ZIMBABWE face Afghanistan today in their third and final qualifier for the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India in a showdown for a place in the match event. The match at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur, is important for both sides. Going into it, Afghanistan have won their two qualifiers against Scotland and Hong Kong. Zimbabwe have also won their two qualifiers by 14 runs versus Hong Kong in the first one on Tuesday and by 11 runs in the second one which was against Scotland on Thursday.
Whichever side wins today will proceed as Group B winners to Group 1 of the Super 10 stage of the tournament, where they will join England, South Africa, defending champions Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
“Preparations have gone well and the boys have shown a lot of character and fight in winning the other two games, so we are looking forward to having more of the same in the last one,” said Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza, after the final practice session at the match venue today.
Masakadza said they have put behind them the unfortunate incidents that have dogged the side since the camp in the United Arab Emirates, where three players dropped out of Zimbabwe’s final 15 for the ICC World Twenty20 tournament due to injury.
Spinner and vice-captain Graeme Cremer, all-rounder Luke Jongwe and seamer Neville Madziva all returned home on the eve of the squad’s departure for India. The one replacement who has made it into the eleven so far, seamer Donald Tiripano, has filled the shoes left behind, and taken two wickets in the first match and two in the second, in addition to some disciplined bowling in the death overs. The second incident saw Tendai Chatara operated on for a boil on Wednesday. Kudos to him, he played through the post-surgical pain yesterday, finishing with two wickets for 24 runs in three overs, although he was on the expensive side in his second spell.
Chatara is expected to play today and help to provide the aggression needed to quell the Afghanistan fire power provided at the top by Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran and former captain Mohammad Nabi and in the middle by his successor Asghar Stanikzai and Gulbadin Naib.
The third incident was during yesterday’s qualifier when Masakadza and fellow opener Vusumuzi Sibanda collided while trying to snatch a single in the fourth over, and the latter had to have four stitches for an injury caused by the impact of Masakadza’s helmet on his chin.
The good news for Zimbabwe is that Sibanda, who was replaced by substitute fielder Chamunorwa Chibhabha yesterday, is available for selection for tomorrow.
“The boys are really looking forward to this game and they are raring to go,” said Masakadza. Zimbabwe cricket fans will be looking forward to a skipper’s innings from Masakadza, who has otherwise been in a rich vein of form since he took over the captaincy from Elton Chigumbura at the end of January but has been run out in both qualifiers so far, in the first after making 20 runs and yesterday 12.
And both fan and player will be looking forward to Zimbabwe, ranked two places below ninth-placed Afghanistan on the Twenty20 International table, registering their first victory against them after four unsuccessful attempts — two at home and two away. The Zimbabweans are keen to address the issue of an associate member country that continues to punch well above its weight in the shortest version of the game, and stop it from being their bogey side.
After all, Zimbabwe is a full member of the ICC! Meanwhile, the winner of qualifying Group A which has Bangladesh, Ireland, the Netherlands and Oman will join Australia, India, Pakistan and New Zealand in Group 2 of the Super 10 stage.
1. Sikandar Raza Butt
2. Tendai Chatara
3. Chamunorwa Chibhabha
4. Elton Chigumbura
5. Tendai Chisoro
6. Hamilton Masakadza (Captain)
7. Wellington Masakadza
8. Peter Moor
9. Tawanda Mupariwa
10. Richmond Mutumbami (Wicket-keeper)
11. Tinashe Panyangara
12. Vusumuzi Sibanda
13. Donald Tiripano
14. Malcolm Waller
15. Sean Williams