Can Zimbabwe prevent a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of Pakistan?
Pakistan vs. Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI
Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
Date: May 31, 2015
With the series already in the bag, Pakistan would be looking for a rare whitewash when they meet an out-of-sync Zimbabwe in the 3rd ODI in Lahore on Sunday. The wicket looks an absolute belter and guarantees the fans yet another run feast. Hamilton Masakadza will be leading the side once again in the absence of Elton Chigumbara, who is currently serving a two-match suspension.
After having lost the first game humiliatingly, Zimbabwe fought back well in the second match to put a respectable total on the board but had to bear the brunt of an in-form Pakistan captain in Azhar Ali, who led from the front and scored a brilliant 102 to take his team home. Losing wickets at regular intervals prevented Zimbabwe from posting a target in excess of 300 despite heroic knocks from Chamu Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza.
In light of Raza’s good form with the bat, Zimbabwe would want him to carry the momentum into the last game and help his side post a daunting target. While there have been individual flashes of brilliance, a collective batting effort is what’s needed if Zimbabwe are to salvage some pride from the last game of the ODI series.
Batting doesn’t seem to be Zimbabwe’s only concern at the moment. Over a dozen boundaries and sixes have been hit off a Zimbabwean bowling attack that lacks bite and an effective, attacking opening bowler. Tinashe Panyangara and Tawanda Mupariwa need to bowl more in the right channel and try and make early inroads into a potent Pakistan top order. That will allow leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, the pick of the bowlers in the last game, to put more pressure on the middle order.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have barely put a foot wrong. The occasion of international cricket’s return to the country after six years has been marked by two back to back wins and an upbeat Pakistan side will look to go for the jugular in their final game. Captain Azhar Ali again showed a lot of aplomb and resolve as he guided his team to victory in the last game which turned to be a rather closely fought contest.
After having led his side to the first series win in 17 months, a lot is expected from this young captain who has established himself as the lynchpin of the Pakistan batting order. Star batsmen Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are expected to further strengthen the batting with some exquisite shot-making and lusty-blows later in the innings. With Haris Sohail too looking in good touch, Pakistan’s middle order woes seemed to have been resolved for now.
However, there is nothing in the pitch for the bowlers to exploit, although fast bowler Wahab Riaz and spinner Yasir Shah were rewarded for some disciplined bowling as both picked two wickets each in the second ODI against Zimbabwe. Pakistan would want these two to continue their good work and the other bowlers to chip in at regular intervals.
Given their run on this tour so far, Pakistan look ready to effect a well-deserved whitewash in front of their home crowd on Sunday and it will require a miraculous performance from Zimbabwe to prevent that from happening.