The Zimbabwe Cricket selection committee named a largely unchanged 15-man squad for the two Twenty20 (T20) internationals against New Zealand cricket team, but injuries to key players meant they had to make some adjustments to the team.
Middle order batsman Craig Ervine and pace bowler Brian Vitori joined the growing list of injuries, the former ruled out of the rest of the tour with a shoulder injury while the latter is expected to return for the lone Test.
New Zealand touch down at the Harare International Airport around lunchtime on Thursday aboard a South African Airways flight and have named two strong sides for the three one-day internationals (ODIs), two Twenty20 internationals and the one-off Test.
Vitori’s injury paved way for the return of seamer Keegan Meth, who has been in top form with both bat and ball in the domestic competitions.
Meth is one of the three seamers in the squad together with Kyle Jarvis and Christopher Mpofu — and they look to have ample support from all-rounders Elton Chigumbura and Chamu Chibhabha.
Forster Mtizwa, on the other hand, was named in the squad in place of Ervine and together with wicketkeeper batsman Tatenda Taibu, Charles Coventry and Malcolm Waller, are likely to form the backbone of the middle order.
Uncapped leg spinner Natsai Mushangwe is expected to provide cover for the experienced pair of Ray Price and the newly-wed Prosper Utseya, while explosive middle order batsman Charles Coventry also retain his place in the team. The selectors kept faith in the top order batting line-up comprising of skipper Brendan Taylor, Chibhabha, Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza.
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher told NewsDay Sport he was happy with the squad although admitting injuries to Vitori and Ervine had affected their plans.
“I’m happy with the balance of the side, but obviously the injuries to Ervine and Vitori mean that we have to make minor changes to our plans. But I feel we have a strong squad which can compete against New Zealand.
“New Zealand are bringing a very strong squad, but it’s going to be important for the players to believe that they can compete which hopefully can see us cause some surprises,” said Butcher.
Zimbabwe squad for Twenty20s — Brendan Taylor (captain), Charles Coventry, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Keegan Meth, Natsai Mushangwe, Christopher Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa, Raymond Price, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller
New Zealand squads:
Test: Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, B.J. Watling, Jesse Ryder, Dean Brownlie, Kane Williamson, Reece Young, Doug Bracewell, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Andy McKay, Chris Martin.
One-day/Twenty20: Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, B.J. Watling, Jesse Ryder, Rob Nicol, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Jacob Oram, Nathan McCullum, Doug Bracewell, Kyle Mills, Luke Woodcock, Andy McKay, Graeme Aldridge.
October 15 1st T20 match (Harare Sports Club)
October 17 2nd T20 match (Harare Sports Club)
October 20 1st ODI match (Harare Sports Club)
October 22 2nd ODI match (Harare Sports club)
October 25 3rd ODI match (Queens Sports Club)
October 28 – 29 Zimbabwe XI v New Zealanders (Queens Sports Club) Bulawayo
November 1–5 Only Test (Queens Sports Club) Bulawayo