T20I series preview: Zimbabwe v Pakistan
Zimbabwe, languishing below Scotland, Ireland and Bangladesh in the T20I rankings, must earn their keep. The damage done against India earlier this year can, to an extent, be rectified against a potentially temperamental Pakistan unit.
Pessimists will insist this series couldn't' have come at a worse time, while optimists will suggests it's exactly what is needed to redeem – or at least try to – recent off-field shortcomings.
Either way, Zimbabwe have plenty to prove in the weekend's twin Twenty20 Internationals. While the threat of a strike and salary negotiations resulted in undisclosed increases, those sums remain a far cry from the remuneration of other teams.
Regardless, a county languishing below Scotland, Ireland and Bangladesh in the T20I rankings must earn their keep. The damage done against India earlier this year can, to an extent, be rectified against a potentially temperamental Pakistan unit this time.
What the board's misgivings and Kyle Jarvis' exit have taken away, Brendan Taylor's ambition and a slew of youngster's collective drive can reclaim. If ever Zimbabwe are going to succeed on the international stage, the shortest format of the game brings that opportunity. Back-to-back wins, or at least the presentation of a short-term challenge to a considerably stronger opposition, could do wonders for the long-term.
While Pakistan have temporarily lost Umar Akmal to illness, Mohammad Hafeez will head into the series on the back of some decent form for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League.
Achievement on an individual level, however, must now be converted into team and patriotic success. Second-placed Pakistan can, indeed, gain ground on top-ranked Sri Lanka – albeit against Zimbabwe – and set a precedent in the build-up to next year's World Twenty20.
<b>Key Men</b><br>Jarvis' retirement – in pursuit of greener pastures in Lancashire – has left a lot riding on the performance of Zimbabwe's remaining seamers. With Chris Mpofu, the responsibility will fall on <b>Brian Vitori.</b>.
The seam stocks consistently require tweaking and in <b>Asad Ali</b> Pakistan sport a promising prospect. The 24-year-old's debut earlier this year was an unglamorous affair, but in Zimbabwe he can largely set himself apart.
<b>Last Three Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2011: Second T20I: Pakistan won by five runs in Harare<br>2011: First T20I: Pakistan won by 85 runs in Harare<br>2008: Canada T20: Pakistan won by seven wickets in King City
<b>Prediction</b><br>Pakistan are highly likely to vindicate <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>odds of 1/8 on popular betting sites like Paddy Power</b></a>, while Zimbabwe will fancy trumping a challenging 5/1.
<b>Squads</b><br><i>Zimbabwe (practice):</i> Brendan Taylor (captain), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Michael Chinouya, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingirai Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Natsai M'shangwe, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
<i>Pakistan:</i> Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, Asad Ali, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Amin, Zulfiqar Babar.
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: Harare Sports Club, 23 August<br>Second T20I: Harare Sports Club, 24 August
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