Zimbabwe v Pakistan: Misbah wary of hosts with nothing to lose

Oleh Dom Farrell 21 April 2021 78
Zimbabwe v Pakistan: Misbah wary of hosts with nothing to lose

Misbah-ul-Haq expects no favours from Zimbabwe as he takes his in-form Pakistan side into their latest southern African assignment.

Last week, Pakistan wrapped up an impressive 3-1 T20I series victory over South Africa and they now take on neighbouring Zimbabwe in a three-match rubber in the shortest international format, starting in Harare on Friday.

Those games will precede a two-match Test series and the omens are not good for Zimbabwe.

Sean Williams' side have not qualified for this year's T20 World Cup and are not taking part in the World Test Championship, with Pakistan having won all 14 previous T20 meetings between the countries.

Nevertheless, Misbah insists he will not accept any of his players treating this latest assignment as a formality.

"Every series is an opportunity to learn. The team is not that experienced, except for three or four guys," he said. "We'd like to give chances to some of the younger guys and see how it goes. But at the same time, Zimbabwe are a gutsy side.

"They've got nothing to lose. They play without pressure. Hopefully, we play our best cricket and play to our standards."

Williams does not necessarily concur, arguing that being faced with elite performers such as Pakistan's captain and star batsman Babar Azam brings a pressure all of its own.

"Pressure is something you can't touch and you can't see. It's just a feeling," said captain and left-handed batsman Williams, who is 73 shy of becoming the second Zimbabwean to 1,000 T20I runs.

"Once we can get the players to control that, we will be on the right track. It is going to be a test but we are going to back our youngsters and give them a good run."

Misbah and Babar are likely to give strong consideration to including leg-spinner Usman Qadir given Zimbabwe's struggles against Afghanistan's Rashid Khan, who took 11 wickets in a recent Test clash between the countries.

Craig Ervine and Brendan Taylor are back to bolster the hosts' batting line-up after missing that trip to the UAE while Wellington Masakadza and Tapiwa Mufudza are vying to be Williams' go-to spin option.

Babar primed to pile on the runs

Having replaced Virat Kohli atop the ODI world rankings, Babar displayed sensational T20 form against South Africa when he hit a magnificent 122 in a successful chase of 204, when Pakistan cantered home by nine wickets at Centurion. Operating at the top of the order, he should claim the 60 runs he needs to reach 2,000 in T20Is sooner rather than later.

14 and counting

Zimbabwe have a considerable tale of woe to try to overturn in this one-sided rivalry. When the sides met in November last year, Pakistan chased successfully in all three matches – showcasing prowess that was once again on display at South Africa. That run of defeats surely has to end eventually.

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Dom Farrell