After five consecutive losses, Zimbabwe got off the mark in the ongoing full series between them and Bangladesh. The hosts were in a position to win at some stage of each match but couldn't sustain the momentum. But on Friday, they absolutely outplayed Bangladesh to square the series and now the third T20I in Harare on Sunday will be the series decider.
Zimbabwe failed to defend 152 which was just about par in Harare in the first T20I but didn't change the plan of putting runs on the board. The batting performance was much improved in the second match and they successfully defended 166. What changed in the second game for the home side was the approach in the final five overs.
Batting first, Zimbabwe were 120 for five at the end of the 15th over and all set for a flourish in the last five overs. But they could manage only 32 runs and in the process lost the remaining wickets with one over still to play.
They brought a change in approach in the second T20I and kept wickets in hand. Zimbabwe were in a better position in terms of runs in the first match than the second after 15 overs but the hosts had seven wickets in hand in the second match. Zimbabwe finished on a high with 54 runs off the final five and posted a challenging total of 166 which they later defended.
What hurt Bangladesh is the absence of Mustafizur Rahman in the second match. Mustafizur has been the wrecker-in-chief for Bangladesh in the death overs and in his absence, Bangladesh haemorrhaged too many runs in the last five.
Also, the fielding let the visitors down big time. Bangladesh missed at least two simple run-out opportunities and a couple of catches, not to mention numerous fumbles in the field that allowed the Zimbabwe batters to steal runs. They have to be at their best as a fielding side to seal the series on such a big ground like Harare Sports Club.
The visiting side was guilty of playing too many shots and at least five batters got out while trying to clear the boundary. Instead of finding the gaps and running ones and twos, they took the riskier option of playing lofted shots in the middle overs.
Shamim Hossain's promising debut was one of few positives out of the second match for Bangladesh. Coming in at number eight, the 20-year old smashed three fours and two sixes in his 13-ball-29. He will look to contribute whichever way he can to cement his place in the side.
Another concern for Bangladesh is the inability to utilise the batting powerplay. Zimbabwe did well in the powerplay in both the matches with a score of 50/1 and 48/2 respectively. But Bangladesh, despite not losing a single wicket, scored 43 in the first six overs in the first match. They lost two wickets in the second match and managed 42. Too many dot balls in the batting powerplay is not helping the visitors.
Wessley Madhevere played the role of a sheet-anchor really well in the second T20I really well and will look to continue in the same fashion. Ryan Burl, who has already played two superb knocks in the series, can also prove to be a threat for Bangladesh, especially in the slog overs.
Bangladesh will rely on the experienced duo of Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah to make sure they don't lose the series. Liton Das is not likely to take further part in the series and if Mustafizur is not fit, Bangladesh will go with the same XI as the second T20I.
If Mustafizur doesn't return to the XI, Bangladesh have to rely on Shoriful Islam, who has been impressive so far in the series. He has picked up five wickets in the first two games and used his variations to good effect.
Ahead of the series decider, the left-arm seamer said, "The match tomorrow is virtually a final. I think if we can play to our potential in all three departments, we will be able to win. We will stay positive until the last ball of the match. We will be keen to win the series."
Zimbabwe too will be desperate to clinch the T20I series with a win and finish off on a high. "It is nice to win a trophy. Bangladesh have won trophies in two formats, so it will be nice to keep one in Harare. Some people would say it is another game but it is the final. Champions are made in the big games. We will also treat it like a final," said Zimbabwe captain Sikandar Raza.
The match will begin at 4.30 pm (BDST).