RAWALPINDI: Pakistan will start their Cricket World Cup Super League campaign with the first ODI of three-match series against Zimbabwe in Rawalpindi as favourites.
The opening match at the Pindi Stadium will be Babar Azam’s first as Pakistan’s ODI captain. It will also be the first international match to be played in the country without spectators.
A dominant Pakistan thumped Zimbabwe 5-0 in 2018, winning every match fair and square. Things, however, have changed since then. Inclusion of some senior players such as Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine has given some impetus to the touring side.
“Our biggest problem is we often fall short of the finish line. The same happened when we just missed qualifying for the last World Cup. Overcoming these shortcomings are part of our plan,” Zimbabwe captain Chamu Chibhabha said while talking to media persons on the eve of the first ODI.
“We want our players to play a winning role rather than just hitting fifty and sixty and ending up on the losing side. Our main players need to guide the team.”
Chibhabha said Zimbabwe players had worked on their flaws and hoped that they would be able to execute their plans in the series.
Babar warns against complacency
“The boys are excited to take on Pakistan and give their best. We are capable of winning and going all the way, especially in presence of some experienced players. We will look to put Pakistan bowlers under pressure. We aim to put 300 plus on the board which will provide a good opportunity to our bowlers to have a go at the Pakistan batting,” he said.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam hinted at using the series to try out the team’s bench strength. “We have selected a talented bunch of players including Khushdil Shah, Zafar Gohar, Usman Qadir and Haris Rauf. We have some tough assignments ahead so it is a good option to try out backup players in the home series,” he said.
Babar said the crowd would be badly missed inside the stadium. Playing in front of the crowd, especially at home, players get all pumped up and try to make an extra effort. But no one can do anything as we have to be careful because of the COVID-19 situation. We hope and pray for the crowd’s early return to all sporting events.”
Head to head
Pakistan and Zimbabwe have faced each other 59 times. The Greenshirts have won 52 and lost four of those encounters with one tie and two no-results.
Pitch and weather conditions
The pitch prepared for the opening match looks like a perfect batting strip. As is the usual case at the Pindi Stadium, seamers could get some assistance early on with the new ball.
“We have tried to prepare a sporting track, a bit tilted in favour of the batsmen considering it is one-day cricket. I hope like the National T20 Cup, these pitches will not disappoint fans,” head curator Mohammad Ashraf said.
The weather in Rawalpindi is expected to be dry and clear throughout the series.
Pakistan: Imamul Haq, Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (captain), Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Musa Khan.
Zimbabwe: Chamu Chibhabha (captain), Faraz Akram, Ryan Burl, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wessly Madhevere, Wellington Masakadza, Carl Mumba, Richmond Mutumbami, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Sikandar Raza, Milton Shumba, Brendan Taylor, Donald Tiripano, Sean Williams.
Match officials: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza (on-field umpires), Asif Yaqoob (third umpire), Rashid Riaz (fourth umpire); Javed Malik (match referee).