To say Zimbabwe’s struggle starts at the top would be an understatement. Their partnership of the last century for the first wicket in ODIs was way back in 2014
when Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza added 224. Since the beginning of 2020, Zimbabwe has been using 14 different opening combinations
– most of all teams – with few results. Their average opening position of 15 in this period is the second worst
Zimbabwe, however, had a good start to 2022 with Regis Chakabva and Takudzwanashe Kaitano adding 80 and 59 in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. But Kaitano’s indifferent form saw him in and out of the XI, and Chakabva moved up and down in sequence, resulting in instability at the top.
Kaitano returned for the second ODI against India and seemed happy to bid his time against the new ball before fidgeting on the outside to be out for 7 of 32 balls. Chakabva, who has started in 24 of his 53 ODI innings, batted at number 6 in the first game and number 4 in the second to cement the middle order. But with the veteran Sean Williams back on the sidelines, Zimbabwe could try to reunite him with Kaitano to solve their problems.
In both ODIs, India chose to bowl after winning the toss to take advantage of seam-friendly conditions. But now that they have closed the series of three games, they may want to test their batters if they win the toss again. KL Rahul, who is playing his first series since IPL 2022, could also use some time in the middle for the Asian Cup, which starts next week.
Zimbabwe LLLWW (last five ODIs completed, most recent first)
In 2022, Sikandar Raza scored 500 runs in 11 innings at an average of 55.55. His count includes two consecutive centuries against Bangladesh earlier this month, helping Zimbabwe spot targets on both occasions. Against India, it was once again Raza’s job to make sure Zimbabwe would fight. In the first ODI, however, the Indian navigators tricked him, and then Axar Patel kept him on the line in the second. Still, Raza will be key for the hosts in the final game and will have a chance to end the series on a climax.
In the absence of senior bowlers, Mohammed Siraj was impressive. He made good use of swing and zoom to keep the batters still, while also surprising them with fast bowling with a short tone. He has gone wicketless just once in his nine ODIs this year and has been the face of the Indian bowling bank’s strength.
The big question for Zimbabwe is whether they tinker with their opening combination. They were also able to bring in Tony Munyonga, who failed to hit 30 out of 16 balls during his ODI debut against Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe (probably): 1 Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 2 Innocent Kaia, 3 Regis Chakabva (capt & wk), 4 Wessly Madhevere/Tony Munyonga, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Brad Evans, 10 Victor Nyauchi, 11 Tanaka Chivanga
India (probably): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Shikhar Dhawan/Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Ishan Kishan, 4 KL Rahul (capt), 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Sanju Samson (wk), 7 Axar Patel/Shahbaz Ahmed, 8 Shardul Thakur/Deepak Chahar , 9 Mohammed Siraj, 10 Prasidh Krishna/Avesh Khan, 11 Kuldeep Yadav
Another cool morning is ahead in Harare. So expect the seamen to get help early on with the new ball.
“My goal is to go for wickets when the new ball swings. And then to bowl in consistent areas, string the dots and bowl girls when it doesn’t.”
Mohammed Siraj describes his bowling mantra for ODI cricket