Ed Hawkins, the SJA Betting Writer of the Year, is expecting home skipper Mahela Jayawardene to show his class when the tournament opens in Hambantota on Tuesday
"Jaywardene's more delicate approach may be better suited"
The hosts have played only eight matches in the last two years so they are something of mystery. They have a win percentage of 62, however, so they cannot be too shabby.
They are lead by the admirable Mahela Jaywardene and he is expected to open the batting with Tillakaratne Dilshan. Lasith Malinga, nowadays a Twenty20 specialist, is probably the finest death bowler in the world.
In two warm-up matches they beat West Indies but lost to India, alhough Jayawardene did not play in that match. One concern is the lack of a destructive hitter in the middle-order. Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara are coming along nicely in that regard but they couldn't be classed as specialists - yet.
Zimbabwe bombed in both of their warm-up matches, two pointers to suggest this could be a difficult campaign for them. They lost to Ireland having conceded a massive 181 and could only muster 127 in return. Against Bagladesh the batting failed to fire again and they went down by five wickets.
Batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor and the all-rounder Elton Chigumbura, who had a spell with Northamptonshire, are considered their senior players.
Venue and conditions
There have been only two matches played at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium. Both were sluggish affairs in terms of runscoring. Sri Lanka posted 132 and then bowled out Pakistan for 95. Two days later Pakistan posted 122 and bowled out Sri Lanka for 99. It would be a surprise if Zimbabwe breached 120 batting first so keep an eye on the first-dig market.
There will be times during this tournament that we can make a case for the minnows. This is not one of them. Zimbabwe have won only three of 20 matches. One of those was against Australia but it was five years ago.
The 4.003/1 that Jaywardene stamps his authority on the contest, and indeed the tournament, is a price to gobble up. Sure Dilshan is a threat but he can often be guilty of lazy strokeplay against minnow opposition.
Also, the nature of the surface suggests it might not be easy for a blaster and Jaywardene's more delicate approach may be better suited.
Mathews is priced at 10.009/1 if you fancy a more reckless gamble.
Top Zimbabwe batsman
With 664 runs from 29 matches at an average of 22 and strike rate of 112, Masakadza, who should open the batting, looks the value at 4.407/2. Taylor is 3.8014/5 but is not that superior.
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