BULAWAYO

Zimbabwe and Bangladesh go into Wednesday's third and final one-day international in Bulawayo locked at one match apiece, yet it is the hosts who know they will need to improve their game if they are to claim a rare series victory.

After being humiliated by 121 runs in the first match last week, Zimbabwe drew level with a six-wicket victory on Sunday, preventing Bangladesh from extending their unbeaten run in bilateral one-day series to three. However Zimbabwe have enjoyed the benefit of bowling first in both matches so far, with early morning starts giving their seam bowlers an advantage against Bangladesh's strong top order - none of whom have registered telling scores as a result.

Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan remain some of the most dangerous batsmen on either side, yet none have passed 34 in the series thus far. "They are always a side that is very threatening," Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor said.

"Some of their big players have not fired so that's a concern for us. However if we can bowl well like we have been bowling up front it's always going to be tough to score. Hopefully we can execute our skills better and get over the line." Having shared the two-Test series 1-1, both sides will see Wednesday's match as an opportunity to confirm a modicum of superiority ahead of two Twenty20 internationals at the weekend.

Zimbabwe hold the advantage, particularly after their clinical finish in the second ODI. It was their first win after six consecutive losses in the format, and the difference was evident. They recovered from an early wicket with a forceful partnership between Vusi Sibanda, one of the openers, and Sikandar Raza at No.3. After the two were dismissed, captain Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Malcolm Waller ensured a smooth ending, the Bangladesh bowlers not once threatening or beating their bat. It was vintage ODI cricket: two batsmen running hard, finding the odd boundary but always in command.

The only Bangladesh batsmen to offer such solidity were Shakib Al Hasan and Nasir Hossain. They looked far more comfortable knocking the ball around but met premature ends to their respective innings in the second game. If they can lengthen their stays in the third and final ODI, the Zimbabwe bowlers will have a lot of thinking to do. The visitors will also expect runs from Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim.

Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah will also be on high-alert in this game, lest they continue to have the question mark hanging over their position in the limited-overs side. But there are no such major concerns in the bowling department, which will be asked to deliver one final blow.

Taylor would also hope his bowlers stay on the straight and narrow, quite literally. They bounced back into more consistent lines and lengths after the indiscipline in the first ODI. But ultimately, this has been a series of surprises from both sides. Given how closely fought it has been, one should never expect the conventional at any juncture of this third ODI. There are going to be many tight knots, but the team with the highest mettle will win. This is going to be a nervous game of cricket.