Zimbabwe and Afghanistan have never met in international cricket – and this month's maiden ODI series will bring plenty of opportunity to increase the distance from Ireland and gain ground on Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe and Afghanistan have never met in international cricket – and this month's maiden ODI series will bring plenty of opportunity to increase the distance from Ireland and gain ground on Bangladesh in the International Cricket Council rankings.
The Afghans need prompt redemption in the wake of Tuesday's heavy defeat to Zimbabwe A, while the hosts have new player contracts to justify – and must also keep in mind October's tough tour of the sub-continent.
This, regardless of the result, will be a veritable coup for the minnow nations. Often resigned to the odd match here and there – flanking major ICC tournaments – July will be a genuine test.
With the Future Tours Programme increasingly fragile, the Zimbabweans and Afghanistan must hold their own against each other – if cricket against bigger guns is to be more frequent.
<b>Key Men</b><br>The talented <b>Brendan Taylor's</b> captaincy across all three formats has endured doubt recently, but the specialist batsman remains all but the be all and end all of Zimbabwe's batting ranks.
The recall of batsman <b>Asghar Stanikzai</b> will bring much-needed firepower to the Afghanistan order. Impressive performances in February and March's Asia Cup – against Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India – showed that Stanikzai is a must in international cricket.
<b>Squads</b><br><i>Zimbabwe:</i> Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingirai Masakadza, Natsai M'shangwe, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano , Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
<i>Afghanistan:</i> Mohammad Nabi, Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hashmatullah Shaidi, Javed Ahmadi, Mirwais Ashraf, Nasir Jamal, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah, Shapoor Zadran, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Usman Ghani.
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI: 18 July, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo<br>Second ODI: 20 July, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo<br> Third ODI: 22 July, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo<br> Fourth ODI: 24 July, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
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