BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE will look to draw inspiration from fond memories of their historic One Day International (ODI) cricket series win in Sri Lanka almost four years ago when they take on the same opponents in the first of the three one-day encounters at the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium today.
The Zimbabwe team recorded one of their most famous away series win in recent years when they came from behind to beat Sri Lanka 3-2 in a tightly contested series played in the Asian country.
The famous series win which shattered several long standing records, was Zimbabwe’s first away series win in eight years and their first on foreign soil against a Test nation since defeating Bangladesh in 2001.
Now almost four years since that famous tour, Zimbabwe will be hoping to script another piece of history in a ground which has in the past proved to be a graveyard for some of the world’s leading teams.
However Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine, who is among the few survivors from the squad which stunned the cricket world believes the current side can cause another upset against a new look Sri Lankan side which is missing several key players due to injuries, fitness issues and Covid-19 complications.
The stylish left hander, who will become just the 18th Zimbabwean cricketer to feature in 100 ODIs during the match however cautioned that they would need to play their best cricket in Kandy.
“We would definitely like to repeat that (2017 series win) I know that we had slightly different plans and probably a different team back then and also different conditions but we need to come here with the same mindset that we want to win we not just here to compete,” Ervine said during the pre-match press conference yesterday.
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“We had some good success the last time we came to Sri Lanka but obviously this time we definitely would like to beat that (success we had in 2017). I know that Sri Lanka have named a very different squad to what we were expecting but I still think that we have to play our best cricket and we have to play positive cricket as well and hopefully that positivity will get us over the line,” he said.
The three match series against the Sri Lankans will carry a lot of significance as they are part of the International Cricket Council Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League, the qualification pathway for next year’s World Cup to be played in India.
Zimbabwe have found the going tough in the Super League as they are bottom of the 13-team log with 25 points after managing just two wins in the nine matches they have so far.
Their opponents Sri Lanka have fared slightly better, having picked up four wins from the 15 matches, which sees them sixth on the log.
Ervine said they are not worried about their current position.
“I don’t think we are too concerned about looking at our position at the moment. I think what we have to concentrate on is obviously winning every game and this is another opportunity for us to do so. The feeling in the camp is good,” he said.
Zimbabwe will play the first match without their head coach Lalchand Rajput, who is currently in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Sri Lanka.
Batting coach Stuart Matsikenyeri will take over the head coaching reins in his absence. A few changes are also are also expected in the team with opening batsman Takudzwanashe Kaitano expected to open the batting after following up his solid Test debut against Bangladesh with a good run of form in the Pro50 Championship.
Left hander Milton Shumba, who made his ODI debut in a washed out match against Ireland in September, is finally set to feature in the 50 over format.
SQUAD: Ervine Craig (C), Burl Ryan, Chakabva Regis, Chatara Tendai, Jongwe Luke, Kaitano Takudzwanashe, Madande Clive, Madhevere Wessly, Masakadza Wellington, Mutombodzi Tinotenda, Muzarabani Blessing, Ngarava Richard, Raza Sikandar, Shumba Milton, Williams Sean