This game is the first of two dead rubbers in this tri-series, but try telling that to Hamilton Masakadza. This will be his last international match and, having contributed for so long to Zimbabwe cricket, a win over a side that has totally dominated them in T20Is will make for a sweet exit.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, will once again rely on their heavy hitters and their spin attack to stop Zimbabwe, a formula that has worked on each of the eight occasions the teams have met in this format. In this series, Asghar Afghan, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi have scored most of the runs but Afghanistan will also hope to see Hazratullah Zazai recover from a batting slump. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who impressed on his debut earlier in the tri-series, would look to bounce back from the first-ball duck in the second game.
Among their bowlers, Mujeeb Ur Rahman stopped Bangladesh in their tracks with his maiden four-wicket haul in the previous game, also his T20I best. Fareed Ahmad, the left-arm quick, also looked impressive, although medium-pacer Karim Janat hasn’t been among the wickets.
Zimbabwe haven’t had as many impressive individual performances. Richmond Mutumbami did justice to his call-up against Bangladesh on Wednesday with a half-century but his efforts did not have an impact on the result. Ryan Burl, who made a quickfire fifty in the first game against Bangladesh, has struggled for consistency, as has Regis Chakabva. And the side’s senior batsmen, including Masakadza, haven’t scored enough to put pressure on the opposition.
They have some variety in their bowling attack but apart from Kyle Jarvis, the others haven’t quite stepped up. Neville Madziva, Ainsley Ndlovu and Sean Williams will look to do a better job with the ball.
Afghanistan WWWWW (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Like his team, Hamilton Masakadza, too, has had a rough time in the tournament, scoring only 62 in three innings so far. In his final match, a big knock from the Zimbabwe captain could well have a big impact on the morale of the side.
With two matches to go before the final, this would be the right time for Hazratullah Zazai to get back among the runs. The opener hasn’t scored a fifty in his last 14 international innings, after his 67 against Ireland in March this year
Having played their first two matches in the series with an unchanged XI, Afghanistan now have the luxury of two matches to test out their bench strength. Fast bowlers Dawlat Zadran and Naveen-ul-Haq, seaming allrounder Fazal Niazai and wicketkeeper Shafiqullah and left-arm spinner Shahidullah and Sharafuddin Ashraf are their options should they rest a few key players.
Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 3 Najeeb Tarakai, 4 Asghar Afghan, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Gulbadin Naib, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Karim Janat, 10 Fareed Ahmad, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Richmond Mutumbami’s fifty should keep him in the side but Zimbabwe might consider recalling quick bowler Tendai Chatara and allrounder Tony Munyonga to bolster the bowling.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brendan Taylor (wk), 2 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 3 Sean Williams, 4 Regis Chakabva, 5 Tinotenda Mutombodzi, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Richmond Mutumbami, 8 Neville Madziva, 9 Kyle Jarvis, 10 Ainsley Ndlovu, 11 Chris Mpofu
Pitch and conditions
In the match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury pitch offered runs to batsmen, who were ready to take time to assess the situation. There’s chance of a late shower on Friday evening.
Stats and trivia
Masakadza will retire having played the most T20Is for Zimbabwe. He has missed only four of Zimbabwe’s 69 T20Is, all in 2015. He is also their highest run-getter in the format, with the most 50-plus scores and the most boundaries.
Mohammad Nabi’s unbeaten 84 in Afghanistan’s previous game against Bangladesh is the third-highest score by a No. 6 batsman in all T20Is.