This tour of Bangladesh hasn’t been much fun for Zimbabwe so far. They lost the one-off Test by an innings and 106 runs and weren’t much better in the ODI Series that followed, losing that one as well.
There’s a theory that the shorter the match, the more of a chance the outsider has to cause an upset because they need to play good cricket for a shorter period of time. Zimbabwe will certainly be hoping so.
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At the time of writing, Bangladesh are yet to announce their squad, so we’ll have to wait and see if Mashrafe Mortaza, who on Thursday resigned the ODI captaincy, is included. Bangladesh’s brightest star by a country mile, all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, won’t be included as he is currently serving a suspension handed to him by the ICC.
For Zimbabwe, Chamu Chibhabha leads a pretty inexperienced side who have never quite got to grips with T20 cricket the way the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland or Bangladesh have. At least he can count on old heads Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams for experience and knowledge of playing in Bangladeshi conditions.
Bangladesh won’t have good memories of their last T20 match at Dhaka. They went in as strong favourites against Afghanistan, conceded 164 after a brilliant blitz from Afghan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi (who hit 84 off 54 balls) and the Tigers ended up falling 26 runs short of the total.
Prior to that, Bangladesh conceded 190 first up against the West Indies and lost the game but in the same series posted 211/4 themselves, which was more than enough. The hero on the day? Shakib Al Hasan who followed up his 42 not out with the bat with an outstanding spell of bowling, taking five wickets for just 25 runs. How Bangladesh miss him.
Zimbabwe are no strangers to playing at this ground. In September 2019, they played twice in two days in T20Is, losing first to Bangladesh and then to Afghanistan.
This is traditionally a high-scoring ground so you’d think that 160 is the bare minimum in terms of posting a total and nothing under 180 can be considered particularly safe.
Dew can play a part in this area of the world so if there is some moisture around, you really want to be batting last. That’s because the spinners, in particular, find it hard to grip the ball in the second innings.
These two have played each other 11 times in T20Is with the Tigers unsurprisingly winning seven of those. In matches played in Zimbabwe, it’s one-win-a-piece and in the nine played in Bangladesh, it’s six wins for the hosts and three for the tourists.
Bangladesh are currently ninth in the ICC T20 rankings. That’s not hugely impressive in itself but the fact that they’re above defending world champions the West Indies (who are tenth), is far more pleasing.
Zimbabwe are in 11th, just above Scotland and Ireland.
Sean Williams is the number two ranked all-rounder in the ICC rankings behind only the aforementioned Nabi and ahead of world-class T20 superstars including Glenn Maxwell and Colin de Grandhomme.
Bangladesh’s skipper Mahmudullah is currently ranked eighth among all-rounders.
Classy Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal is not only the Tigers’ leading run scorer in T20Is with 1660 runs in 76 matches but also holds the record for the first, second and fourth highest individual scores for a Bangladeshi batsman, scoring 103, 88 and 83. Curiously, he remained unbeaten in all three of those knocks.
If you’re thinking of betting in-play, it might be worth bearing in mind that often in Bangladesh, batting becomes harder as the innings progresses.
When the ball is nice and hard, batsmen can play through the line and trust the pace of the pitch but after about six or seven overs it becomes tougher, with the ball sticking in the wicket and becoming increasingly difficult to time the ball.
If a team makes a particularly fast start, it might be worth going ‘unders’ on the innings runs lines because it will be tricky to keep scoring at a high run rate.
Normally, this would be Shakib Al Hasan because he can win matches with either bat or ball. But in his absence, Mustafizur Rahman will be their key bowler. ‘The Fizz’, as they call him, can bowl about six different balls in one over, ranging from off-cutters to yorkers and slower-ball bouncers.
He’s a wicket-taker with the new ball but it’s at the death that he really earns his corn. At times he’s absolutely unplayable because you never know what delivery you’re going to get next.
That man Williams isn’t ranked 2 in the all-rounder rankings for nothing. He bowls slow left-arm orthodox with great control and has a knack for luring batsmen into making mistakes.
With the bat he can come in anywhere between four and seven and his healthy career strike rate of 120 suggests that while he’s not exactly explosive with the bat, he’s no slouch, either. His strength lies in finding gaps and playing the ball into unorthodox areas.
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Taylor hasn’t had it all his own way on this Tour. But form is temporary, and class is permanent as they say, and there’s no classier batsman in Zimbabwe’s line-up than the ex-national skipper. He scored a quickfire 27 off 16 in a loss to Afghanistan last year on this very ground so has found his feet at Dhaka before. Expect another measured and composed knock from the former Notts star
Brendan Taylor to be Zimbabwe Top Batsman @ Dafabet with 4.04