Host Bangladesh will look to hold onto their winning streak when they take on Zimbabwe for the second time in the tri-nation ODI series at Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka Tuesday. The match begins at midday.
The Tigers, after winning the first two games in the series and with bonus points in their bag have already confirmed a berth in the grand finale. The wait is now to find out who their opponent will be in the title-decider. Both Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka have lost a match each against each other and are at a point where the two sides need to win their respective matches against Bangladesh.
On pen and paper, Zimbabwe are likely to be easy opposition for the Tigers. But the host do not want to think of that, rather, complete the two remaining matches in the first phase of the series on a winning note.
In-form Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal during the pre-match press conference stated of not having a favourite opponent. Rather, he said the Tigers want to clinch the title by winning every game.
Having qualified for the final already, Bangladesh have the luxury of experimenting with the playing XI - bring in players to test their credential or rest the key ones, keeping in mind the schedule ahead comprising two Test matches and as many T20Is against Sri Lanka. But it is understood that the Tigers, playing their first ODI series at home in 15 months, want to keep the sheet clean and aim for a 100% winning record.
Bangladesh in their previous game against Zimbabwe saw their left-arm spinners bring success, along with the pacers. In their second match of the series, against Sri Lanka, the Tigers enriched their pace attack with the inclusion of seamer Saifuddin in place of spinner Sanjamul Islam, and that move worked out as well.
Tamim credited the coaching staff for getting the pace attack back into shape again. The Bangladesh bowlers, especially the pacers passed a dreadful 2017, despite playing in pace-friendly conditions.
"A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff. I personally believe that the hard work the pace bowlers did in the last one or two months are more than what they did in the past four-five years. The group has worked very hard. Bowlers executed the new plan very well in practice. I believe their hard work will pay off," said Tamim Monday.
Even though the Tigers brushed aside Zimbabwe in the first match, the home side know fully well that the visitor have improved drastically in recent times and are more than capable of putting up a challenge. The only change Bangladesh can afford to make in such a situation is perhaps bring back Sanjamul or give a chance to off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz. The 20-year-old spinner has played only seven ODIs and situations like these are perfect for him to gain some experience.
Zimbabwe, in contrast, are not in the mood of depending on results elsewhere. A victory Tuesday against Bangladesh will enhance their chance of appearing in the final as Sri Lanka will not have to only win their final group stage game against the Tigers, but win by a big margin.
The African nation will expect their batsman to step up to the occasion. The side have struggled with the bat so far so the onus will be on the seniors, in the shape on Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza. However, it's equally crucial for the other batsmen to find a way to bat around them. A good score on the board will make room for the Zimbabwe bowlers but given Bangladesh are in top form, the side will need at least 30-40 more runs from the par score.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The left-handed opener has been in top form in the tri-nation ODI series, scoring unbeaten 84 in the first game against Zimbabwe and as many runs in the second against Sri Lanka. Tamim, who is maturing like wine in world cricket, will be key in Bangladesh’s batting and Zimbabwe bowlers will like to get rid of him early.
The right-handed batting all-rounder has been pivotal behind Zimbabwe's recent successes, particularly in ODIs. Backed by the fact that he has played some good cricket in Bangladesh, Raza in three matches registered two half-centuries. With his team's fate hanging in the balance, the Pakistan-born cricketer will be expected to step up against the home side.
HEAD TO HEAD
ODIs played - 68
Bangladesh wins - 40
Zimbabwe wins - 28
Win % - Bangladesh (58.82), Zimbabwe (41.17)
Most runs - Shakib al Hasan (Bangladesh, 1353), Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe, 1222)
Highest score - Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh, 154), Charles Coventry (Zimbabwe, 194*)
Most wickets - Shakib (71), Ray Price (Zimbabwe, 35)
Best bowling - Abdur Razzak (Bangladesh, 5/29), Bryan Strang (Zimbabwe, 6/20)