Old prob­lems, but new vigour for Zim

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

THE sum­mer rains have ar­rived in Zim­babwe. Scat­tered show­ers have cooled the coun­try­side after Oc­to­ber’s oven, and there is a pal­pa­ble sense of re­lief in a coun­try where many de­pend on agri­cul­ture for their liveli­hood.

Zim­babwe’s na­tional cricket team doesn’t in­clude quite as many farm­ers (chicken or oth­er­wise) as it once did, but they will also be some­what re­lieved to be out of the un­fa­mil­iar caul­dron of Test cricket and in the more for­giv­ing climes of the lim­ited-overs game.

The score­cards from their Test matches against Sri Lanka will show a pair of huge wins for the vis­i­tors, but Zim­babwe cap­tain Graeme Cre­mer was happy to own the cliché and take some pos­i­tives out of that se­ries: his own Test hun­dred, the un­earthing of a new tal­ent in Carl Mumba, and a lit­tle more grit.

De­spite their suc­cesses in the Tests, Sri Lanka still have a few con­cerns. The mid­dle or­der was a peren­nial worry in the home se­ries against Aus­tralia, which Sri Lanka lost 1-4. Stand-in cap­tain Upul Tha­ranga only played in one of those games against Aus­tralia, but he will now have to lead a side shorn of many of its heavy­weights. Zim­babwe are ex­actly the sort of ba­nana skin he won’t want to slip up on.

Zim­babwe might look to Aus­tralia’s per­for­mance in those one-day­ers for some tips: when­ever pres­sure was built, Sri Lanka lost wick­ets in clus­ters. While Zim­babwe don’t have bowlers of Aus­tralia’s cal­i­bre, sev­eral times dur­ing the Tests they were able to string to­gether dis­ci­plined spells, with Chris Mpofu open­ing the fourth morn­ing of the sec­ond Test with six maid­ens on the trot.

Test matches al­low the time and space to ease that sort of pres­sure, but ODIs don’t and Cre­mer sug­gested be­fore the tri-se­ries that Zim­babwe’s bowlers would aim to nul­lify Sri Lanka’s scor­ing op­tions wher­ever pos­si­ble. Or at least, that’s the plan. De­spite the in­ex­pe­ri­ence of their squad, Sri Lanka will be fan­cied as favourites in the opener and this tri-se­ries will al­low them to feel out some com­bi­na­tions be­fore their rather more test­ing as­sign­ment against South Africa in sim­i­lar con­di­tions in the new year.

Pe­ter Moor’s bat­ting tal­ent and com­mit­ment to the na­tional cricket side are be­yond doubt, but mul­ti­ple er­rors be­hind the stumps dur­ing the two Tests against Sri Lanka mean his glove­work will be in the spot­light on Mon­day. Zim­babwe have not picked an­other front­line wick­et­keeper in their squad, though Brian Chari might be avail­able to fill in if need arises. So Moor will be un­der some pres­sure to put in a cleaner per­for­mance.

Upul Tha­ranga is clos­ing in on 200 ODIs for Sri Lanka, but he has never cap­tained the coun­try in any for­mat. He made runs in both Tests against Zim­babwe, crack­ing an un­beaten 110 in the first match, and he will look to con­tinue to lead from the front in the ODIs, both for the ben­e­fit of the team and to so­lid­ify his own po­si­tion in the XI.

Seamer Ti­nashe Panyan­gara’s re­turn from in­jury will lend a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­ence to Zim­babwe’s bowl­ing line-up, while at the other end of the spec­trum, the hosts have in­cluded un­capped 22-year-old bats­man Tari­sai Musakanda in their squad. Musakanda was also with the team for the Tests, though he did not de­but. Now, his chance may come at the ex­pense of an un­der­per­form­ing Hamil­ton Masakadza. Given his work­load in the Tests, Zim­babwe may rest seamer Chris Mpofu ahead of the games at his home ground in Bu­l­awayo.

Zim­babwe (pos­si­ble): 1 Chamu Chib­habha, 2 Brian Chari, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Hamil­ton Masakadza/Tari­sai Musakanda, 5 Sean Wil­liams, 6 Sikan­dar Raza, 7 PJ Moor (wk), 8 Graeme Cre­mer (c), 9 Tendai Chisoro, 10 Carl Mumba, 11 Ti­nashe Panyan­gara

Vet­eran seamer Nuwan Ku­lasekara, who last played an ODI at the be­gin­ning of this year, has been re­called to Sri Lanka’s squad, hav­ing also played in the fi­nal game of Sri Lanka A’s lim­ited overs se­ries against West Indies A at the end of Oc­to­ber, tak­ing 2 for 65. Ku­lasekara will bring a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence to Sri Lanka’s at­tack. Sri Lanka have mul­ti­ple wick­et­keep­ing and spin op­tions to sift through, with Jef­frey Van­der­say re­turn­ing from a fin­ger in­jury and in good form after his six-for in the se­ries win against West Indies A last month.

Sri Lanka (pos­si­ble): 1 Dhanan­jaya de Silva, 2 Niroshan Dick­wella, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Upul Tha­ranga (c), 5 Kusal Per­era (wk), 6 Da­sun Shanaka, 7 She­han Jaya­suriya, 8 Nuwan Ku­lasekara, 9 Jef­frey Van­der­say, 10 Su­ranga Lak­mal, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

Harare Sports Club’s trend of pro­duc­ing some­what life­less pitches means that, while the ball may not be go­ing round cor­ners, bats­men will still have to toil for their runs, and it may not be easy to force the pace first up. There is plenty of rain about at the mo­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the late af­ter­noon, and scat­tered thun­der­storms are ex­pected around Harare on Mon­day.

Sri Lanka’s stand-in cap­tain Upul Tha­ranga doesn’t ex­pect the toss to play an im­por­tant role in the lim­ite­dovers matches.

“We learned a lot about the con­di­tions here and the wick­ets dur­ing the Tests , very dif­fer­ent to Sri Lanka! I don’t think the toss is go­ing to make a huge dif­fer­ence. The wicket isn’t go­ing to change that much.”

“Play­ing at home, we know these con­di­tions. If we play well on the day, I don’t think we will be an un­der­dog. We also play a lot more white ball cricket than we do red ball cricket,” said Zim­babwe cap­tain Graeme Cre­mer. Stats and trivia

This will be Ku­lasekara’s fourth tour of Zim­babwe. The seam­ing all­rounder has pre­vi­ously vis­ited in 2004, 2008 and 2010, when he was part of the Sri Lankan side that won a tri-se­ries, also fea­tur­ing In­dia.

Sri Lanka have played 47 ODIs against Zim­babwe, win­ning 39.

Zim­babwe’s last win against Sri Lanka came six years ago at Harare Sports Club. Six of the mem­bers of that play­ing XI are part of their cur­rent squad.

Form guide LLLLW (com­pleted matches, most

Zim­babwe: re­cent first) Sri Lanka: LLLWL — ESPNCricinfo

Zim­babwe would wel­come the change of for­mat after giv­ing a poor ac­count of them­selves in the Test se­ries. — AP

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