The Zimbabwe cricket team square off with the touring New Zealand team in a one-off Test match at Queens Sports Club tomorrow hoping to replicate the same form that saw them recorded their highest ever successful run chase in one-day internationals (ODIs) at the same venue on Wednesday last week.
Boasting an array of experienced campaigners like Daniel Vettori in their squad, New Zealand go into the match favourites in what will be Ross Taylor’s first Test as Black Caps’ captain.
However, the Black Caps will be wary of the hosts whose recent form suggests they are more than capable of not only competing, but also causing an upset.
In August, Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh by 130 runs in Harare after a six-year absence from Test cricket before losing to Pakistan by seven wickets in Bulawayo last month in a match they could have attained a better result if it wasn’t for some poor fielding and a second-innings collapse.
Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor — who hit two consecutive centuries in the ODI series, albeit in losing causes, and a match-winning 75 in the dramatic dead- rubber victory — will be one of the key players for the home side.
The 25-year-old, who will be playing in his third Test since taking over the captaincy, has been the rock upon which Zimbabwe’s successful return has been built and the captaincy appears to have only increased his already not insignificant hunger for runs.
He can only hope that his current rich vein of form continues and that the rest of his teammates can follow his example.
For the touring New Zealand side it will be their first Test match since their drawn match in the two-match series against Pakistan which they eventually lost 1-0 in January in Wellington.
With the exception of seamer Brian Vitori, who has been struggling with a shin injury, Zimbabwe do not have any injury worries ahead of the crucial encounter, but it has not been the same case for the tourists.
Aggressive New Zealand batsman Jesse Ryder yesterday became the latest key player to be ruled out of tomorrow’s Test with a calf strain.
Ryder suffered the injury after bowling just three deliveries during New Zealand’s drawn warm-up match against Zimbabwe A at Bulawayo Athletic Club in Bulawayo at the weekend.
New Zealand manager Mike Sandle said in a statement: “Initially we were hopeful the injury wasn’t too serious, but unfortunately the scan showed damage to Jesse’s calf and he will miss the Test match.
“Although he isn’t available for our next match, the medical team are confident he will be fit and available for selection for December’s Test series in Australia.”
Earlier this week, seamer Kyle Mills, tipped as a certain starter in the Test match which starts tomorrow, was also ruled out of the match due to a torn abductor muscle.
l Meanwhile, the national cricket selectors have announced the squad for the one-off Castle Test Match against New Zealand at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, starting from Tuesday, November 1 2011.
1. Brendan Taylor (captain)
2. Regis Chakabva
3. Elton Chigumbura
4. Kyle Jarvis
5. Hamilton Masakadza
6. Tinotenda Mawoyo
7. Keegan Meth
8. Natsai Mshangwe
9. Forster Mutizwa
10. Njabulo Ncube
11. Raymond Price
12. Vusimuzi Sibanda
13. Malcolm Waller