Thursday, 21 July 2011
By Kevin Mapasure

Jason Gillespie

TOURING Australian cricketers have predicted a competitive series when Zimbabwe take on Bangladesh in a one-off Test next month after being impressed by left arm seamer Brian Vitori and explosive middle order batsman, Elton Chigumbura, in the current four-day series between the two nations.
The Australian “A” team players, who are fighting for places in the first team that will play Sri Lanka before touring South Africa, spoke glowingly of the duo as well as batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Vusa Sibanda.

But they have warned that Zimbabwe can throw away a real opportunity of winning a Test upon their return if they do not believe in themselves and prepare adequately.

Elton Chigumbura scored a 98-ball tone featuring 14 boundaries while Vitori, who is only just making his way onto the international scene, took five wickets on the losing side of the first four-day match at the Country Club in Harare.

Jason Gillespie, the bowling coach of the tourists who is also coach for Mid West Rhinos, said that Zimbabwe’s biggest undoing could be lack of self belief and ill-preparation.

“While playing a strong Australian team with some Test players is a good way to prepare for Bangladesh, the players need to do more to prepare themselves to play against a tough opponent,” said Gillespie. “They need to have that mindset to go out and play to win and they should always strive to improve. No doubt Zimbabwe has got the talent; I am comfortable with their batting, they have Brendan Taylor, a world class batsman, Hamilton Masakadza has been doing well too and so has been Vusa Sibanda and Tino Mawoyo who is well suited for the Test. Elton Chigumbura has shown just how useful he is and the Australians have been impressed with the way he batted in the second innings, but I am worried about the bowling.”

Gillespie, a fast bowler in his time, believes Graeme Cremer’s injury is a hammer blow considering the leg spinner’s ability to attack batsmen with consistency.

“I think Zimbabwe will miss Cremer, for me he is one of the best leg-spinners: he can turn the ball a lot and he has got good control. They still have Price (Raymond) and Utseya (Prosper) but they had more to benefit from Cremer. I think Zimbabwe should field their best fast bowlers and trust them to do the job in these circumstances.”

Gillespie was full of praise for Vitori whose aggression he said also impressed the Australian team. In addition to him he would have Chris Mpofu in the team as well as Edward Rainsford, who is currently on rehabilitation after an injury lay-off,in the team.
While he sees a bright future in Tendai Chatara he said the Mountaineers quickie is not quite ready for the international stage as he still has technical flaws to work on.

Batsman Callum Ferguson said the fact that Zimbabwe competed against an Australian side full of players trying to push for places in the first team means that they have since become a competitive side.

“With Price and Taylor coming back into the side they will certainly strengthen the team, but some high level competitive cricket has been played in the two series,” said Ferguson. “They have talented players; Chigumbura’s century was full of quality as was Vitori’s bowling. Remember Australia has got a number of players who have been playing in the tests and we have world class bowlers in Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Michael Beer, so for Chigumbura to knock that hundred means he is a quality player. I think they should be able to compete against Bangladesh and I see no reason why they should not be able to beat Bangladesh if they apply themselves as they have been doing so far.”

He said for him and his team mates, this tour was as important as it was for Zimbabwe with first team tours coming up. Zimbabwe’s success against the tourists would be more valuable than a lot of people recognise.

He however noted that the Zimbabwe would have to muster the art of sustaining pressure which is always the difference between top sides and ordinary sides, if they are to prosper in the Tests.

Zimbabwe will recommence playing Tests with three home series lined-up against Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand where they play one Test against each side.

The Bangladesh Test starts on August 4 at Harare Sports Club before a five-One-Day-International series between the two nations.