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Zimbabwe XI, Australia face off

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Zimbabwe’s preparations for their Test return later this month get into full swing when they meet a strong Australia ‘A’ side in the first of two four-day matches starting on Friday at Harare Sports Club.

For Zimbabwe the four-day matches are an opportunity for some of the players to impress the selectors with only two weeks before the Bangladesh Tigers arrive.

The selectors have kept their options wide open with players like opener Tino Mawoyo, Forster Mtizwa, Malcolm Waller and the seam trio of Brian Vitori, Njabulo Ncube and Tendai Chatara being included in the 13-man squad.

“It is important that we do well in the four-day games against Australia ‘A’ but by the same token it’s also an opportunity for us to have a look at some players.

“We want to be in a position where we go into the Bangladesh series with players who have played some regular cricket and are in good form having gained some confidence through having done well against an Australia ‘A’ side which is up three in terms of quality,” bowling coach Heath Streak told NewsDay Sport recently.

“We also want to have a look at what the balance of our side is going to be like and it’s a chance for some of the fringe players to show that they are ready for the national team as there are still slots up for grabs in that line-up.”

Zimbabwe XI drew with the Aussies in a two-day warm-up match in Kwekwe early this week in a match where the bowlers struggled as the tourists scored 427 for the loss of four wickets before the mandatory declaration.

Hard-hitting opener David Warner was impressive with the bat with 152 off just 141 deliveries, while Callum Ferguson top- scored with 156 runs.

Former Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura led Zimbabwe’s fightback with a spirited 95 while Forster Mtizwa chipped in with 67 as Zimbabwe recovered from 54 for three to 306 for nine.

However, what was evident from Zimbabwe’s performance is that the batsmen need to get used to spending more time at the crease so they adjust quickly to the longer version of the game.

Zimbabwe XI batsmen also struggled against left-arm spinner Michael Beer who finished with bowling figures of six for 109 runs in 22 overs.

The pace trio of Kyle Jarvis, Tinashe Panyangara and Njabulo Ncube did not cause the Aussies any trouble with only the latter managing to get a breakthrough.

Leg-spinner Natsai Mushangwe was ineffective as the Aussies targeted him for some thorough bashing, hence his poor figures of 70 runs from nine wicketless overs.

Zimbabwe XI four-day squad:

Brendan Taylor (Captain), Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Regis Chakabva, Raymond Price, Brian Vitori, Njabulo Ncube, Tendai Chatara and Forster Mutizwa.

Australia “A” four-day squad:

Tim Paine (captain), 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.

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