Zimbabwe, Australia and South Africa begin a brisk one-day tri-series as all three teams hit the high gear for World Cup preparations.
Venue: Harare Sports Club
Dates: Monday, 25 August
Start time: 8:30 a.m. BST (9:30 a.m. local time)
TV and live stream: SuperSport (South Africa and Zimbabwe), PTV Sports (Pakistan), Ten Sports (India and others), Orbit Show Network (Middle East), WillowTV (USA).
Weather: There's no problem with rain in Harare this time of the year. AccuWeather.com forecasts a lovely day with bright sunshine and temperatures reaching up to 26 degrees Celsius.
After being schooled in both the one-off Test and the three-match ODI series against South Africa, Zimbabwe have little time for introspection. They need to save some face and they begin this task against Australia.
Australia have had a long layoff from competitive cricket and they have opted to not send David Warner or Shane Watson on the tour. Skipper Michael Clarke is also in doubt due to a hamstring injury. If he misses out, George Bailey will take over as captain. Still, the Australian batting order is strong with Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes and Glenn Maxwell all part of the side.
Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc are the two quicks to watch out for, but if Zimbabwe opt for a pitch as sluggish as they did in the one-off Test against South Africa, it could be a challenge. Australia’s unfamiliarity with the conditions might be the only advantage to the hosts. It’s the first time in a decade that Australia have toured the country, but they have never lost here. Still, if Zimbabwe are reaching for positives, that might be the only one.
Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura showed some promise with the bat against South Africa, but overall, the team has not clicked. Brendan Taylor was dropped from the side for the final ODI against South Africa after just two failures with the bat. It prompted questioning from former Minister for Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart.
Taylor remains one of Zimbabwe's key players and dropping him was indeed questionable. He is in the squad for the tri-series, but whether he will actually play only time will tell. Games for this tri-series come thick and fast so it’s important to get off to a good start early on. While this series certainly is being played with the bigger picture of the World Cup in mind, a little silverware never hurt anyone.
Sean Williams has played a handy role with both bat and ball in the recent one-day series against South Africa. The top order's failure to string partnerships together has seen Williams take charge with the lower order. His ability to help his side save face lower down will come in very handy.
James Faulkner has been Australia's best bowler over the last 12 months. He has taken 25 wickets in the time period, but they have come at a fairly high average of 30.20. The conditions will be testing for the bowlers, but if the batsmen can give their bowlers something to work with, Faulkner's role will be crucial.
Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke(c), George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin(w), Mitchell Johnson, James Faulkner, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Ben Cutting, Mitchell Marsh, Kane Richardson
Hamilton Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami(w), Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura(c), Luke Jongwe, Shingirai Masakadza, Prosper Utseya, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, John Nyumbu, Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara
All stats and quotes via ESPNCricinfo, unless otherwise stated