If Sikandar Raza is in outstanding form in the tri-series so far, the Bangladesh Premier League is owed a little credit. So contended his teammate, Craig Ervine, who has watched Raza top score for his side in successive games.
In addition to the 52 against Bangladesh and the 81 off 67 balls against Sri Lanka, Raza has also taken three wickets with his off spin. Last month, he had struck 278 runs at a strike rate of 153.59 for Chittagong Vikings – an experience, Ervine believes, that has served him well.
“He came for the BPL, did very well there, and he is very familiar with the conditions in Bangladesh,” Ervine said. “The first two games showed that he is in good form at the moment. He contributes with the bat, ball and in the field. He is a very important team member for us. I am hoping that form continues throughout the tournament.”
Sri Lanka meanwhile, have struggled for form through the first round of matches, and Zimbabwe now have the opportunity to knock them out of contention for the final by winning Sunday’s match. There is reason for Zimbabwe to be confident – they have won their three most-recent ODIs against Sri Lanka, including two in Sri Lanka itself.
“I am pretty sure Sri Lanka will be very keen to bounce back – they have to win the next two games in order to get to the final,” Ervine said. “I think we have the momentum between the two sides.”
Part of Zimbabwe’s success against Sri Lanka has been due to their ability not merely to negotiate spin, but to score off it. Ervine is one of several top order batsmen who have used the sweep shot regularly and to good effect against Sri Lanka. That stroke was effectively the foundation of their series victory in Sri Lanka last year, and it proved invaluable again on Wednesday, when Zimbabwe defeated Sri Lanka by 12 runs.
“In recent times, we have been playing spin a bit better,” Ervine said. “A lot depends on the wicket – Sri Lanka may think of adding an extra spinner instead of a seamer. But we just have to turn up tomorrow regardless of what team they pick.”