ZIM v NZ, 1st Test Preview: New Zealand begin as clear favorites

Kane Williamson New Zealand v England World T20
New Zealand’s captain Kane Williamson. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

New Zealand will begin the much-anticipated ZIM v NZL Test series, and for good reason as well. The Zimbabweans are yet to defeat the Kiwis in a Test match and have either drawn or lost the previous few series against the Black Caps. Moreover, the fact that New Zealand has sent in a relatively strong side to face undergo a baptism on the difficult Zimbabwean wickets is also something  that stands in the way of Zimbabwe clinching their first Test victory over the mighty Black Caps.

Pitch Conditions

Typically, the Queens Club in Bulawayo has been a dead rubber wicket. For the most part, fast-bowling is expected to play a vital part in proceedings as the Kiwis will be hoping to unleash their pacers in the form of Trent Boult and Tim Southee on the home side. Similarly, Zimbabwe has also selected a squad which boasts of almost five pacers in their preliminary squad. That said, the curators will be hoping that the wicket stays the way it is for the duration of the five days. Brisk sunshine is the weather forecast, thus making it a perfect place to play cricket.

Team Analysis

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe enters the first Test at Bulawayo on the back of a terrible defeat against India. However, that was in the limited-overs’ format and skipper Graeme Cremer will be hoping for a better showing in the first Test at the Queens Club at Bulawayo. With most of the Zimbabwean players back to almost full fitness, it will be interesting to see who features in the side. Left-arm pace Prince Masuvaure will be expected to start ahead of the injured Tinashe Panyangara.

The spotlight will be on a few players, especially the middle order of the Zimbabwe lineup. For the first time in quite a while, Zimbabwe will be fielding a strong middle order in the form of Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, and Craig Ervine, a strong lineup on paper.

New Zealand

Having been thrashed out of sight in the series against Australia earlier this year, the Kiwis will be hoping to make some headway under newly appointed skipper Kane Williamson. With the Kiwis opting to send in a strong squad for the tour of Zimbabwe, it is highly unlikely that New Zealand will face any problems facing up to the home team.

One player who will be looking to cement his place in the side before the arduous tour to the subcontinent later this year will be 27-year old Indian-born Jeet Raval. The right-handed batsman smashed records in the domestic circuit and will be hoping to make a mark on the upcoming tour. Ross Taylor, who has been out of form with the bat will also be looking to make amends as he prepares to prolong his career in cricket.

Probable XI:

Zimbabwe:

Graeme Cremer (C), Regis Chakvaba (wk), Chamu Chibhaha, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Peter Moor, Donald Tiripano, Brian Chari, Taurai Muzarabani, Prince Masuvaure

New Zealand:

Kane Williamson (C), BJ Watling (wk), Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Jeet Raval, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner

StAttack:

1. This will be the first Test match Zimbabwe will be playing since November 2014. They lost all their Test matches against Bangladesh in that particular series.

2. The last time Zimbabwe and New Zealand faced off against each other was in 2011. Zimbabwe has never beaten New Zealand in a Test match yet.

3. Incidentally, the last Test match played at the Queens Club in Bulawayo was between Zimbabwe and New Zealand. The latter clinched the encounter by 34 runs.

4. While New Zealand has won at this venue three times, Zimbabwe last won at this venue in April 2001 against Bangladesh.

5. Trent Boult requires just three wickets to complete 150 wickets in Test cricket.