Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan: After an exciting start to the ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2018, we have the biggest game of Group B to look forward to.
Afghanistan was the overwhelming favorite going into these qualifiers but a shock defeat at the hands of Scotland has thrown the group wide open. Zimbabwe has had a torrid time against Afghanistan in the past year or so and know that winning this game will be very important for their ambition to qualify for ICC World Cup 2019.
ZIMBABWE in Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan
Nepal was never really going to test Zimbabwe but the hosts would still be pleased about the massive victory they were able to record. Zimbabwe batted first against Nepal and ended up amassing 380. Almost all of their frontline batsmen got runs. Cephas Zhuwao ensured that Zimbabwe got off to a great start while Mire, Masakadza, and Ervine got useful scores as well.
The chief destroyers for Zimbabwe were Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza. Both the players scored centuries, Taylor in a relatively measured manner and Raza at his destructive best.
With a score as large as this behind them the Zimbabwe bowlers were never going to be tested seriously. This is why they must not let the euphoria of the last game diminish the challenge that lies ahead of them.
Zimbabwe has had a very tough time beating Afghanistan in the past and that is down to the inability of their bowlers to keep Afghanistan’s batsmen quiet. Zimbabwe must back itself to be aggressive against Afghanistan and try to pick wickets because batting is clearly the weak link in the Afghan armor.
The role of Vitori, Cremer, Chatara, and Jarvis will be decisive for Zimbabwe in this match. Sikandar Raza also picked up three wickets in the first match and is proving himself to be a more than useful part-time bowler.
Raza and the other Zimbabwe batsmen are going to be tested severely by the Afghanistan bowlers as well. The world’s number one bowler, Rashid Khan, had a terrible game against Scotland and showed that he could be attacked as well.
Can Zimbabwe achieve the same against the man who has given them so much grief in the last few months? For one thing, Zimbabwe may nudge the curator to leave as much grass on the surface as possible so that the surface does not help the spinners at all.
Zimbabwe has shown itself to be vulnerable to quality spin and that is exactly what they will face up to in this match. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi will all come at Zimbabwe hard and how the hosts are able to withstand this assault could decide the outcome of the match.
AFGHANISTAN in Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan
No one would have thought that Afghanistan would lose their opening match to Scotland in the manner that they did. Everything seemed to go wrong for Afghanistan as they failed to first set up a competitive total and then proceeded to put in their worst bowling performance in recent memory.
Credit must be given to the Scotland batsmen that showed excellent resolve against the spinners but it clearly looked like the enormity of the occasion had got to the Afghans.
Afghanistan need not panic, though. They should still be able to qualify for the Super Six stage but need to avoid any further shock defeats. Even losing this match to Zimbabwe will not mean the end of their World Cup Qualifiers 2018 campaign.
Afghanistan recorded a massive 4-1 victory against Zimbabwe before the qualifiers and will back themselves to get better of the hosts once again. Rashid Khan was the player of the series and took wickets by the bucketload to rise to the top of the ODI rankings.
That series, though, was played in UAE and the wickets would have offered a lot more to the spinners. Afghanistan must realize that their spinners will not get the kind of tracks that help them excessively and avoid relying on them more than needed.
Mohammad Shahzad played an uncharacteristically slow inning at the top of the order while Ihsanullah, Rahmat Shah, and Nasir Jamal failed. The top-4 batsmen for Afghanistan will be required to set the tone against Zimbabwe and ensure that their middle order can come in and accelerate without worrying about wickets.
A positive for their last defeat will be the form of Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran. Both the players got valuable fifties and ensured that Afghanistan finished with a respectable score. If Afghanistan can sort its batting out then its bowling has the teeth to roar back into form.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS
A 20% chance of rain has been forecast for match day. We really hope that the rain gods will relent because this promises to be an epic encounter. The pitch will have some grass left over for sure but its intrinsic slow nature will not change. The batsmen should be able to score plenty of runs once they get their eye in.
This is a match that will be won by the better batting side on the day.
Afghanistan has been dominating Zimbabwe in the recent past and has won 4 of the last 5 matches they have played. Zimbabwe, though, is in home conditions and full of confidence after getting off to the perfect start in this tournament. We have a feeling that the hosts are the team to back in this contest.
Back Zimbabwe to win.
Winner: Zimbabwe, 2.62 @Williamhills