The countdown for the ICC ODI World Cup begins on Saturday (November 21) as Pakistan take on Bangladesh in the opening match of the Global Qualifiers. Hosts Zimbabwe would face Thailand in the second match.
Going into the tournament, Pakistan have lost the three-match ODI series against West Indies. However, they got a much-needed game-time, especially after several players got infected with COVID-19 in the lead up to that series. With Muneeba Ali getting some runs at the top and the return of the Nida Dar, Pakistan would be hoping that their top-order would live up to the expectations. The team management would be please with the performance of Ali and Omaima Sohail in the warm-up fixture against Ireland.
Along with skipper Javeria Khan, they would want to provide good starts and set up the stage for Aliya Riaz to capitalise. Riaz would have a key role to play in their campaign, maximising the opportunities in the middle-overs and taking the attack to the bowlers in the last ten. With the ball, head coach David Hemp would be hoping that Diana Baig and Fatime Sana would provide early breakthroughs so that the spinners could control the pace of the game from there.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh would be coming on the back of a three-nil victory against hosts Zimbabwe just before the tournament. Having played a number of the matches in similar conditions in the lead-up, Bangladesh have the advantage of getting acclimatised to the conditions.
Fargana Hoque and Rumana Ahmed hold the key to the batting, while Nahida Akter has been the pick of the bowler for Bangladesh. The left-arm spinner took 11 wickets in three matches against Zimbabwe and will be vital in Bangladesh's plans to tighten the screws in the middle-overs.
Skipper Nigar Sultana was at her best in the warm-up fixture against Netherlands as she made 89 runs from 87 balls. The team management would want their captain to continue the good form for them to have a good tournament.
In the other match, Thailand will be making their ODI debut as the ICC have announced that all the matches in the qualifiers will have the official ODI status. They would be taking a lot of confidence from the 2-2 series draw in the unofficial one-day series against Zimbabwe.
In their first warm-up match, the South Asian team did not have any trouble in beating Ireland. However, they struggled against a full-strength West Indies. Their head coach has talked about taking one game at a time approach and is very confident of making it to the World Cup in New Zealand.
While Nattaya Boochatham and captain Naruemol Chaiwai has been the leading performers, several other players have chipped in with crucial performances, which has made a difference for them as a team. Nattakan Chantham and Nannapat Koncharoenkai played a significant role earlier when they toured against Zimbabwe and South Africa emerging teams.
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Multiple times they have shown that Thailand could come back from a tough situation and go on to win the match. For Thailand to progress to the super six without much trouble, they must start positively in the first match.
The hosts Zimbabwe have played a considerable amount of cricket at home in the lead up to the Qualifiers. They played against Pakistan earlier in February, followed by Thailand, Ireland and Bangladesh since August. Though they do not have series win to show, the game-time they had would come in handy in the global qualifiers.
The biggest positive for them would be the experience of playing against Thailand and beating them twice in the one-dayers earlier. The African team will be relying heavily on captain Mary-Anne Musonda and allrounder Josephine Nkomo to get them to a competitive total.
In the past, they have let Thailand recover from tough situations and went on to lose the match. Esther Mbofana, Nomvelo Sibanda and Nkomo would not want to err against Thailand, especially in their first match of the Qualifiers.
Which teams will start their journey towards the ODI World Cup with a victory?
Bangladesh: Nigar Sultana (captain), Khadija-Tul Kubra, Fahima Khatun, Salma Khatun, Jahanara Alam, Fargana Hoque, Nuzhat Tasnia, Rumana Ahmed, Lata Mondol, Nahida Akter, Murshida Khatun, Ritu Moni, Fariha Islam, Sharmin Akter, Sobhana Mostary
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (captain), Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali (wicketkeeper), Nashra Sundhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Amin and Sidra Nawaz (wicketkeeper) Reserves: Aiman Anwar, Maham Tariq and Rameen Shamim.
Thailand: Naruemol Chaiwai (C), Chanida Sutthiruang, Thiapatcha Putthawong, Nannaphat Chaihan, Banthida Leephatthana, Nattakan Chantham, Suleeporn Laomi, Sornnarin Tippoch, Rosenanee Kanho, Wongpaka Liengprasert, Phannita Maya, Nattaya Boochatham, Onnicha Kamchomphu, Nannapat Koncharoenkai (VC), Kanyakorn Bunthansen.
Zimbabwe: Mary-Anne Musonda (captain), Josephine Nkomo, Modester Mupachikwa, Precious Marange, Sharne Mary Mayers, Loryn Phiri, Nyasha Gwanzura Nomatter Mutasa, Loreen Tshuma, Nomvelo Sibanda, Chiyedza Dhururu, Esther Mbofana, Audrey Mazvishaya, Francesca Chipare, Christabel Chatonzwa.