Haphazard Zimbabwe face must-win situation

Match facts

Monday, 21 November
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)

Upul Tharanga and Sri Lanka’s middle order need to step up on Monday © Associated Press

Big Picture

In cricket, ‘momentum’ is a lot like religious faith. Some people believe in it, and some don’t, but either way it seems to be part of the general milieu. Another way of putting it could be: whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re probably right. Sri Lanka’s momentum will have been dented slightly by their unravelling against West Indies in Harare, and Zimbabwe will believe in themselves a little more after their stunning comeback.

Neither team is without its worries: Sri Lanka’s inexperienced middle order has not quite clicked yet, while Zimbabwe slipped from 190 for 3 to 257 all-out against West Indies. Their performance in the field was also not quite up to scratch, and in that department coach Heath Streak has said: “we know we’re better than what we showed.” The result of this game will depend on which team plays to potential and seizes the momentum, and who has more belief on the day. With Zimbabwe currently at the bottom of the points table, with two points from their tie, this is a must-win game for them.

The background hum outside of the cricket in Zimbabwe is somewhat depressed, and an upturn in the cricket team’s fortunes would help to brighten what could be a somber festive season. The country is on the brink of introducing ‘Bond notes’, a form of currency meant to ease the crippling cash liquidity crisis, but not everyone is for it. While the cricket has been going on, activists have been arrested and allegedly assaulted by security forces in Harare, and some fans entering Queens Sports Club on Saturday weren’t allowed to bring Zimbabwe flags into the ground, as the flag has recently been used as a symbol of protest. Zimbabwe could do with a little cheering up.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe: TLLLL
Sri Lanka: LWLLL

Elton Chigumbura has managed only nine runs in two matches in the tri-series © Associated Press

In the spotlight

Zimbabwe’s top order helped to set up an almost defendable total against West Indies, while the bowlers showed grit.Yet their fielding left much to be desired. Three chances to dismiss eventual centurion Shai Hope were missed, and sloppiness in the field dissipated pressure. Heath Streak will want a cleaner effort from his men in the field.

The match between Zimbabwe and West Indies on Saturday showed that, on a slow, gripping surface, the best time for batting is between overs 10 to 35. That will make the contribution of Sri Lanka’s middle order vital to their final result. Untested in their series opener against Zimbabwe, the Sri Lankan middle order then stumbled against West Indies, with Nos. 1 to 6 contributing just 69 runs.

Teams news

Elton Chigumbura’s form with the bat will be a worry for Zimbabwe. He has managed only nine runs from two innings, but his level head and more than 200 ODIs worth of experience will continue to add value, and Zimbabwe might not want to upset the XI that clicked on Saturday.

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Brian Chari, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sikandar Raza, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 PJ Moor (wk), 8 Graeme Cremer(c), 9 Donald Tiripano, 10 Tendai Chisoro, 11 Chris Mpofu.

Of the three squads, Sri Lanka have the most depth in the spin department and they may look to swap one of their seamers for a spinner. Lakshan Sandakan is a left-arm wristspinner, and the sort of bowler the Zimbabweans will very rarely have faced. With the ability to turn the ball both ways, as well as skid it in to the pads, he would be a handful on a traditional Bulawayo track.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dhananjaya de Silva, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Upul Tharanga (c), 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Shehan Jayasuriya, 8 Sachith Pathirana, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Suranga Lakmal.

Pitch and conditions

Monday’s pitch should play much the same as Saturday’s, without much lateral movement for the quicks while slowing up and offering something for the spinners later on. While there is cloud around, Monday should be mostly warm and dry. Late afternoon storms are always a possibility at this time of the year.

Stats and trivia

  • Craig Ervine played his 50th ODI on Saturday, passing 1,500 runs in the format during his 92. Ervine has had a good year with the bat – in seven international matches in 2016 (four Tests and three ODIs), he has scored 497 runs at 45.18.
  • Sri Lanka have played six ODIs at Queens Sports Club, and have only lost once, to India, in 2010


“It’s a big game on Monday, but we’ve just got to take it one over at a time, one ball at a time.”
Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak is hoping his team can focus on the moment during what is a must-win game against Sri Lanka

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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