October-November 2017 was the last time Zimbabwe played a Test match at home. In fact, April 16, 2019, was the last time an international game was played on Zimbabwean soil. Since then, a lot has happened in Zimbabwe cricket. They were suspended by the ICC which meant direct disqualification from the 2020 T20 World Cup. But they continued playing as they were invited by Bangladesh for a T20I series in September before their membership was reinstated after a three-month hiatus.
They return to Test cricket after more than a year’s gap. In fact, the last time Zimbabwe donned the whites, it was in Bangladesh in December 2018 and they drew the series 1-1. They showed character and fought really hard. But there’s a massive difference between the squad of December 2018 and now. Hence, head coach Lalchand Rajput put it aptly and said, “For us, it’s a new beginning, a new chapter.”
They face Sri Lanka who know a thing or two about welcoming cricket back in a certain country. They played the first Test match in Pakistan in over a decade and are playing a huge role in helping cricket revive in Pakistan. However, they didn’t have the best of times as far as the cricket is concerned.
They lost the two-match Test series 0-1. In fact, 2019 was a real mixed bag and topsy-turvy for them as far as Test cricket is concerned. They were bullied by Australia before they stunned the world and on the back of Kusal Perera’s once in a lifetime innings, they won 2-0 in South Africa. They drew 1-1 at home against New Zealand before losing the Pakistan series.
Zimbabwe don’t play a lot of Test cricket either. They have played a total of 24 Test matches since the start of 2010, winning a mere four. However, they are scheduled to play a few in the next few months apart from this two-match series.
There’s no doubt that an experienced Sri Lankan side will start as firm favourites but they can’t take Zimbabwe lightly despite. Cricket is a funny game and anything can happen. Zimbabwe could spring a surprise or two as well with the game being played in Harare.
Sean Williams has ascended to the captaincy throne and will be leading a pretty inexperienced side that has as many as five uncapped players. There are a couple of big exclusions in the form of Peter Moor and Ryan Burl. Tendai Chatara has been ruled out due to a bicep injury. Skipper Sean Williams, all-rounder Sikandar Raza, batters Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine, wicket-keeper batsman Regis Chakabva and pacer Kyle Jarvis will form the heart of the side.
Probable XI: Kevin Kasuza, Brian Mudzinganyama, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams (c), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva (wk), Kyle Jarvis, Donald Tiripano, Victor Nyauchi, Ainsley Ndlovu
The big news came when Sri Lanka decided to drop Kusal Perera who won them the first Test from an improbable position in South Africa. Suranga Lakmal replaces him and he will return to the XI to lead the pace attack as well. Apart from that, there are no other changes to the squad that toured Pakistan. Chief selector indicated that the batting line-up may remain the same as the one that took field in Karachi going in with the experience of Mendis, Mathews, Chandimal at 3, 4 and 5 respectively with Dhananjaya de Silva and wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella to follow.
Probable XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara
Focus will be on
Sikandar Raza [ZIM] – Raza has been in some very good form in domestic cricket in the recent past. He’s scored runs and picked up wickets in the 50-over and first-class competition in Zimbabwe. He will be one of the key players for the hosts in this series as he can have an impact with both bat and ball and is a big-match player.
Suranga Lakmal [SL] – Lakmal is returning to international cricket for the first time since August 2019. He last played the home series against New Zealand and missed the Pakistan tour due to dengue. Hence, it’ll be interesting to see how he goes as he leads the Sri Lankan pace attack.
Head to Head
Matches – 18: Zimbabwe won – 0 | Sri Lanka won – 13 | Draw – 5
11 – Sean Williams is all set to become the 11th Zimbabwean player to captain the side in Test cricket.
8 – Out of the 13 wins over Zimbabwe, eight of Sri Lanka’s win have come on the bounce. In those, four of them have been innings victories and three of them in excess of 250 runs. However, the last time Sri Lanka played Zimbabwe was in Colombo and the former had to chase a record 388 to win the game.
SPN Sports is the official broadcaster of Zimbabwe Cricket in India. However, they have confirmed that they will not be streaming or telecasting the series. There is no news of an alternate broadcaster either.
Match timings – 10:00 AM local time (1:30 PM IST) (8:00 AM GMT)
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