The Australia A cricket team arrived in the country on Sunday for the triangular one-day series against the hosts and South Africa A.
The South Africa team arrives on Monday.
Soon after the limited overs series, the Australians will remain behind for a pair of four-day games against Zimbabwe as part of a number of fixtures the hosts are fulfilling before a return to Test cricket.
The series will commence with a one-day match between the Australia A side and the hosts at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
The last time an Australian representative team visited Zimbabwe was in 2007 when a Centre of Excellence Scholarship team toured the country.
Australia’s decision to send its second team signals a change of heart in Canberra as the country instituted a ban on their national side’s travel to Zimbabwe back in 2007 to register its concern over alleged human rights and electoral abuses.
Accompanying the Australian A side was former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie, who will be their assistant coach for this tour before resuming his duties at Mid West Rhinos.
“For me it’s like coming back home really. I’ll be here for the month with the Australia A team before I resume my duties with the Mid West Rhinos team. It’s wonderful that that the Australian team is back in Zimbabwe for both Zimbabwe and Australia cricket. The New Zealand A also toured here last year and it is wonderful to have the other teams coming in the next five months which is fantastic for local cricket. The facilities here have improved and the players are getting the right coaching and Zimbabwe Cricket should be applauded as they have done incredibly well in that area not just in Harare but in all areas.”
Gillespie will offer plenty of knowledge of the local conditions and players who he worked with last season.
Asked about the strength of the Australian A side, Gillespie said:
“This Aussie A side has prepared really well and it’s a really strong squad led by Tim Paine who has played Test cricket for the Australia senior side. They have a very good bowling unit and their batting lineup is also very good and it’s going to test the Zimbabwe team which will make this a very good series,” said Gillespie.
Asked which department he was most worried about in the Zimbabwean team Gillespie pinpointed the spin bowling as the major threat.
“Even from the World Cup in India, Zimbabwe’s spin bowling is really up there with guys like Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer but I’m also looking forward over the next couple of years to seeing the fast bowlers coming through. There are guys like Tendai Chatara, Ian Nicolson, and Christopher Mpofu all good young bowlers who have a lot of potential,” Gillespie said.
Zim ODI Squad
Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu, Craig Ervine, Regis Chakabva, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Forster Mutizwa, Prosper Utseya, Keegan Meth, Ray Price, Chris Mpofu, Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori.
Australia A four-day squad Tim Paine (capt, wk), David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Callum Ferguson, Nic Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Luke Butterworth, Jason Krejza, Trent Copeland, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, Michael Beer.
Australia A squad: Tim Paine (capt, wk), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Callum Ferguson, Nic Maddison, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Luke Butterworth, Stephen O’Keefe, John Hastings, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc.
Wednesday June 29-Zimbabwe XI v Australia A (Harare Sports Club)
Thursday June 30-Australia A v South Africa A (Harare Sports Club)
July 2-Zimbabwe XI v South Africa A (Harare Sports Club)
July 3-Zimbabwe XI v Australia A (Harare Sports Club)
July 5-Australia A v South Africa A (Harare Sports Club)
July 6-Zimbabwe XI v South Africa A (Harare Sports Club)
July 8- Final(Harare Sports Club)
July 11-12 – Two-day tour match Zim XI v Australia A (Kwekwe Sports Club)
July 15-18 – Four-day match Australia A v Zimbabwe XI (Country Club)
July 21-24 – Four-day match Australia A v Zimbabwe XI (Harare Sports Club).