Zimbabwe begins new Test era
THE Zimbabwe cricket team opens a new chapter in what appears to be a rebuilding exercise when they face Sri Lanka in a two-Test series starting on Sunday at Harare Sports Club.
Zimbabwe named nine uncapped players in the provisional squad as coach Lalchand Rajput said they were ready for a “new beginning”.
The first Test is scheduled to run from January 19-23 while the second is also set for the same venue from 27th to 31st.
This will be Zimbabwe’s first Test series since a tour of Bangladesh way back in November 2018.
Last July, the country was barred from all ICC events because of political interference but was readmitted by the International Cricket Council three months later.
In preparation for the crucial matches, the new selection panel headed by former Zimbabwe international David Mutendera announced a 25-man provisional which was yesterday trimmed to 15.
Mutendera was named as the new convener of selectors, joining Gavin Ewing, Shepherd Makunura and Prosper Utseya on the panel.
The selectors have given the coaching department a handful of fresh options to consider for selection ahead of the Test matches as a number of the senior players head towards the twilight of their careers.
Zimbabwe have confirmed that all-rounder Sean Williams will be their new Test captain following the retirement of Hamilton Masakadza, who has since moved into the role of director of cricket.
On Wednesday Zimbabwe Cricket announced that seamer Tendai Chatara had been ruled out of the upcoming Test series after failing to recover from a bicep injury sustained during a recent domestic match.
The experienced Mountaineers bowler had been named in the provisional squad, but he will miss the two matches as he works to regain full fitness.
Chatara’s absence has opened up a chance for his Mountaineers team-mate Victor Nyauchi and Rangers paceman Charlton Tshuma to make their bow in Test cricket.
The two are among the five uncapped players named in Zimbabwe’s final 15-man squad for the series, the others being opening batsmen Kevin Kasuza and Brian Mudzinganyama of Mountaineers and Rangers respectively, as well as Tuskers spinner Ainsley Ndlovu.
Carl Mumba, who has two Test appearances, both of them against Sri Lanka in 2016, marks his return to international cricket since a serious knee injury sustained in an ODI against the same opponents in Hambantota in 2017 sidelined him for a lengthy period.
The selectors have also rewarded Prince Masvaure, Timycen Maruma and Donald Tiripano for their top form in the premier domestic first-class competition, the Logan Cup.
Apart from captain Sean Williams, Zimbabwe will be counting on the experience of Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Kyle Jarvis and Regis Chakabva as they mark their return to red-ball cricket in over a year.
Sri Lanka are expected to arrive in Harare this Thursday.
“Sri Lanka are always a very competitive team who have been playing well and I am looking forward to the Test series,” Rajput said in a statement from Zimbabwe Cricket.
“For us, it’s a new beginning, a new chapter, and it’s good that we are starting off with the long version which always brings the best out of players.
“We know our home conditions better, our players are getting match-fit and enjoying some game time. So all we have to do is to get in the middle and perform.
“We have not had much game time, so the players will be very keen and eager to seize this opportunity and do well.”
Zimbabwe are not part of the on-going ICC Test Championship and so no points will be up for grabs in the series.
Sri Lanka on Tuesday named a 15-member squad for the two-match Test series which include Suranga Lakmal, who missed the country Test tour of Pakistan last month owing to a bout of dengue, has regained fitness to be included in their squad for a two-Test series in Zimbabwe.
The Sri Lanka cricket team is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe today.
Despite the series defeat against Pakistan in December, after a 263-run loss to the hosts, the selectors chose to persist with much of the same squad, led by Dimuth Karunaratne, to make the trip to Zimbabwe.
Asitha Fernando, who had replaced Lakmal in the squad in Pakistan but remained on the bench, was left out, as was wicket-keeper batsman Kusal Perera, the star in South Africa last year on their previous trip to the African continent.
Zimbabwe Test squad: Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Kevin Kasuza, Timycen Maruma, Prince Masvaure, Brian Mudzinganyama, Carl Mumba, Ainsley Ndlovu, Victor Nyauchi, Brendan Taylor, Donald Tiripano, Charlton Tshuma, Sean Williams (captain)
Sri Lanka squad: Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Laksha