The one-off Test in Harare wasn’t part of the World Test Championship, neither are the T20Is at the end of the tour of any particular consequence. But these three ODIs carry much more significance for both sides. They are part of the ICC ODI Super League, and points are at stake. Bangladesh are in second position with 50 points while Zimbabwe languish at the very bottom with ten points – although they have had four ODI series postponed due to the pandemic.
The importance of these games for Bangladesh can be gauged by seeing how captain Tamim Iqbal‘s knee injury is being managed. He came to Zimbabwe with the injury, and wasn’t deemed fit for the one-off Test in Harare. There are reports that he has been advised by a specialist that the best way to recover from this particular niggle would be rest for 10-12 weeks. But, Iqbal has already appeared in Bangladesh’s only warm-up game two days before the first ODI, and in all likelihood, he is going to be strapped up for the first ODI.
Zimbabwe named their squad at 4pm local time on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the first ODI. Brendan Taylor will lead the side, with Sikandar Raza returning, but Sean Williams and Craig Ervine, who missed the one-off Test due to coming into contact with Covid-19 cases, continue to remain out of the bio-bubble as the Zimbabwe Cricket medical team is still ascertaining their fitness condition.
Ryan Burl too returns from a knee injury, while the selectors have also named Tadiwanashe Marumani, Dion Myers and Milton Shumba in the ODI squad. Myers and Shumba played the Harare Test.
Zimbabwe’s last ODI appearance was their 1-2 defeat to Pakistan in November last year. In the only game they won, Williams made an unbeaten 118 while Taylor and Raza also made runs. But it was Blessing Muzarabani, returning to the team, who took a five-wicket haul and took Zimbabwe to victory in the Super Over.
Bangladesh come into this ODI series as the more confident of the two sides. After their 2-1 win over Sri Lanka at home in May, they shot to second position in the ICC ODI Super League points table. They will miss player-of-the-series Mushfiqur Rahim who has left Harare to attend to a family matter. But Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman performed well against Sri Lanka too.
Mahmudullah will want to move on from his Test retirement drama. He is in great form too, having struck an unbeaten 150 in the Harare Test. Miraz is ranked No 2 in the ICC ODI bowlers rankings, but Bangladesh could miss Rahman, who suffered an ankle injury during the tour match on Wednesday.
Bangladesh LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
For Zimbabwe to threaten Bangladesh, Brendan Taylor will have to play a defining role in the ODI series. He blasted the visitors’ bowlers in his 81 and 92 in the Harare Test, showing his ability to get into a higher gear when the need arises.
Ever since Mahmudullah announced his retirement from Tests, there has been little talk about his unbeaten 150 in the one-off Test. He is also in good ODI form, having struck two fifties against Sri Lanka in May, and four overall in 2021. In Rahim’s absence, much of the late-order batting will fall on Mahmudullah’s shoulders.
Iqbal and Rahman have injury concerns, while Bangladesh have a vacancy at No 4 due to Rahim’s withdrawal. For that wickekeeper-batter’s spot, Bangladesh have Liton Das, Mohammad Mithun and Nurul Hasan as wicketkeeping options. Mohammad Saifuddin and Rubel Hossain are options if Rahman isn’t fit.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal (capt), 2 Mohammad Naim, 3 Liton Das (wk), 4 Shakib Al Hasan, 5 Mosaddek Hossain, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Afif Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Shoriful Islam/Mustafizur Rahman
Zimbabwe have to make at least five changes as Brian Chari, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams and Tendai Chisoro are all out of the squad. Tinashe Kamunhukamwe and Tadiwanashe Marumani are openers while Myers impressed on his Test debut last week. Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva n Timycen Maruma are among the middle-order candidates.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, 2 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 3 Dion Myers, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 5 Wesley Madhevere, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Richard Ngarava, 10 Blessing Muzarabani, 11 Tendai Chatara
Pitch and conditions
The side batting first will have to counter early seam movement, but otherwise the pitch is going to be batting-friendly. The forecast suggests there’s a slight chance of rain in the afternoon.
Stats and trivia
If he plays on Friday, Brendan Taylor will emulate Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Elton Chiumbura and Hamilton Masakadza to become the fifth Zimbabwe player to appear in 200 ODIs.
Shakib Al Hasan is one wicket away from becoming Bangladesh’s highest wicket-taker in ODIs.
“Shakib is of such a level, he can turn around in any situation, whether it is with his batting, bowling or fielding. It is normal for players to go through ups and downs. We have keep believing in them. I am sure he will come back to score runs and pick up wickets. He is that kind of a player.”
Bangladesh captain Tamim Iqbal is not worried about Shakib Al Hasan’s recent form.