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Crunch time

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe – West Indies start Friday’s crucial encounter against hosts Zimbabwe as favourites. But they will take nothing for granted as they seek to reach Sunday’s final against Sri Lanka in the One-Day International Tri-Nations series.

Captain Jason Holder said he expected Zimbabwe to come out blasting on all cylinders, still fired-up from their miraculous come-from-behind effort to force a tie against his side on Saturday.

Both teams are desperate for a first win in Bulawayo, in a match which is essentially a semi-final.

Batting stylist Shai Hope will be seeking to continue his excellent tour form.

Batting stylist Shai Hope will be seeking to continue his excellent tour form.

“I expect good competition again. They played a very good game against us the last time and I expect nothing different from them,” said Holder.

“Their tails will be up seeing this result and still have a chance to go through so the situation is for us to buckle up and close-up these close games”.

West Indies coach Roddy Estwick said his players had been committing too many errors and had appealed for more discipline.

“Yesterday we were too full in the first ten overs, we leaked 71 runs and we did not show the discipline we had previously. We were not hitting the pitch hard as I would like,” said Estwick, after a training session this afternoon.

“Hopefully we can get back to hitting those lengths. I found once we hit the pitch hard and we made the Sri Lankans play off the back foot they tended to struggle.”

Sri Lanka lead the table with 11 points from four matches, West Indies have seven from three matches while Zimbabwe have four from three matches.

The Windies have the leading performers in the tournament so far. Evin Lewis hit a career-best 148 off 122 balls against  Sri Lanka and heads the batting charts with 193 runs in three innings. Shai Hope, who made his maiden century (101) in the second match, has 173 runs.

This is Hope’s first ODI series with the gloves and he is yet to concede a bye.

“It is a must-win situation we are in against Zimbabwe,” said Lewis, whose maiden ODI century brought West Indies within striking distance  before losing to Sri Lanka by one run in Wednesday’s thriller.

“We have to go out there and regroup as a team and play our best cricket”.

The left-hander who was promoted to the opening spot and recorded his second international century of the year following his 100 against India in the T20 Series in Florida, battled cramps in the latter stages of his innings.

However, the Windies skipper has suggested that Lewis would be ready to resume his battle on Friday morning.

“He was there out in the field for 50 overs fielding, and then came back to bat through most of the overs,” Holder said.

“It was a bit of cramp, and I don’t think it was anything too serious.”

There are doubts however over whether fast bowler Shannon Gabriel will play against Zimbabwe after he limped off with a hamstring niggle after bowling only five overs against Sri Lanka.

Miguel Cummins may take his place in the team for Friday’s crucial encounter.

“We have to see what the conditions serve up for us and we are just managing some niggles,” said Holder, the joint leading wicket-taker with seven wickets.

“Shannon was not able to finish today [Wednesday] so I am not sure that he will be able to bowl in the next game but we will see.”

Holder is followed by Gabriel with six wickets and seamer Carlos Brathwaite also six wickets.

Brathwaite recorded career-best figures of 4-48 against Zimbabwe – the best of the tournament so far.

As far as Zimbabwe are concerned, while Tarisai Musakanda might have seemed the romantic choice for a debut earlier in the series, it’s more likely that they might turn to experience in this situation. Veteran Hamilton Masakadza could slot in the opener’s position in place of Brian Chari, who hasn’t been able to take advantage of the Powerplay even when he has looked solid. Masakadza has been somewhat out of sorts recently, but he averages a healthy 34.79 at Queens. There are also questions at the lower end of Zimbabwe’s batting order, and the choice of whether to play Elton Chigumbura or Malcolm Waller as their finisher will have to be made.

The pitch being used for tomorrow’s match is expected to play similarly to Wednesday’s encounter. With a little grass on it, albeit dead, it should hold up through the day and offer a little more for the bat than the ball, without being an absolute road.

Friday’s weather forecast suggests a little more cloud cover than the last two days, as well as the threat of thunderstorms in the area.

The match starts at 3.30 a.m. 

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Brian Chari/Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sikandar Raza, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Peter Moor (wk), 7 Elton Chigumbura/Malcolm Waller, 8 Graeme Cremer (capt), 9 Donald Tiripano, 10 Tendai Chisoro, 11 Chris Mpofu.

West Indies (possible): 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Kraigg Brathwaite, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Miguel Cummins.

Source: (CMC/cricinfo)

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