Qantas Tour of Zimbabwe
How Australia can claim No.1 ranking
Aussies looking to put recent losing streak behind them in T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe
29 June 2018, 09:00 AM AEST
Australia are on their way to Zimbabwe for the first time in four years, knowing a return to winning ways next week could see them claim the world's top ranking in T20 cricket.
But a continuation of their winless run from the UK will see them tumble down the ICC's rankings and they could even drop as low as seventh if they're unable to get the better of the undermanned host nation.
Starting on Sunday, Zimbabwe will host the Aussies and Pakistan in a short T20 tri-series that will see teams play each other twice before a final on July 8.
Australia's loss to England in a one-off T20 on Wednesday, which completed a winless tour of the UK for Justin Langer's new-look side, was their first defeat in seven T20 games stretching back to last October.
It saw them drop from second to third in the rankings, falling below India, to be nine points behind world No.1 Pakistan.
Their unbeaten tri-series campaign in February against England and New Zealand had seen them move to within a handful of decimal points of top-ranked Pakistan and the No.1 spot will go on the line again at the Harare Sports Club next week.
But Australia will need to go through the series undefeated if they're to close the gap and surpass Sarfraz Ahmed's side as No.1.
Put simply, the Aussies will grab the top ranking if they win every game. Conversely, they will drop to a lowly seventh if they lose all four matches and miss the final.
The troubled Zimbabwean team, who are currently ranked 12th in the world, will go in as heavy underdogs given a dispute with the national board means they will be without some of their best players for the series.
But unlikely as an Australian loss to the hosts would seem given Zimbabwe's current predicament, captain Aaron Finch knows all too well not to take them likely; he and Glenn Maxwell are the only players left from the side that suffered a shock defeat to Zimbabwe on Australia's last tour there, an ODI defeat in 2014 that was the host's first triumph over Australia in more than 30 years.
Finch will lead a side hurting from their 6-0 defeat in England this month, although coach Langer insists his young group will take some positives away from a difficult tour.
"I knew it was going to be a big job, knowing where we came from in South Africa," Langer reflected at Edgbaston.
"There's been some great learning and some really positive stuff that has come from this trip.
"On the surface it looks like a complete disaster but we have talked about building a team that's going to be ready for the World Cup and the Ashes and I think we have unlocked a few answers.
"But it hurts when you get beaten, particularly in England."
The T20 tri-series will get underway on Sunday at 6pm AEST with a game to be played every day on July 1-6 before the final on July 8. Matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Sports.
Qantas Tour of Zimbabwe
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth
Pakistan squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan Shinwari, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sahibzada Farhan.
Zimbabwe squad: Cephas Zhuwao, Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Chari, Tarisai Musakanda, Malcolm Waller, PJ Moor, Tendai Chisoro, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Blessing Muzarabani, Chris Mpofu, Ryan Burl, Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Ryan Murray
July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 2: Pakistan vs Australia
July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 5: Pakistan vs Australia
July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 8: Final