The Zimbabwe national cricket team will be hoping to build on their new found confidence and momentum by securing their first ever one-day international (ODI) series victory over Pakistan when the third and final match gets underway at Harare Sports Club this morning.
Zimbabwe recorded only their fourth ever ODI victory against Pakistan in 54 attempts after completing a thrilling five-run victory via the Duckworth-Lewis method in a second ODI on Saturday.
The victory, which came under controversial circumstances after umpires took the players off the field with two overs remaining due to bad light, was Zimbabwe’s first at home against Pakistan since 2013.
While in 2013 Zimbabwe convincingly won the first match of the three match ODI series by seven wickets before falling apart in the next two matches, Sunday’s victory represented a remarkable turnaround after a poor run of form with the bat.
Under pressure after failing to get past 130 runs in two T20s and last Thursday’s first ODI, Zimbabwe’s batsmen turned up posting 276 for six, with Chamu Chibhabha anchoring the innings with a composed 90 and captain Elton Chigumbura adding the flourish with his brisk 67 off 55 balls.
Chigumbura would later return to make key strikes in the field, with the wicket of Aamer Yamin and the well-executed run-out of Wahab Riaz.
The all-round show earned the Zimbabwe captain the Man of the Match award.
The other highlight of Zimbabwe’s much-improved batting display was the 91-run stand between Chibhabha and 23-year-old rookie Brian Chari.
“The partnership between Chamu and Chari set things up for us,” reflected Chigumbura after the match. “There was lots of pressure for the team and the way we went out there today showed good character.”
Chigumbura will be hoping for more of the same from his men if Zimbabwe is to end the series on a high ahead of another important limited overs series against the touring Ireland side starting on Friday.
Zimbabwe are likely to make just one injury enforced change to the side which played on Sunday with young leg spinning allrounder Tinotenda Mutombodzi expected to come in for the injured Graeme Cremer.
Cremer suffered what looked like a nasty ankle sprain a few moments after he had taken the wicket of Mohammad Rizwan to leave Pakistan seemingly on the ropes at 76 for six. He now looks set to miss the series decider leaving Mutombodzi with an opportunity to impress after an impressive domestic season in which he was captained the Mashonaland Eagles side to the Pro50 Championship title.
In addition to his ability with the ball, Mutombodzi, has also matured as a genuine middle order batsman and was the leading scorer in the Logan Cup competition with 630 runs in nine matches.
Should he play today Mutombodzi would become the third young player to be given an opportunity during this series after allrounder Luke Jongwe and batsman Chari.
While there have also been questions over Hamilton Masakadza’s form after he managed just seven runs on Sunday for his sixth innings without a half century he will still have a big role to play in the decider.
Pakistan’s dangerous top order has looked vulnerable throughout the series and the Zimbabwe bowling department will be looking to capitalise on this weak link to give themselves a chance to seal the series.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Brian Chari 4 Sean Williams, 5 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Richmond Mutumbami, 8 Tino Mutombodzi, 9 Luke Jongwe, 10 John Nyumbu, 11 Tinashe Panyangara.