Abu Hider celebrates the wicket of Richmond Mutumbami © AFP
A cold Dhaka needs a bit of warming up, so the cricket has come at a good time, and there is plenty at stake as Mirpur hosts the international game’s middle-weight battle.
Bangladesh are taking their first step into the post-Chandika Hathurusingha era and will want to erase all memories of their winless tour of South Africa last September. Zimbabwe too will be driven by similar motivation after they lost their Boxing Day Test in Port Elizabeth inside two days.
As it often is, Bangladesh’s five most experienced cricketers – Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah – have to reclaim the winning habit. Their ODI team has been on the road since the series against England in October 2016 and have won only four out of 14 completed matches in that time. That this is a home series will help, and they wouldn’t mind facing an opponent who hasn’t played an ODI since last July.
But the thing is Zimbabwe won that series five months ago and beating Sri Lanka on their home turf is rarely easy. Additionally, the likes of Graeme Cremer, Sikandar Raza and Hamilton Masakadza will be freed up by the fact that Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis have returned to take up national duty again. Zimbabwe can also rely on Heath Streak’s intel, who spent two years as Bangladesh’s bowling coach only recently.
Cremer has said that this tri-series could be decided on the basis of which team fields the best, and in that count, Zimbabwe are slightly ahead of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka these days. But there are a few other factors to consider. The unusual weather for starters. Dhaka is in the clutches of winter, and though it is an afternoon start, the new ball will be tough to face.
In the spotlight
Not so long ago, Tamim Iqbal was in the news with the BCB mulling about fining him over comments made with respect to the Mirpur outfield. As one of the country’s leading batsmen, he’d want to bring attention back on his cricket, and considering he finished 2017 with a fine BPL campaign, not too many will be betting against him.
Hamilton Masakadza is probably the most respected Zimbabwe player in Bangladesh. Not only does he have a good record against them, he has also taken part in many of their domestic competitions. Zimbabwe would look to their experienced opening batsman to live up to reputation.
Bangladesh would be making at least four changes to the XI that played against South Africa in October last year. Tamim Iqbal and Mustafizur Rahman, who missed that game through injuries, will replace Soumya Sarkar and Taskin Ahmed. With Imrul Kayes injured, Anamul Haque and Mohammad Mithun will get their opportunities if Bangladesh play seven specialist batsmen.
Nasir Hossain, who recently made 295 in a first-class game, will vie for a middle-order spot with Sabbir Rahman while Mohammad Saifuddin, Sunzamul Islam and Mehidy Hasan will be discussed for two spots in the bowling line-up.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mohammad Mithun, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Nasir Hossain/Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mehidy Hasan/Mohammad Saifuddin, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Rubel Hossain
Zimbabwe too have to make three changes to the side that beat Sri Lanka back in July last year. Tarisai Musakanda, Sean Williams and Carl Mumba are out, and will most likely be replaced by Brendan Taylor, Kyle Jarvis and Chris Mpofu.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Solomon Mire, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Brendan Taylor, 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Peter Moor (wk), 8 Graeme Cremer (capt), 9 Kyle Jarvis, 10 Chris Mpofu, 11 Tendai Chatara
Pitch and conditions
The Bangladesh batsmen played comfortably through the line on most occasions during centre-wicket training and matches in Mirpur in the last couple of weeks.
Stats and trivia
- Zimbabwe haven’t won an ODI in Bangladesh since December, 2010. They have lost 12 matches in a row till date.
- Rubel Hossain is two wickets short of becoming the second Bangladeshi fast bowler to complete 100 ODI wickets, behind Mashrafe Mortaza.
“The wickets seem batsmen-friendly now, much like it was in the BPL semi-final and final. At the same time, if we bowl in the right areas there will be a lot of advantage.”
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza doesn’t give much away.
“I learnt a lot about the Bangladesh players (and a few Sri Lankan players) during the BPL. It will be really good for us. The input from Raza and Malcolm will also help us a lot in the tri-series.”
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer about how his side have recent knowledge about their opponents
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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