First Test preview: Zimbabwe v West Indies

There is a fresh confidence oozing through Zimbabwe cricket with new coach Heath Streak’s team winning an ODI series in Sri Lanka and competing in Test cricket.

The West Indies too are a team on the up showing a great deal of improvement during their 2-1 loss to England.

Zimbabwe have been boosted by the return of wicketkeeper batsman Brendan Taylor and fast bowler Kyle Jarvis who had previously opted to take up Kolpak deals in England.

The team led by Graeme Cremer have found their fight under Streak and they will be eager to notch a series win at home.

The West Indies should probably be the favourites but they will need to be ruthless against the resilient hosts.

Skipper Jason Holder will need Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope to continue their rich form while Roston Chase’s value as an allrounder could be telling.

Zimbabwe are well anchored by Craig Ervine and the middle order will be strengthened by Taylor’s return.

Solomon Mire has been rewarded for fine form in ODI cricket and could make his Test debut in this series, it is unclear if he will open or bat in the middle-order.

The pacemen on both sides could be in for some toil on what appears to be a batting friendly Queen’s Park pitch in Bulawayo.

Windies opening bowler Shannon Gabriel needs to get his no-ball problem under control, if he does he has the potential to be among the best bowlers in the world.

He is well backed up by Kemar Roach who will be hoping to extract some reverse swing in the dry conditions in Bulawayo.

The Zimbabwe attack is built around it’s spin-bowling allrounders Sikandar Raza, Cremer, Sean Williams and Malcolm Waller while the search goes on for an opening partner for Christopher Mpofu.

Key Players

Ervine remains the rock in the Zimbabwe middle-order even with the return of Taylor and his runs will be key.

Cremer is often the man who bowls the most overs for Zimbabwe and will get through a lot of work looking to work out Windies batsmen.

Shai Hope has emerged as a future Windies superstar after a career defining series in England.

Chase could be the West Indies leading bowler and may very well fill the ‘Cremer’ role for the tourists.

Squads

Zimbabwe Test squad: Graeme Cremer (c), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Regis Chakabva, Michael Chinouya, Christopher Mpofu, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chisoro, Nyasha Mayavo

West Indies Test squad: Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach

Last five head-to-head results

2013 Second Test: West Indies won by an innings and 65 runs in Roseau
2013 First Test: West Indies won by nine wickets in Bridgetown
2003 Second Test: West Indies won by 128 runs in Bulawayo
2003 First Test: Drawn match in Harare
2001 Second Test: Drawn match in Harare

Details

21-25 October

Sessions: Start 09:30-11:30 (07:30-9:30 GMT) Lunch 12:15-14:15 (10:15-12:15 GMT) Tea 14:30-16:30 (12:30-16:30 GMT) Close

Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena, Paul Reiffel
TV Umpire: Simon Fry
Reserve Umpire: Langton Rusere
Match Referee: Javagal Srinath