After three wins in Group A, Pakistan’s march towards the last eight was halted by a demoralising 110-run defeat against the Black Caps.
Pakistan’s problems were compounded after Kamran Akmal struggled behind the stumps, letting Ross Taylor off twice before the New Zealand batsman went on to hit an unbeaten 131, leaving the 1992 champions in a fix over team selection.
Playing Kamran as specialist batsman and handing the gloves to his younger brother Umar was one of the options, but a finger injury to the makeshift keeper might prevent Pakistan from making the change.
Pakistan also still have a problem with their openers whose inability to put on a healthy partnership is straining the middle-order.
But despite the headaches, captain Shahid Afridi insists his team will not repeat the first round exits of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
“I have a lot of confidence in my players. We will win against Zimbabwe to reach the quarterfinals,” said Afridi, whose team face defending champions Australia in their last group match on March 19.
“I have no fears, we are not focussing on the match against Australia. We are going match by match and the one against Zimbabwe is very important for us We know we must win that game,” said Afridi.
Afridi backed Kamran to bounce back after his costly mistakes.
“Everyone, including Kamran, realises the weaknesses and the mistakes we committed in the match against New Zealand. Now that’s past and I am sure everyone will match up to expectations in the coming game,” said Afridi.
Pakistan are likely to rest express paceman Shoaib Akhtar, who went for 71 in his nine overs against New Zealand, and drop opener Ahmed Shahzad to bring in paceman Wahab Riaz and batsman Asad Shafiq.
Zimbabwe still have a slim chance of making the last eight despite having so far collected just two points.
But they need to beat Pakistan and Kenya, dramatically improve their run-rate and still hope Australia beat Pakistan.
“We’ll believe that if we can play our best cricket then we can proceed but we must not repeat the mistakes of our last two matches,” said Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on match day.
Zimbabwe, chasing a mammoth 328-run target in their last match against Sri Lanka on Thursday, got off to a flying start of 116 before being bundled out for 188.
Chigumbura said his side will be wary of leg-spinner Afridi, who is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 15.
“With Afridi we have to make sure we look to play him straight. We have noticed that he’s had plenty of dismissals either bowled or lbw so we must make sure we don’t look to go across the line too much,” said Chigumbura.
Pakistan have beaten Zimbabwe in three of their previous four World Cup matches, with the 2003 match abandoned due to rain.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (Capt.), Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Ahmed Shahzad.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (Capt.), Regis Chakabva, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Terry Duffin, Craig Ervine, Greg Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tinashe Panyangara, Raymond Price, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Vusimuzi Sibanda.
Umpires: Nigel Llong (ENG) and Tony Hill (NZL)
TV umpire: Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)
Pitch condition: Teams will play on the third pitch of the stadium, which has no grass but has bounce. It will help spinners as the game progress.