Having won both the matches so far, the associates will want to seal the five-match ODI series by the third game itself
Afghanistan now has the chance to kick 2016 off by repeating the feat as it enters the third of five ODIs, to be held at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday (January 2), with one hand on the trophy.
Afghanistan had secured a 49-run victory in the opening tie and backed it up with a tense four-wicket win in the last game. The stage is therefore set for Afghanistan to add another feather to its cap but Zimbabwe, who will be smarting from the losses, must be pumped up to try and plug the pores to push the contest to the end.
The first and most obvious of Zimbabwe’s chinks lies in its batting. Gathering runs has been Zimbabwe’s biggest concern this season, not for lack of quality but for absence of consistency. It has the likes of Craig Ervine, Peter Moor, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza scoring runs from time to time but the batting unit doesn’t look like it can be as consistent as needed.
As for the bowling, Luke Jongwe, Graeme Cremer, Raza and Elton Chigumbura have all been consistent with their lines but hasn’t always managed to make up for the lapses in the batting.
Banking on a top order that boasts of Noor Ali Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, who smashed an unbeaten 131 to guide the side in the second ODI, and Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan is a side with enough muscle in it. It also has the steady hand of Asghar Stanikzai, the captain, to bank on as the middle order comes into play.
The other aspect, which has clicked for Afghanistan, is its fielding. The bowling, although tidy, has lacked venom but with fielders protecting the territory with intensity, the bowlers have looked better than they might have otherwise.
The one bowler who has really stepped it up for Afghanistan is Amir Hamza. The left-arm spinner has opened the bowling in both the previous games, and though he was average the second time around, he was a star in the first game with 4 for 17.
Afghanistan: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Nawroz Mangal, Mirwais Ashraf, Samiullah Shenwari, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Shafiqullah, Usman Ghani, Yamin Ahmadzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Noor Ali Zadran, Rashid Khan, Rokhan Barakzai, Amir Hamza, Sayed Shirzad, Karim Sadiq, Nawaz Khan.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Wellington Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami, Tauari Muzarabani, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor.