© AFP
Zimbabwe and Pakistan have played each other quite recently © AFP

Zimbabwe host Pakistan in the first Twenty20 International (T20I) at Harare Sports Club on Sunday. Pakistan will play two T20Is and three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in the tour. The last time these two sides was when cricket returned to Pakistan after six years. Zimbabwe had graciously accepted Pakistan’s invitation and toured for two T20Is and three ODIs. Pakistan now return the favour with the same number of matches. Zimbabwe lost that series, but they managed to put up a competitive performance throughout. They followed it up with series losses to India and New Zealand, but managed to keep both superpowers on their toes. LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan 2015, 1st T20I at Harare

Meanwhile, Pakistan have been on a roll. After beating Zimbabwe they toured Sri Lanka, a country they have generally struggled in, and managed to pull off series wins in the T20Is, ODIs, and Tests. Pakistan will be looking to extend their dominance in this upcoming series as well. The evergreen Shahid Afridi returns to lead Pakistan in the T20Is. The visitors’ T20I squad has a number of inexperienced names such as Mohammad Rizwan, Mukhtar Ahmed, Imran Khan Jr, Bilal Asif, Imad Wasim, Aamer Yamin. They also have some seasoned pros like Afridi himself, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, and Mohammad Irfan.

In Mukhtar and Rizwan, Pakistan have two explosive young players at either end of the batting line-up. Mukhtar recently hit a record-breaking 123 off 67 balls for Sialkot in Pakistan’s T20 league. He will be joined at the top by either one of Ahmed Shehzad or Mohammad Hafeez, although Pakistan also have Imad Wasim as a spare opener. They have Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, and Sohaib Maqsood in the middle order, along with Afridi himself to provide the late fireworks. Their bowling attack looks good as well, led by Riaz and Sohail Tanvir and backed up by Irfan, with Afridi as the main spinner. Hafeez is currently under fire for a suspect action, but Malik might be asked to turn his arm over. READ: Pakistan might boycott India in ICC events if no bilateral series: Reports

For Zimbabwe, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, and Malcolm Waller will lead the batting. Masakadza, Williams, and Chigumbura will be the main batsmen around whom the others will bat. They have a decent bowling attack as well, led by Tinashe Panyangara and Chris Mpofu, and backed up by the spin of John Nyumbu.

On the whole, it will be an interesting contest between the two sides that have recently played each other and will know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Zimbabwe have been  good recently and will look to continue their upward spiral, while Pakistan will be looking to extend their dominance as well. An interesting contest is on the cards at Harare. PHOTO: Shahid Afridi clicks selfie with Pakistan T20I team before leaving for Zimbabwe

Teams:

Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (c), Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Graeme Cremer, Tinashe Panyangara, Neville Madziva, Chris Mpofu, Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Prosper Utseya, Luke Jongwe.

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mukhtar Ahmed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan jr, Mohammad Irfan, Sohaib Maqsood, Bilal Asif, Imad Wasim, Aamer Yamin.

Time: 16:30 IST | 11:00 GMT | 13:00 Local

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)