Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 1st T20I Preview: After heroics in South Africa, Babar's boys set to outclass Zimbabwe
Pakistan are brimming with confidence on the back of their recent 3-1 series victory over South Africa in their own den albeit against a depleted Protea side.
Babar, Rizwan, Hasan and Nawaz in form
The Pakistan tour of Zimbabwe is a return gift of sorts for when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan in in October-November 2020 for a 3-match ODI series and 3-match T20 Series. Pakistan won 5 of the 6 limited-overs games on the tour, with Zimbabwe pulling back the 3rd ODI via a thrilling super over.
Pakistan's playing XI has finally begun to look a lot more settled as they continue their lead up for the 2021 T20 World Cup to be held in India. Their top scorer in the recent T20Is was Babar Azam, who also struck his maiden century in the format. Azam scored 210 runs from four matches at an average of 52.50 and a strike rate of 143.84 with the help of 26 fours and 4 sixes.
Mohd Rizwan, despite missing out on a couple of occasions, scored 147 runs in the four match T20I series against South Africa at an average of 73.50 and a strike rate of 147. Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez also played one useful knock each.
Among the bowlers, Hasan Ali was the most effective with 7 wickets from 4 matches at an average of 18.71. Mohammad Nawaz came good for the side with the bat in the last match and had a big impact with the ball throughout the series, picking up 5 wickets at an average of 25.60. Faheem Ashraf and Shaheen Shah Afridi also picked up 4 and 3 wickets respectively.
Zahid Mahmood added to Pakistan squad
Shadab Khan has been ruled out of the Zimbabwe T20 series due to injury. Zahid Mahmood has been added to the squad in his place. However, in the presence of Mohammad Nawaz and Usman Qadir, the wrist spinner is unlikely to get a spot in the playing XI.
Fakhar Zaman, after coming to form after a long time in South Africa, has also been added to the squad for the Zimbabwe tour.
Taylor and Ervine return
The home team welcomes back key players Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine, who were unavailable in their last series against Afghanistan.
The team is without Sikandar Raza who is nursing an injury and regular captain Chamu Chibhabha who is yet to recover from his thigh injury.
Muzarabani and Ngarava, Zimbabwe's hope with the ball
The last time Zimbabwe took the field was in the third and last T20I of a series against Afghanistan at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, which they lost by 47 runs. Zimbabwe's best performance in international cricket of late came against Afghanistan when they beat the side by 10 wickets in a test match in Abu Dhabi. But the team then lost the next one by 6 wickets to level the series and were clean swept in the the following T20I series.
Ryan Burl was their top scorer in the series with 81 runs at an average of 40.50 and a strike rate 122.73. Sikandar Raza and Tarisai Musakanda also scored over 70 runs each.
Zimbabawe have Brendan Taylor, Tarisai Musakanda and Craig Ervine in the top order with captain Sean Williams and Regis Chakabva in the middle order. Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava are expected to be their leading wicket-takers.
Zaman at No. 3, Rauf or Qadir?
Fakhar Zaman will stick to the number 3 spot for Pakistan in T20Is, with the opening combination of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam doing wonders.
With the places of Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi all but locked in the playing XI, there is room for only one of Haris Rauf or Usman Qadir.
Let's have a look at the probable playing XIs:
Zimbabwe - Brendan Taylor (wk), Tarisai Musakanda, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams (c), Regis Chakabva, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Ryan Burl, Wesley Madhevere, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava
Pakistan - Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf/Usman Qadir
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