Will we see another whitewash?

HARARE - There is a general feeling among Zimbabweans that South Africa have always adopted a Big Brother attitude when playing Zimbabwe in any sport.

Whether this assumption is accurate or not, we will probably never know.

One assumption that is accurate though, is that Zimbabwe are going to be up against the world’s number one ranked Test team on Saturday, and the question most people are asking is;

How many days will the Test last?

Despite these two countries being neighbours, Zimbabwe and South Africa have only played each other on six previous occasions.

The first Test was back in 1995 at Harare Sports Club, and the last encounter was in 2005 when Zimbabwe were totally humiliated, losing the first of two Test matches inside two days in Cape Town, and the second in three days.

In short, both Tests lasted five days, which is the length of one Test.

We all know the events that happened after that particular series, and it would no doubt bore the reader to death if we had to go through all of them for the umpteenth time.

South Africa have themselves undergone a few changes of late.

Graeme Smith relinquished the captaincy to Hashim Amla, and the world’s greatest allrounder Jacques Kallis called it a day after almost 19 years of service to his country.

Despite these major setbacks, the Proteas still boast three number one rankings.

AB de Villiers is currently the world’s number one ranked Test batsman. Dale Steyn leads the bowling rankings by some distance, while Vernon Philander tops the allrounder charts.

Strange as it may seem, even this formidable team have a few problems of their own.

For a number of years, the Proteas have struggled to find a spinner who is capable of not only doing a holding job, but who is also capable of breaking partnerships, or even winning Test matches.

Understandable, to a certain extent, when considering the amount of world class fast bowlers they have produced.

Imran Tahir has been tried and although he has proved himself more than useful in the shorter version, he has been found wanting at Test level.

The selectors may possibly be tempted to give left arm spinner Dane Piedt his first Test cap.

In fact, if the Proteas had done some research and homework, which undoubtedly they would have, they should be well aware that left arm spinners have been the Achilles heel of Zimbabwe’s batting for more than a decade.

Not only could Piedt do a holding job, but he may possibly find himself in the wickets column as well.

Another area of slight concern is their top order.

Dean Elgar seems to be settling in nicely at the top where he belongs, but the normally dependable Test opener Alviro Petersen seems to be going through a rough patch, and the SA selectors may be tempted to draft the left-handed Stiaan van Zyl into their starting line up.

Having said that, the selectors do normally show a fair amount of faith in a player, and they may feel that Petersen could rediscover his form against Zimbabwe.

Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and the underrated JP Dumny are all in fine form, and if you add the flamboyant Quinton de Kock in the mix, you can be sure to be in for a lot of entertainment.

South Africa have always prided themselves on having a fiery bowling attack, backed by a very good and fit fielding unit, and it will be no different when the players take to the field on Saturday.

Steyn and Philander are unquestionably the world’s best opening bowlers, while Morne Morkel, who in my opinion is an unsung hero, will provide his usual pace and bounce which has been the undoing of many a batsman around the world.

Zimbabwe have a rather interesting pool to choose from.

Vusi Sibanda has been out of touch for a very long time now, and it is becoming abundantly clear that both the selectors and coaches are beginning to run out of patience with him for continuously letting the side down with his promising starts that lead to nothing.

So which way will the selectors go when choosing the final 11?

Will they take a calculated risk in bringing Mark Vermeulen back into the team?

Vermeulen’s last Test appearance was 10 years ago against Sri Lanka, and can you pick a player purely because of the number of cricket matches he has played?

We all know about his dark side, and should he be given a rough decision when batting, it may lead to one of his spectacular melt downs in the change rooms.

Perhaps these questions and observations are cynical and pessimistic — Vermeulen is in good form after all, and that should be enough criteria to get him into the team.

It is somewhat disturbing to see that some younger names have already been mentioned, and although it is encouraging to see the youngsters putting their hands up and performing, you cannot take another calculated risk and pick them simply because they did a reasonable job against an associate member?

A few of the players who went to the Under-19 World Cup were impressive in the recent series against Afghanistan, but none of them scored hundred, nor did any of the bowlers get a five-wicket haul, which is the equivalent of a hundred.

It is clear for all to see that these youngsters are talented, but a long tour with the A team could do them good.

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