Zimbabwe meet NZ XI in warm-up match

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The national cricket team will get a chance to adapt to local conditions when they take on New Zealand (NZ) XI in a three-day warm-up match starting at Grisbone today, as part of their preparations for the one-off which starts on Thursday next week.

According to reports from New Zealand, hard-hitting batsman Brendan Taylor, who has been playing HRV Cup Twenty20 cricket with the Wellington Firebirds, missed training in Auckland on Thursday after playing for the Firebirds the night before, but was expected to meet his team-mates in Gisborne yesterday.

Zimbabwe arrived in New Zealand on Thursday after a “dreadful” 30-hour flight via Johannesburg, Dubai and Brisbane.

Alan Butcher and his men will rely heavily on skipper Brendan Taylor, who played for Wellington in the HRV Cup competition and knocked an impressive 101 off just 58 balls in a losing effort against Otago on New Year’s Eve.

Zimbabwe have retained most of the squad which played New Zealand in November’s Test, but missing is opening batsman Vusi Sibanda. He was deemed ineligible by Zimbabwe Cricket because he declined a national contract in favour of playing grade cricket in Australia.

Coach Butcher told a news conference after arrival in Auckland that while travelling is a new thing for some of the team members, they’ve got the temperament to deal with life on the road.

Top-order batsman Hamilton Masakadza said his team has learned from their previous encounter against the Black Caps and their evenly fought loss to Pakistan in September.

Chasing 366 to win their only Test in Bulawayo last November, Zimbabwe headed to tea on the last day at 265-3; on the cusp of a historic Test victory.

Led by paceman Doug Bracewell, the Black Caps fought back, but although the Kiwis won the day, Zimbabwe gained the confidence that they could scrap it out with the bigger boys.

“We learned quite quickly against Pakistan that we played very well through three and a half, four days, but we lost just one session and that cost us the game,” he said. “Obviously (we have to) take it five days and push for a victory at the end. In Bulawayo, we just fell short. So we’ll learn from that and hopefully build from that.”

Next week’s Test is only the fourth for Zimbabwe since their six-year spell in the Test cricket wilderness ended last August.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, log leaders Mashonaland Eagles will be hoping to continue their dominant form when they host second placed MidWest Rhinos in a top-of-the-table clash in the Coca-Cola Pro50 Championship encounter at Harare Sports Club.

In the other encounter, Southern Rocks host Matabeleland Tuskers at Masvingo Sports Club, in a match where the latter would be hoping to transfer their form in the longer version of the game to the shorter format.