Zimbabwe need to get the Afghanistan monkey off their back in this series
Zimbabwe will go into the upcoming Twenty20 and One Day International series against Afghanistan with the big goal of making sure game time lays the bedrock of a campaign that looks at successful 2019 Cricket World Cup Qualification.
The bigger picture however will be dealing with the proverbial monkey on their back.
Afghanistan have won the last three series home and away 3-2. These are recent series by the way, all between 2015 and 2017. Back then the they were not a full member and it could be said their successes against countries like Zimbabwe will have weighed in their favour when they were confirmed last year.
With the two teams in the same group at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 to be held in Zimbabwe, whoever wins this series will feel they will have gained a psychological advantage over the other when they meet in the group stage on 6 April at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo.
Both sides carry poor form into the tournament. Afghanistan were on the wrong end of a three-match ODI series against fellow full member newbie Ireland. Before that they won one and lost the other against the Windies.
Zimbabwe fluffed their lines in Bangladesh winning one out of four matches in a triangular series which also involved Sri Lanka.
Both sides’ batting cards do not make for great reading and Zimbabwe’s struggles with spin were there for all to see in Dhaka. With Rashid Khan in fine form as part of a semi-final reaching Sidney Strikers in the Big Bash League, Graeme Cremer will know that his batting charges will need to step up big time to claim this series.
It is not clear what batting consultant Lance Klusener can do in this series to turn things around. Sean Williams was expected to make the trip to Dubai but an injury which has also kept him out of the current A series match against Kenya may mean he doesn’t get the much-needed game time a month before the tournament.
Batsman Ryan Burl and returning left arm medium pacer Brian Vitori have made the trip to the Middle East though.
The dependable Sikandar Raza was quoted on Cricinfo recently as saying:
We are determined to go into the World Cup qualifiers with a strong message we want to send out to all the teams.
A strong performance in this series, breaking the hoodoo the Afghanistan has over Zimbabwe, will go a lomng way into sending that message.
1st T20I – 5 February 2018
2nd T20I – 6 February 2018
1st ODI – 9 February 2018
2nd ODI – 11 February 2018
3rd ODI – 13 February 2018
4th ODI – 16 February 2018
5th ODI – 19 February 2018
All T20s start at 17.00hrs CAT. All ODIs start at midday CAT.