckoned withas they came from behind to level it two-all.
For Zimbabwe, this will be another opportunity to demonstrate that they are bonding as a team in transition. With the next ICC Cricket World Cup four years away, the Zimbabweselectors have been bold in their decision-making in recent times by bringing in youngsters into the team, at the expense of the old guard.
To be fair, the youngsters have not disappointed, with the likes of Luke Jongwe, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Brian Chari and Wellington Masakadza showing signs that they can make an impact on the international stage if they continue to be selected.
Zimbabwe fans hope that the recent series win over Ireland will be the wind that their players needed in their sails, to give them the confidence that they can actually win games if they apply their minds. A few of the Zimbabwe batsmen are starting to take responsibility on a more consistent basis, as evidenced by Sikandar Raza Butt and Craig Ervine’s recent exploits.
The bowling department has shown signs of vast improvement from the shortcomings exposed during the ICC Cricket World Cup, and credit goes to the bowling coach Douglas Hondo for coming up with strategies that work.
Contrastingly, Afghanistan will be looking to build on their historical ICC Cricket World Cup qualification, and they will have their tails up given their success against a Zimbabwe Chairman’s XI in the warm-up matches. The zeal they bring to their cricket, notwithstanding their fearlessness and physical toughness will be a challenging proposition for the hosts.
Among the Afghan players to look out for will be their wicketkeeper/batsman Mohammad Shahzad who packs a punch with willow in hand. He has shown some good form in the tour matches against the Zimbabwe Chairman’s XI with scores of 72 and 31 runs.
The visitors will also have former Pakistan batting great Inzaman ul Haq as coach, and his experience as a player will be a valuable addition to the Afghan change room.
While pitch and conditions will be difficult to predict since there has been no cricket played at Queens in over a year, traditionally Queens surfaces tend to be on the slow side, particularly favouring the spinners.
Scorching temperatures are expected in Bulawayo as Zimbabwe is currently experiencing high temperatures even in the normally cool areas,and the heat could take its toll on the players.
Source: Zimbabwe Cricket