Streak Dreading Grassy St George's Park Wicket Against Proteas
ZIMBABWE coach Heath Streak believes the wicket at St George’s Park for the historic day/night cricket Test will be problematic because South Africa are certain to leave grass on it for their fast bowlers to exploit.
The neighbouring countries clash in the inaugural four-day pink ball Test which starts on Tuesday. With South Africa having the fit-again Dale Steyn as well as Vernon Philander to complement Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel in a terrifying bowling attack that ranks among the best in the world, a grassy pitch is certain to be prepared for the Boxing Day Test.
Streak, however, believes that his team can compete if the bowlers bowl well. He has been impressed by how the players have applied themselves in the net sessions since they moved to Port Elizabeth on Saturday following the warm-up match in Paar which concluded last Friday.
“Wicket will be challenging due to grass. However, if we bowl well it gives us a chance as well. The guys have been looking good in the nets,’’ Streak said.
Zimbabwe were criticised for their tactics at home during the two Tests against West Indies when they prepared docile wickets which saw them rely more on their slow bowlers. They now have to adjust and give a chance to their seamers with Blessing Muzarabani on the verge of a Test debut. The 21-year old tall pace bowler has had a brilliant start to his first-class career with the Rising Stars which has seen him pick up 18 wickets in five matches in this season's Logan Cup.
It is still to be seen if Streak recalls Tendai Chatara to the prolonged version with the pace bowler having last played a Test match in November 2014 against Bangladesh. Since then, injuries which include a broken leg in 2015 have confined Chatara to limited overs cricket.
On the batting front, Ryan Burl could make his Test debut while Chamumorwa Chibhabha could be recalled to the top order.
Hamilton Masakadza batted well in the warm-up match and should open the batting with either Solomon Mire or Chibhabha. Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Peter Moor and Regis Chakabva are key components of the Zimbabwe batting.
The Zimbabwean bowling attack, which should be led by Kyle Jarvis and Christopher Mpofu, has to be at its best to trouble the South African batting line up.
Zimbabwe and South Africa have met eight times in Test cricket since the first clash in October 1995 with the Proteas winning all the matches since then. The last clash between the two teams on South African soil came in March 2005, a match the Proteas won by an innings 62 runs in Centurion. The most recent meeting between the two countries separated by the Limpopo River came in 2014 in Harare, a match South Africa won by nine wickets.
With India arriving soon in South Africa, the Proteas will look to give their best players a run against the Chevrons.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer(captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Regis Chakabva, Peter Moor, Sikandar Raza, Solomon Mire, Christopher Mpofu, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chisoro, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Kyle Jarvis
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn