THE interest surrounding Mark Vermeulen’s return to the national cricket team this morning would match that of the debut for a marquee signing in a football team.
The questions are similar. Will he fit in straight away? Will he bring in the required deliverables?
The answers on Vermeulen could start coming in this morning when Zimbabwe begin their quest to cause another major upset in Test cricket against the might of South Africa at Harare Sports Club.
On any other day, interest might have been on John Nyumbu and Donald Tiripano who will earn their first international caps today, yet the 35-year-old veteran has stolen all the limelight.
Even his captain Brendan Taylor is also interested to see which Vermeulen will turn up in this Test match.
“He’s put his hand up and he’s really looking solid at the moment. He is really calm for once . . . which is great,” Taylor said. “He brings a lot of experience to the table. He has a great cricketing brain and he is full of constructive ideas. Hopefully, he will continue to have a clear mindset.”
While Vermeulen’s position is almost guaranteed, wicketkeeper-batsmen Richmond Mutumbami and Regis Chakabva have been kept guessing over the number seven slot, although the former has seen more Test action in Zimbabwe’s most recent matches.
Tiripano, who was the joint highest wicket taker with Nyumbu in the Logan Cup competition as he led Mountaineers to a memorable double, was very impressive against Afghanistan in his debut series. Zimbabwe will be hoping that he can reproduce that same form against the likes of Proteas captain Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. Nyumbu (29), who is expected to add some bite to Zimbabwe’s spin attack, was also, by far, the top performer at Matabeleland Tuskers and the most consistent spinner in the country.
Besides the addition of Vermeulen, the hosts will to look to their tried-and-tested personnel in the batting department with Vusi Sibanda expected to open the batting with Hamilton Masakadza. Vermeulen, who has not played a Test in 10 years, will come in at number three while Skipper Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams will form the backbone of the middle order.
Newly reappointed one-day skipper Elton Chigumbura is expected to bat at number six.
Taylor said he was hopeful his charges would make full use of the underdog tag to their advantage.
“I think it can only work to our advantage. SA will be expected to put in a massive performance, but we just need to focus on basics and enjoy the moment because it’s a great occasion to play South Africa in a Test match. We’ve prepared nicely.
Hopefully, we can take it day by day, session by session and not worry about the end result too much,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s probable team: Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Mark Vermeulen, Brendan Taylor (capt), Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara, Regis Chakabva (12th man)