HARARE – After almost a three-month sabbatical Zimbabwe are looking forward to some red ball cricket when they host West Indies in the first Test at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo starting this morning.
Zimbabwe’s last Test match was back in July when Graeme Cremer’s side lost by four wickets to Sri Lanka in Colombo.
It was a commendable effort by the side as that Test match was on a knife edge throughout the five days.
Since then the side has been inactive on the field but behind the scenes, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) scored a number of coups.
First, ZC managed to convince former Test captain Brendan Taylor to terminate his three-year Kolpak deal with Nottinghamshire in the England Cricket County to come back home.
Speed merchant Kyle Jarvis also followed suit and ended his Kolpak deal with County side Lancashire to return home.
Both Jarvis and Taylor were included in the squad to face the Caribbean Islanders and are largely expected to make their Test return since 2013.
With the return of two exceptional players, who had been playing in a top level first class competition, Cremer had every reason to look forward to today’s Test.
Zimbabwe’s Test win over the tourist came way back in March 2013 in Dominica but can spring a surprise in this match.
“I’m happy that the squad is a bit stronger now with Brendan back to cement the middle order and Jarvie to open the bowling; that’s great for us,” Cremer said.
“The rest of our guys are in form and we will have our best team out there come Saturday (today).”
Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak is hoping the spin-friendly conditions at Queens Sports Club will favour his side.
At this venue, Zimbabwe have only won one Test match when they beat Bangladesh by an innings and 32 runs back in 2001.
On that occasion, former Test opener Guy Whittall scored a 119 while Streak and the Flower brothers Andy and Grant scored half centuries each.
“We know what the Queens Sports Club wicket does. We’re trying to make the wicket suit our strengths and that's part and parcel of playing at home. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage,” Streak said.
West Indies coach Stuart Law reckons pace could play a role no matter the quality of the pitch.
“If you look at the squad Zimbabwe have picked, they've got six players who can bowl spin,” he said.
“The wicket here is traditionally very good for batting and spins more and more as the game goes on.
“Having said that, we’ve also got two or three guys who can crank it up to over 90mph and at that pace it doesn’t really matter where you’re playing, it’s hard to bat against.”