March 24, 2023

Big picture

Despite being table-toppers in their group, and with only one game left for each team, India are still not assured of a semi-final berth. If South Africa and Pakistan win their respective matches on Sunday, India must beat Zimbabwe in Melbourne to qualify for the knockouts. Making the final four will also be a redemption of sorts for them, after their early exit from last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.

While India have three wins in four games, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. In their opening match against Pakistan, they needed a Virat Kohli masterclass to give them a memorable, come-from-behind victory. Then, in their previous game, Bangladesh needed 85 from nine overs with all ten wickets remaining before slipping up. Zimbabwe are no pushovers either and India, as R Ashwin said in the pre-match press conference, will have to be “as clinical as possible”.

Zimbabwe might be out of the tournament following their defeat to Netherlands but they have put in spirited performances throughout. After dominating the qualifying tournament, they topped their group in the first round at the World Cup, and beat Pakistan in the Super 12s to give themselves a shot at the semi-finals. However, their batting let them down in the subsequent games.

With their attacking style of play, Zimbabwe have won millions of hearts, especially back home. On Sunday, they have a chance to sign-off in style against India, in what could be a full house at the MCG.

Form guide

India WLWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Zimbabwe LLWWL

In the spotlight

Rohit Sharma scored a scratchy half-century against Netherlands. KL Rahul struck 50 off 32 balls against Bangladesh. But overall, they have failed to give India good starts. In four matches, India’s average opening stand is 13 at a run rate of 4.27. Only Pakistan and Namibia have had worse starts in the tournament. Zimbabwe’s fast bowlers will test the India openers once again, especially if they are batting first.

In seven innings at the World Cup, Regis Chakabva has scored only 45 runs at an average of 6.42 and a strike rate of 77.58. The wicketkeeper-batter started the tournament at the top of the order before being moved down to No. 6 for a couple of games. Against Netherlands, he came in at No. 3 but scored only 5 off 16 balls despite two dropped chances. Chakabva is someone who can score quickly, and runs from his bat could help alleviate Zimbabwe’s batting issues.

Team news

Barring a late injury or illness, it is unlikely India will make any changes to their playing XI. The same could be said for Zimbabwe as well.

India (probable): 1 KL Rahul, 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh

Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Wessly Madhevere, 2 Craig Ervine (capt), 3 Regis Chakabva (wk), 4 Sean Williams, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Milton Shumba, 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Richard Ngarava, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Blessing Muzarabani

Pitch and conditions

Out of five matches in Melbourne so far in this World Cup, only the first one was unaffected by rain. The last three were washed out and the one before that, between England and Ireland, was curtailed. Luckily, there’s no forecast for rain on Sunday. Given it will be a fresh pitch, expect some help for seamers, but the batters should enjoy the ball coming onto the bat.

Stats and trivia

  • This is the first time India and Zimbabwe are playing each other in a T20 World Cup.
  • Virat Kohli is 68 short of becoming the first batter to reach 4000 runs in T20Is.
  • Suryakumar Yadav (965) is 35 away from completing 1000 T20I runs in 2022. Mohammad Rizwan is the only other batter to have achieved that feat in a year (1326 runs in 2021).
  • Before 2022, Sikandar Raza had 524 runs in 42 T20Is at an average of 13.43 and a strike rate of 106.93. This year, he has smashed 701 runs in 23 T20Is so far, averaging 35.05 and striking at 151.40. Five of his six T20I half-centuries have come in 2022.


“It [match-ups] is a feature that is existing, and it is definitely paying dividends. But as a playing unit, to only believe in that and say this is what it is and this guy will bowl to this person, you can’t work like that. But I think it is giving a tactical edge to teams.”
R Ashwin on match-ups

“This is a great opportunity to bowl against some of the best guys in the world, so there’s no reason why our guys would not want to actually get out there and produce the goods. How often do you get the opportunity to put Virat Kohli in your pocket? So I’m pretty sure that our fast bowlers will be raring to go come tomorrow.”
Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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