Pakistan start favourites against Zimbabwe; aim for a fresh start
Pakistan would like to take out positives from their disastrous South Africa tour and start the series on a positive note when they take on Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club in the first of three one-dayers on Tuesday (February 9).
The Javeria Khan-led side lost all the three ODIs against South Africa. A similar picture was observed in the first two T20Is as South Africa reigned supreme before Pakistan earned a consolation win in the third and final rain-hit T20I.
The top order has failed miserably for Pakistan in all the ODIs against South Africa, something that head coach David Hemp needs to address immediately. Nahida Khan, who opened the batting in all the three ODIs, could accumulate just 25 runs at the top. Similar was young Muneeba Ali who was dropped in the third ODI after registering 1 and 0 in the first two games.
Javeria Khan, who opens the innings usually, should come at the top, playing her natural game and make a platform for others to come. The middle looks all good for Pakistan with Omaima Sohail, Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz all getting runs under their belt.
Riaz topped the batting charts in ODIs with 136 runs in three games that included a fighting 81 in the second ODI. Dar too had a great outing anchoring the Pakistan batting almost single-handedly in all three games. She finished with 124 runs including a half-century.
However, the form of wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz might be a headache for Hemp. On the bowling front, Pakistan have been great with Diana Baig leading the attack. She finished as the top wicket-getter in the series with nine wickets and will be a headache for Zimbabwe batters with her sheering pace.
The likes of Fatima Sana, Dar, Nashra Sandhu have been among wickets and against an inexperienced Zimbabwe batting line-up, things are likely to be easier for Pakistan. On the other hand, things are a bit rusty for Zimbabwe as they mark their international return after a gap of 20 months.
Head coach Adam Chifo has admitted they are a bit rusty coming into the tournament and are looking forward to learn from Pakistan.
“We are a bit rusty, I must admit. But in December we had our domestic leagues (T20s and one-dayers),” Chifo told Women’s CricZone. “Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done. But I am sure once we get the matches, we will go up certain levels,” he said. The gaffer also added that they are focusing on the fitness of the players now.”
Pelajia Mujaji, who last represented Zimbabwe in 2017, is back in the squad. Similarly, Christabel Chatonzwa and Esther Mbofana, who were not a part of the 2019 T20 World Cup regional qualifiers squad, have been called back into the side.
However, Zimbabwe will be missing the services of four key players. “We are missing Sharne Mayers (currently in South Africa), Anesu Mushangwe (currently in Australia). We are also missing the services Chipo Mugeri-Tiripano, who is on maternity leave together with Nomatter Mutasa,” Chifo informed.
While it could not be said now how the Zimbabweans will cope up against a strong but depleted Pakistan side although the visitors start favourites on paper, it also gives an opportunity for Hemp to go back at his drawing board and sort things properly and redeem themselves before returning home.
Zimbabwe: Mary-Anne Musonda (c), Ashley Ndiraya, Precious Marange, Pelajia Mujaji, Chiedza Dhururu, Modester Mupachikwa, Kellies Ndlovu, Tasmeen Granger, Esther Mbofana, Francesca Chipare, Loryn Phiri, Nomvelo Sibanda, Josephine Nkomo, Audrey Mazvishaya, Christabel Chatonzwa
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (c), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Syeda Aroob Shah.