Depending on which way the toss goes, one fast bowler from either the Zimbabwe or Bangladesh team will today bowl the first ball of Test cricket at Harare Sports Club since September 2005.
Former skipper Tatenda Taibu might have slammed the country’s administration for not doing enough for the game, but is expected to be named in the team which will only be announced this morning.
Zimbabwe will be the more confident side, having beaten the tourists by four wickets in a three-day warm-up match, but that is history and the match which starts today will be the real deal.
However, judging by recent results between the two teams, Bangladesh have a slight edge, but the game has never in its 134-year history been played on paper.
Zimbabwe, however, have had the ideal preparations for the longer version of the game as they are just coming from a two-match four-day series against a strong Australia A side which provided them with abundant match practice ahead of this most important clash.
The pitch at the Harare Sports Club ground should offer more bounce Bangladesh are accustomed to at home and with Zimbabwe’s attack now centred on pace, if they win the toss, they will be eager to take advantage of early movement.
However, both sides will likely look to include at least three seamers in every game.
Several questions remain as to the exact playing eleven the hosts will decide on.
The best guess for Zimbabwe at this moment is that Brian Vitori and Keegan Meth would join Christopher Mpofu to comprise the seam attack.
Mpofu in particular has been impressive across all formats of the game by providing invaluable control to Zimbabwe’s attack.
Vitori on the other hand, although still raw and yet to receive any international caps, showed a lot of promise against the Australians and will be Zimbabwe’s trump card.
All-rounder Elton Chigumbura is an experienced ex-captain, and seems to have rid himself of burdens leadership placed on his batting and bowling and should be the fourth pace option.
He has scores of 95 and a first- class century and a few wickets in the recent series against Australia A and will be an important man down the order.
Ray Price is likely to be the only spinner in the team and Zimbabwe will be comforted by the fact that he has an impressive record of 69 wickets in 18 Tests.
Prosper Utseya has improved his game by leaps and bounds over the past year, but still looks unlikely to crack the Test line-up unless the pitch offers serious assistance to slow bowling.
On the batting front, Zimbabwe will be boosted by the return of Hamilton Masakadza, whose ability to play a long innings will be crucial.
Vusi Sibanda will likely open the batting with Tino Mawoyo after the duo’s decent run their in the build-up to the Bangladesh series.
Newly appointed skipperBrendan Taylor will probably bat at number four in the Test squad as hinted by chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell at a press briefing on Monday.
The middle order has proven to be Zimbabwe’s weakness as they have tended to collapse from strong positions of late, but Taylor’s ability to deal with spin would add some grit in that department.
Craig Ervine has a tonne of talent, but has not been able to translate that into big scores, and the same could be said of wicketkeeper/batsman Regis Chakabva if he makes the squad.
In the Bangladesh squad aggressive opener Tamim Iqbal and skipper Shakib Al Hasan will be the main threat for Zimbabwe.
Since the summer of 2009 tour of the Caribbean, Tamim has averaged better than 57 with the bat at a stellar strike rate of over 70 in Test matches.
His fellow opener Imrul Kayes is far more sedate, but his solidity in one-day cricket — having watched him play Zimbabwe — will test his ability to deal with the short ball. Junaid Siddique will round out the top three with Shahriar Nafees likely to snatch a spot batting at number four.
Although he does not warrant the spot, based on tour match performance, the ever-enigmatic Mohammad Ashraful would probably bat at number five.
In the attack Bangladesh would rely on Rubel Hossain and Shafiul Islam to cause problems with their pace and movement with the former their best bowler when it comes to reversing the old ball.
Should Bangladesh choose to operate a third seamer, the candidates are Nazmul Hossain and Robiul Islam, neither of whom inspires much confidence, not with the red ball at least.
Shakib will lead the spinners, and it won’t be a surprise to see Abdur Razzak get in ahead of the third fast bowler, given his sparkling record against Zimbabwe.