Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE national cricket team coach Heath Streak expects an optimistic approach from his players to the inaugural four-day, pink ball Test against South Africa, which gets underway on Tuesday at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
Speaking shortly after Zimbabwe lost their warm up match by five wickets to a South African Invitational XI at Boland Park in Paarl on Friday evening, Streak said using the pink ball under floodlights was a difficult task but at the same time his players gained some valuable know-how which they will take to Port Elizabeth.
He was really impressed with the display put up by Hamilton Masakadza, Ryan Burl, skipper Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis and Blessing Muzarabani.
“Pink ball under lights was challenging on this wicket but the experience will help our guys deal with PE better. Hammy, Burl, Cremer, Jarvis and Muzarabani performed well. The pink ball does more off seam, it didn’t really swing much,’’ Streak said.
He emphasised the need to comprehend the changing circumstances in order to flourish against the Proteas.
“We have to be positive but also read the evolving conditions well to be successful,’’ he said.
Zimbabwe could field two debutants in the historic Test with middle order batsman Ryan Burl and pace bowler Blessing Muzarabani could make their first ever appearances in the prolonged version of the game. Burl, who has already played nine One Day Internationals for Zimbabwe made 26 and 51 in the warm up match while Muzarabani has made a bright start to his first class career for the Rising Stars which has seen him pick up 18 wickets in five games.
Chamunorwa Chibhabha, with two previous Test appearances is looking for a recall after scoring 18 and 55 runs against the SA Invitational XI. Tendai Chatara failed to pick up a wicket in the 13 overs he bowled in Paarl and it is yet to be seen if Streak will still give him his first run in Test cricket since 2014. Injuries, including a broken leg in 2015 have since then confined Chatara to limited overs cricket.
South Africa have named a strong squad for the four-day Test with a likely return to the longer version of the game for AB de Villiers, fast bowlers Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn. Zimbabwean batsmen should be dreading the prospect of facing up to the pace bowling quartet of Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Philander.
De Villiers, if he makes a return will add to what is already a formidable batting line up made up of skipper Francois du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar and Aiden Makram.
Some of the notable changes will see each day of the upcoming inaugural four-day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe have a least amount of 98 overs per day. This is as per the International Cricket Council’s playing conditions. That is, eight overs more must be bowled every day than what is required in five-day cricket. Also, a lead of 150 will be enough to enforce the follow-on, in five-day cricket the mark stands at 200 runs.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer(captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Regis Chakabva, Peter Moor, Sikandar Raza, Solomon Mire, Christopher Mpofu, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chisoro, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Kyle Jarvis
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn