By DANIEL NHAKANISO, SPORTS REPORTER
There were no surprises yesterday as Zimbabwe named a largely expected 14-man squad for their first Test match in six years.
Zimbabwe take on Bangladesh in a lone Test match starting on Thursday at Harare Sports Club.
The fairly balanced side was named at a Press briefing just before Zimbabwe XI completed a four-wicket victory over Bangladesh in a three-day warm-up match at the Interfin High Performance Centre at the Country Club.
Wicketkeeper batsman Tatenda Taibu is the most capped Zimbabwean player in Tests with 24 caps and is one of the eight players in the team who have previous Test experience.
Veteran off-spinner Ray Price, who has taken 69 wickets from 18 Tests, is the second most capped player while skipper Brendan Taylor has 10 caps.
The squad has two spinners, seven specialist batsmen and five seamers, Christopher Mpofu, all-rounder Elton Chigumbura and the trio of Kyle Jarvis, Brian Vitori and Keegan Meth, who are all uncapped in Tests.
Vitori, who has proved to be a consistent left-arm seamer, looks set to join Christopher Mpofu in Zimbabwe’s attack, while Meth is expected to take up the other bowling spot.
Of the two spinners, Price and Prosper Utseya, only one is expected to be named for Thursday’s match and chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell said the return to the longer version of the game meant that they had to shift their attention from reliance on spin bowling to seam bowling.
“Test match cricket and one-day cricket are totally different animals and when you play Test cricket in normal conditions you’re always going to be looking to play your extra seamer rather than your extra spinner,” said Campbell.
“We’ll still have a look at the wicket on Thursday morning and see what we think it’s going to do.
“It is a bit of a foreign concept for us because we’ve become used to playing a spin-based attack because all of our games have been one-day cricket, but we started thinking about it a long time ago.
“We knew that this would come about, so for the past six months we’ve been thinking about which seamers would be in the frame. We’ve got four here plus Elton (Chigumbura), and those are the guys who’ve shown that they’re best equipped to deal with the rigours of Test cricket.”
In the batting department opener Tino Mawoyo, who had previously played only two one-dayers, has been selected and looks set to make his debut in the longer version of the game.
Hamilton Masakadza — who made his only century so far in 15 Tests on his Test debut at just 17 years — will be one of the key players in the team at the top for the batting order.
Vusi Sibanda, who has three caps and the uncapped duo of Craig Ervine and uncapped Regis Chakabva, are the other specialist batsmen in the team.
The only major casualty was middle order batsman Forster Mtizwa despite scoring a match-winning 87 not out against Bangladesh yesterday.
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher who said he was pleased with his team’s preparations also hinted that the selection of the final 11 payers had been decided although the final squad would be named on Thursday morning.
“The team is very much well-prepared. We have had a fitness programme since back in May and we had extensive match practice from the matches against South Africa A sides.
“We’ve had good variety in terms of the experience we’ve gained and the match preparation we’ve had, so I’m very confident that we’re fully prepared and ready for the challenge on Thursday,” said Butcher.
B Taylor (Captain), R Chakabva, E Chigumbura, C Ervine, K Jarvis, H Masakadza, T Mawoyo, K Meth, C Mpofu, R Price, V Sibanda, T Taibu, P Utseya, B Vitori