Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have played fewer Twenty20s than Ireland at the international level. Both teams have had to rely on the World T20 for exposure in this format, and even now the two-match series will largely be a chance to fine-tune things before the next one in March 2016.
Largely, because Zimbabwe, having lost the ODIs 0-3 to Bangladesh, will want to set a few records straight.
They began with promise, beating a strong BCB XI in a practice match, but have gone cold since with the batting found wanting.
The bowlers have done well to keep Bangladesh between 240 to 270, which means they can be expected to do a similar job in the T20s. So unless the top seven smarten up, Zimbabwe might be going back home winless.
The hosts have their own concerns as well. In addition to inexperience at the international stage, Bangladesh haven’t played a domestic T20 tournament since the end of 2013, which could point to their relative discomfort in the format. So they might just try borrowing what works for them in the ODIs, from tactics to personnel. There is every chance of Bangladesh sticking to their 50-over specialists, see how they work in this series, and get ready for the World T20 later in India.
As a result of how the two teams shape up, the first T20 is likely to be a tighter affair than any of the ODIs over the past week.
It’s the weekend, so a bumper crowd will also be expected at the match venue in Mirpur.
Bangladesh: LLWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first);
In the spotlight
Mustafizur Rahman was outstanding on Wednesday evening, taking five Zimbabwe wickets with a variety of deliveries. In the T20 format too, he can be expected to bring his bag of tricks to keep the visiting batsmen guessing.
Legspinner Graeme Cremer has been Zimbabwe’s most successful bowler in T20s this year, with nine wickets at an average of 18.55. The condensed nature of the format seems to work for him and he will once again be expected to take control of the middle overs against Bangladesh.
Bangladesh could go into the game with an extra batsman in Anamul Haque, or prefer any or both of legspinner Jubair Hossain and pace bowler Kamrul Islam Rabbi to give the bowling attack more cushion. But it won’t be the greatest surprise if they play the same XI that played the second and third ODIs. Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Liton Das, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Sabbir Rahman, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Arafat Sunny, 10 Al-Amin Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Zimbabwe could include Tinotenda Mutombodzi as an all-round option. Or they could give a game to Tendai Chisoro, Wellington Masakadza and John Nyumbu, Neville Madziva; none of them have played so far on this tour.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Regis Chakabva (wk), 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sean Williams, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Graeme Cremer, 9 Tinashe Panyangara, 10 Luke Jongwe, 11 Taurai Muzarabani.
Pitch and conditions
The team batting first has won 11 out of the 21 games at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, but it is hard to predict a winning score. The average first-innings total though is 155. Dew will be the same for both teams so batting first should be the preferred call at the toss.
Statistics and trivia
There have been only three T20s between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the last time being played in 2013.
Zimbabwe have never won a T20 series — they beat West Indies in a one-off encounter in February 2010 — while Bangladesh have done it once — 3-0 against Ireland in 2012.
“I have to manage my health. I will definitely be playing the first T20 but I would have rested myself in the third ODI had Shakib been around. It is quite hard for me not to play when he is not in the team.” — Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza.
“I want to change the way we batted and put up a better performance. So obviously batting is going to be the key.” — Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura.