Mominul Haque’s men have lost three of their four Tests this year and might be without Tamim Iqbal for this one
With not much at stake in the one-off Test between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Harare, there is hardly any pre-match buzz. Zimbabwe are not part of the World Test Championship. Bangladesh are. But the home side has shown that it can provide stiff competition to higher-ranked sides in the longest format at times.
Haque will also expect the likes of Saif Hassan, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Liton Das, who have all been plagued by inconsistency, to contribute. For Bangladesh, the pace attack will be led by Abu Jayed and Taskin Ahmed. However, given the nature of the Harare pitch, the spin duo of Shakib and Mehidy Hasan Miraz might have a big role to play.
Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are locked at seven wins apiece over the years, with three of their 17 matches ending in draws.
Last five completed matches
In the spotlight
Against Bangladesh, Brendan Taylor often brings out something special. On two occasions in the last seven years, he has scored hundreds in each innings of a Test against Bangladesh. Taylor also has five of his six Test centuries against the opponents and will once again be a vital cog in the Zimbabwe line-up.
Taskin Ahmed has worked hard on his fitness and skills in the rebuilding phase of his international career. He is not a newbie anymore in the Bangladesh attack and can bowl consistently for long periods. In conditions where patience will be key, Ahmed could play a crucial role for Bangladesh.
With Williams and Ervine in self-isolation, Milton Shumba could continue in the middle order, while newcomers Joylord Gumbie and Dion Myers may also be considered.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Tarisai Musakanda, 3 Regis Chakabva (wk), 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Milton Shumba, 6 Joylord Gumbie/Dion Myers, 7 Donald Tiripano, 8 Roy Kaia, 9 Richard Ngarava, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Blessing Muzarabani
Shakib’s return will give Bangladesh the balance they missed in Sri Lanka in April. Iqbal remains an injury concern although Mushfiqur Rahim, who suffered a hairline fracture on his left index finger ahead of the tour of Zimbabwe, could be fit to play.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Abu Jayed, 11 Shoriful Islam
Pitch and conditions
Spinners might play a bigger role as the Test progresses at Harare Sports Club, where pitches tend to be on the slower side. Conditions are likely to be dry.
Stats that matter
“They have improved massively in the last 18 months in their understanding of fast bowling, skillset and endurance. I don’t think that day is too far away when a fast bowler wins Bangladesh a Test match in tough conditions.”
Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo on the side’s pace attack
“It is going to be a lot more competitive especially in our home conditions. We know our conditions quite well. It is always a big challenge playing in their backyard. Hopefully we have tailored the conditions to suit us. We have a young vibrant team, and we are excited to get going.”
Zimbabwe stand-in captain Brendan Taylor on the challenge
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84