Butcher to experiment with opening order

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The Zimbabwe Cricket committees decision to drop Vusi Sibanda for the tour of New Zealand will see Hamilton Masakadza promoted to the top of the batting order in yet another experiment that might prove costly for the national team.

Sibanda, who was omitted from the team because of his decision to play grade cricket in Australia, had become the regular opener for Zimbabwe not only in the Test side, but all three formats of the game.

Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher hinted this in an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday that although the technical team would have loved to have Sibanda in the team, they had no choice but to respect the cricket committees decision.

You are always likely to miss good players when they arent there, but its also another opportunity for the other players to come through, he said in reference to Sibandas absence. But we have to move on and respect the decision that was made by the Zimbabwe Cricket committee.

We are now looking ahead to try and find a solution. I have spoken to Hamilton (Masakadza), it wont be an unknown territory for him to open the batting as he has been there before in the limited overs format, said Butcher.

The decision to tinker with the opening partnership brings back memories of the World Cup campaign where Charles Coventry was preferred ahead of Masakadza in an ill-advised experiment that did not yield the desired results.

Masakadza, who has opened the batting in the ODIs and T20s, will fill the void left by Sibanda in the Test side where he will partner Tino Mawoyo leaving the crucial number three spot up for grabs.

This could give Stuart Matsikenyeri an opportunity to add to his eight previous Test caps after making a return to the team after a two-year absence on the back of his consistent form in the early stages of the domestic season.

Rookies Foster Mtizwa and Regis Chakabva will also be in the picture, but the selectors could decide to move skipper Brendan Taylor up to number three which could affect the balance of the whole team as it would leave the middle order vulnerable.

Butcher said he expected the bowling department to play an important role during the tour.

Obviously it was a big blow losing Christopher Mpofu as he was one of our experienced bowlers which is why it was nice to see Brian Vitori and Graeme Cremer coming back into the side.

They bring a different element to our game that we were missing last November and hopefully they will adjust well to the conditions, said Butcher.

The national cricket team, which leaves tomorrow for New Zealand will commence the tour with a warm-up match at the Harry Barker Reserve cricket ground in Te Hapara, Gisborne ,from January 21-23 before the one-off Test set for January 26 at McLean Park in Napier.

The team will then square off in limited overs competitions starting with the three-match ODIs and two T-20s from February 3-14.

Zimbabwe squad:
Brendan Taylor (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Tatenda Taibu, Malcolm Waller, Ray Price, Elton Chigumbura, Regis Chakabva, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Foster Mutizwa, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Keegan Meth, Kyle Jarvis, Brian Vitori, Shingi Masakadza.