Zimbabwe’s first of two Tests against Sri Lanka starting at Harare Sports Club tomorrow will mark a century of matches in that format for the host nation.
By Kevin Mapasure
Zimbabwe has played 99 Tests over a 24-year period although they suspended themselves from that format for six years between 2005 and 2011 where they marked their returned with a win against Bangladesh in Harare.
The match starting tomorrow will be a special one for Zimbabwe who will be seeking only their 12th Test win and their first over Sri Lanka.
The two nations have so far faced off in 15 Test matches with Sri Lanka winning ten while the other five ended in either draws or with a no result.
They last faced each other in Test cricket in 2004.
By the end of this series, Sri Lanka would have joined New Zealand and Pakistan as the nations Zimbabwe haveplayed the most in this format with 17 matches against each.
Australia is the country Zimbabwe have faced the least number of times with the two having played each other on three occasions only, with the former winning all.
Zimbabwe have recorded their highest number of victories over Bangladesh whom they beat six times while they lost five of their 14 meetings.
The Sri Lanka series also marks the beginning of a new era with Heath Streak presiding over his first match as the national team coach, having taken over from Dave Whatmore who was sacked in May.
While the aim will be to ramp up the speed at which Zimbabwe are playing Test cricket, it also be Streak’s major priority to improve the win/lose ratio.
Only eleven wins from 99 matches is far from convincing and this Test presents an opportunity for Streak and his men to make a bold statement.
Their last Test win came against Pakistan in 2013 at Harare Sports Club and Zimbabwe will look back at that performance and draw confidence against Sri Lanka.
Only three players, Hamilton Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo and Malcolm Waller, who played in that match, are in line to celebrate Zimbabwe’s century of Tests on the field tomorrow.
Bowlers Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara would probably have made the cut, were it not for injuries.
In the bowling department Zimbabwe will be banking on the experience of Chris Mpofu whose seam partners will be drawn from a list that includes Taurai Muzarabani, Donald Tiripano and Michael Chinouya.
Zimbabwe have better experience in the batting department with Mawoyo and Masakadza likely to be asked to open while the line-up could also include Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Brian Chari with Tarisai Musakanda likely to earn his first cap.
Despite the absence of captain Angelo Mathews, his vice Dinesh Chandimal, as well as fast bolwers Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera, Sri Lanka still brought in a strong side.
Graeme Cremer (capt), Tino Mawoyo, Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Regis Chakabva, Peter Moor, Donald Tiripano, Chris Mpofu, Taurai Muzarabani, Michael Chinouya, Brian Chari, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Carl Mumba, Tarisai Musakanda.