Experienced Zimbabwe tussle against promising SL in title clash

Match facts

Sunday, 27 November
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)

Upul Tharanga was a part of the team that won the tri-series final against Zimbabwe in 2010, and he will hope history can repeat itself © AFP

Big picture

And so to the tri-series final, where a Sri Lanka squad brimming with promise, but light on experience, will meet a Zimbabwe side who have managed to rise to their feet after a rickety start to the series. Zimbabwe are still the underdogs, but the gulf is not so big that they cannot leap across it if they play to potential. They have the advantage in international experience, and this is their home turf.

Sri Lanka crumbled against West Indies’ pace and bounce in Harare, but they will remember their domination of the hosts in the series opener. Their batting clicked in dramatic fashion against West Indies on Wednesday, before their bowlers weathered Evin Lewis’ bold 148 to secure a one-run win. Despite their relative lack of experience, Sri Lanka appear to have depth in all areas, and they will be very difficult to beat.

Six years ago, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe met in a tri-series final at the Harare Sports Club. A handful of veterans from that series are part of the current squads: Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura and Graeme Cremer for Zimbabwe, and Upul Tharanga and Nuwan Kulasekara for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had entered that tournament without four of their senior-most players (and titans all of them: Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya) but that didn’t stop them from lifting the title with a nine-wicket thumping of Zimbabwe in the final. As he leads a side similarly shorn of its seniors, Upul Tharanga will be hoping that history repeats itself.

Zimbabwe have seen almost all possible results in this tri-series – losing their first match, fighting to a tie in their second, having their third rained off, and then securing a narrow five-run Duckworth-Lewis win. An outright win in the final would complete the flush, and give all of Zimbabwe something to smile about.

Form guide

Zimbabwe WTLLL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLWLL

In the spotlight

Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer has not had the best series with either bat or ball – he has only taken one wicket, and scored 40 runs from three innings. Yet, tactically, Cremer has excelled of late, marshalling Zimbabwe’s last-gasp tie against West Indies, and then deciding, along with his coach, to open the bowling with Tendai Chisoro and Sikandar Raza on Friday. That move paid off, and with Cremer then bringing himself and Sean Williams on, Zimbabwe were able to tie West Indies down and sprint through their overs, ultimately helping secure their win. The final provides another opportunity to expand his leadership credentials.

Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka’s captain, is facing different sorts of pressures to his opposite number. For starters, his job is only temporary and he is only keeping the seat warm until Angelo Mathews returns. With one of Sri Lanka’s matches rained off, and another won by eight wickets, he has only batted twice. With a big tour to South Africa coming up, he will want to leave Zimbabwe with more than just one pretty cameo to show for his time here. The tri-series trophy is the first prize, and a solid innings would be his personal cherry on top of that.

Team news

Barring a last-minute injury, there is no pressing reason for Zimbabwe to change an XI that has variety and plenty of experience.

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

Sri Lanka have tinkered with their line-up from match to match, though the top six has been quite settled. That’s likely to stay the same, while their allrounders provide them with medium pace and spin options to accompany the new-ball bowlers. Yet, given the conditions, Sri Lanka might want to bring in a specialist spinner on Sunday to take full advantage.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dhanjaya 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 Jeffrey Vandersay/Nuwan Pradeep, 11 Suranga Lakmal.

Pitch and conditions

The drizzle that was around almost all day on Friday turned into heavy rain overnight, and with several passing showers over the last week, Queens Sports Club has been soaked. That, along with the three completed matches played here over the last week, means that the track being used is likely to grip, play a little on the slow side and possibly bring spinners to the fore. The threat of bad weather will also make the toss important, with rain more likely in the afternoon.

Stats and trivia

  • Hamilton Masakadza is the only batsman to have scored more than 1,000 ODI runs at Queens Sports Club. He passed that landmark during his innings on Friday, and now has 1,029 from 31 innings.
  • This is the fifth tri-series to be hosted in Zimbabwe, the second time they have reached a tri-series final, and the first time a final has been hosted in Bulawayo. Zimbabwe have never won a tri-series at home.
  • Kusal Mendis has hit the most sixes in this tri-series – six. He has scored his runs at a strike rate of 126.43.
  • Zimbabwe’s left-arm spinners have been hard to put away this series. Tendai Chisoro has bowled 16 overs at an economy rate of 4.06, while Sean Williams has bowled 17 at 4.11.

Quotes

“The last few weeks have been really good for us, and if we can continue that form, we can win the final. But, still, it is not going to be easy. We will have to do all the basic things quite correctly.”
Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga hopes his side can do the simple things well.

“We are very confident, the guys are up for it, and we want to take the momentum from the West Indies game into the final.”
Graeme Cremer’s Zimbabwe have momentum on their side after a couple of fighting performances.

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.


Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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