October 20 2017 -THE return of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, the prodigal sons, should make Zimbabwe a stronger unit when they take on the West Indies in the first Test of a two-match series at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo starting on Saturday.
Taylor, the former captain, last featured for Zimbabwe in an ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 group game against India, where he scored a century in a losing cause, while Jarvis’s last outing in national colours also came against India, in 2013 in Bulawayo in a One-Day International. Taylor’s last Test match was in late 2014, while Jarvis turned out one last time in Zimbabwe’s whites in 2013, both against Bangladesh. Both Taylor and Jarvis recently returned to the international fold after being released by their respective counties – Nottinghamshire and Lancashire – within weeks of each other.
Taylor, 31, will add experience to the batting line-up, which already has Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza. The four played a key role in Zimbabwe’s 3-2 ODI series victory in Sri Lanka three months ago, with Ervine and Raza also scoring centuries in the only Test, which Sri Lanka won after a tough scrap.
Solomon Mire, one of Zimbabwe’s best limited-overs batsmen in recent times, will be one of the strong contenders to make his Test debut, while Regis Chakabva, Peter Moor and Malcolm Waller have been good in patches and, given an opportunity, will look to cement their places in a strong-looking batting unit.
“I think this can be the best period of Zimbabwe cricket since I have been playing in 2004,” said Taylor in the lead-up to the game. “The group of players is exceptional. Everyone’s game has been lifted 20 percent. We are a totally different side to the one that lost to Afghanistan earlier in the year.”
Jarvis, who has 30 wickets from eight Tests, could join Christopher Mpofu, the right-arm quick, in a two-pronged pace attack on what has traditionally been a slow pitch with Graeme Cremer, the captain, heading the spin department.
On the other side, Jason Holder, the Windies skipper, has the same set of 15 players that showed great fight in a three-match Test series in England, which it lost 2-1. Shai Hope, who scored 375 runs in six innings in England, will lead the batting pack with support from Kraigg Brathwaite, the vice-captain, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase and Kieran Powell.
With the ball, the West Indies will rely on the pacers to do most of the damage. Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Holder can make life difficult for any batsman on their day and the Zimbabweans would be wary about them.
The West Indies will most likely stick with the same combination that gave it decent results in England but if the pitch assists spinners, Devendra Bishoo, the leg-spinner, will be expected to do a bit more than what he did in England, when he returned three wickets from three bowling innings.
Zimbabwe, which has made seven changes to its lineup, has never beaten the West Indies in a Test match and has also lost its last nine games in whites, but looking at its new, improved appearance, this series should give it a good chance of correcting the record. – African News Agency ANA