BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
A CONFIDENT Zimbabwe will be hoping to ride on Friday’s famous maiden Twenty20 International (T20I) win against Pakistan when they meet the tourists in the decider at Harare Sports Club today, seeking a historic first-ever bilateral series win in the game’s shortest format.
The Chevrons are yet to win a T20i series on home soil since the advent of the shortest format of the game 16 years ago, although they did win a triangular series in 2012 which involved Bangladesh and neighbours South Africa after defeating the latter by nine wickets in the final.
The matches in the tri-series were, however, not classified as official T20I matches, but instead categorised as domestic T20 matches, following the late inclusion of Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe’s only other “series” win in T20Is came in 2009 when they beat West Indies in a low-scoring match in which they defended a measly 105 to win the one-off match by 26 runs in Trinidad.
However, Zimbabwe, who are ranked 11th in the ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings, could make history by claiming their biggest scalp yet in T20I by upstaging fourth-ranked Pakistan, who were overwhelming favourites heading into the series after their recent success in South Africa.
Although Pakistan remain favourites heading into the series decider, Zimbabwe are on a high after they overcame the disappointment of coming agonisingly short of winning the series opener last Wednesday by beating Pakistan for the first time in a T20i in 16 attempts on Friday.
A maiden victory had earlier seemed unlikely when the tourists restricted the hosts to a meagre 118-9, but right-arm medium pacer Luke Jongwe (4-18) wreaked havoc and Zimbabwe bowled out Pakistan for 99 in 19.5 overs.
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It was the lowest total defended in a T20 international in Harare and victory for Zimbabwe levelled the three-match series at 1-1 ahead of the decider at the same venue today.
Chevrons bowling coach Douglas Hondo warned Pakistan to expect another fighting performance in the series decider, saying his team will be aiming to get over the finish line in the series decider.
“We will not be overdoing with victory celebration today (Friday) as we will have to get back on the drawing board tomorrow (yesterday) to prepare for the all-important series decider,” Hondo said during the virtual post-match press conference.
“We want to keep the same pressure on the Pakistan team that was there today (Friday). Our job isn’t finished as yet as we now want to win the series by making our best efforts in the third T20.”
Hondo was full of praises for his bowlers after their match-winning display.
“They bowled brilliantly, making sure that whatever plan was there for each batsman should be implemented. I am confident that the bowlers will be at their best in the last T20 also.”
Zimbabwe are unlikely to make any changes to the bowling department which delivered the famous win on Friday, but would look to beef up the batting line-up which found the going tough on a difficult pitch.
Chevrons skipper Sean Williams, who sat out Friday’s encounter as he recuperates from a soft tissue injury to his left hand, could make a return to the team for the series decider.
Opener Tinashe Kamunhukamwe’s patient innings of 34 runs from 40 balls initially appeared to have cost Zimbabwe the match, but in hindsight it proved to be a crucial knock which could see him reclaim his place in the team.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, who have been at the receiving end of some harsh criticism back home after their capitulation on Friday, are also likely to make some changes to their team for the decider.
The tourists rested pacemen Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali for the last two games, but with the series on the line, they are likely to be recalled to the team as Pakistan look to avoid more disappointment.