Zimbabwe’s 31-run win in the third T20 has suddenly made the final game on Friday more meaningful. Bangladesh is leading 2-1 but they were thrown off kilter by the visitors’ six-hitting spree and tight bowling in the previous game.
Malcolm Waller was the main man, producing a 23-ball 49 that ensured that Zimbabwe got to a big score from a position of relative strength. Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda started off well before Sean Williams and Waller took up the quick run-making. Their spin attack – Tendai Chisoro, Graeme Cremer and Sikandar Raza – took the game away from Bangladesh with wickets and by controlling the scoring rate.
But what clinched it for Zimbabwe was their ability to clear the boundary. They struck eight sixes and not all were slogs. They seem to have a better sense of the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium’s dimensions, finding the shorter boundaries with ease.
Zimbabwe received a blow on the eve of the match when the ICC announced that left-arm swing bowler Brian Vitori was reported for a suspect bowling action. However, he will be available for the fourth game.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are trying to balance out the degree of experimentation with their playing XI and the plan to win. They deployed four debutants, three of whom were playing at the international level for the first time. Except Sabbir Rahman, none of the other regular players performed.
The game could end up being the only close one in the four-match series, but both teams will still be on the lookout for any performing newcomer. For Bangladesh, securing the series win will seem to matter a little more, given how they lost the third game.
Bangladesh: LWWLW (last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Sabbir Rahman has been Bangladesh’s most consistent performer in the series so far. He has possibly secured the No. 3 spot for the immediate future, with his ability to pick up the pace of the innings.
Graeme Cremer is the bowling leader, and has proved that he can provide a breakthrough and if not, he can keep things tight with accurate legspin. He will once again be a key figure for Zimbabwe in the fourth game.
Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny could all make the playing XI with the series on the line. Abu Hider and Mosaddek Hossain could be retained, while Imrul Kayes may lose out with Soumya Sarkar continuing to open the innings.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mosaddek Hossain, 7 Nurul Hasan (wk), 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Arafat Sunny, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Abu Hider
Peter Moor could make way for designated captain Elton Chigumbura. Chamu Chibhabha could also play, given that Dav Whatmore had said that everyone will get at least one game.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Chamu Chibhabha, 4 Sean Williams, 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8 Richmond Mutumbami (wk), 9 Graeme Cremer, 10 Tendai Chisoro, 11 Taurai Muzarabani
Pitch and conditions
Khulna has been kind to batsmen so far and it will continue to be the same in this game. There’s no rain forecast.
Stats and trivia
The fourth match will be Bangladesh’s 50th T20 match. Both teams played their first T20I at this ground in 2006. Zimbabwe have played 46 match since then.
Malcolm Waller now has two innings with a 200-plus strike-rate after his 23-ball 49 in the previous game (a minimum of 20 balls faced). The only other Zimbabwe player to do so is Elton Chigumbura
“I don’t think there’s extra pressure on us [in the fourth game]. We have played under more pressure in the past. We have to keep planning and look to win.”
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza on the pressures of the series decider
“I think the next game is very important because it now stands at 2-1. We will try to do exactly what we did on Wednesday: play our best cricket, do the things right and hopefully come out on top and level the series.”
Zimbabwe batsman Malcolm Waller believes his team can complete the comeback
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.