Battle of the Taylors gets underway

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It will be a “Battle of the Taylors” when Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor and his New Zealand counterpart Ross Taylor draw swords in Saturday’s Econet Twenty20 cricket series opener against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club.

The match starts at 1400hrs.Ross’s leadership qualities will be under the microscope as he makes his debut as the New Zealand captain since taking over from Daniel Vettori.

For Brendan, it’s an opportunity to return to winning ways after his brilliant start against Bangladesh which was, however, overshadowed by the clean sweep against Pakistan.

The two captains have much in common than just their surnames as they are both aggressive top order batsmen aiming to lead their respective teams from the front with solid batting performances.

New Zealand are strong favourites to win despite having not played international cricket since ICC Cricket World Cup in the sub-continent where they reached the semi-finals.

However, the Black Caps are yet to play a competitive match in international cricket since then and this could work in Zimbabwe’s favour.

Zimbabwe has been competitive in their home season so far, beating Bangladesh in the one-day international series and in the one-off Test before losing across all three formats to Pakistan.

All-rounder Elton Chigumbura said New Zealand’s absence from international cricket could work in Zimbabwe’s favour.

“Their game will be centred on their solid batting and quick bowlers and will obviously try to come hard at us, but we have done our homework in trying to counter their tactics.

“Another positive for us is that we have had more game time recently while they haven’t played competitive cricket as a team since the World Cup,” said Chigumbura.

Zimbabwe opted for basically the same side that did duty against Pakistan comprising eight batsmen, two spinners and one specialist seamer. Kyle Jarvis is the only seamer in the team which also has the team’s two premier spinners, Prosper Utseya and Ray Price.

Chigumbura, most likely to bat at number six, is expected to share the new ball with Jarvis while part-timers Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha will also contribute with the ball.

The in-form Vusi Sibanda and Chibhabha will be aiming to set the platform for Zimbabwe with the bat while Masakadza and Taylor will come in at number three and four respectively.

Wicketkeeper/batsman Tatenda Taibu, Chigumbura, Malcolm Waller and the explosive Charles Coventry complete rest of the line-up.

Zimbabwe team: Vusi Sibanda, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (captain), Tatenda Taibu, Elton Chigumbura, Malcolm Waller, Charles Coventry, Prosper Utseya, Ray Price, Kyle Jarvis, Forster Mtizwa (12th man)

One-day/Twenty20: Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, BJ Watling, Jesse Ryder, Rob Nicol, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Jacob Oram, Nathan McCullum, Doug Bracewell, Kyle Mills, Luke Woodcock, Andy McKay, Graeme Aldridge.