Zim take on world's finest Proteas

HARARE - Zimbabwe Test captain Brendan Taylor believes his side will relish the tag of underdog when they face South Africa in a one –off Test beginning at Harare Sports Club today.

The two sides' contrasting standing on the Test rankings have made Hashim Amlas’s men heavy favourites to win this Test with relative ease.

South Africa are the number one ranked Test team in the world while Zimbabwe, who hardly play this form of the game, are ninth out of the 10 countries that play in this version.

The Proteas are naturally beaming with confidence, having just returned from a historic series win in Sri Lanka.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, drew a four-day series with associate nation Afghanistan, having also previously being held by the Asian minnows in the one-day version. 

“I think it can only work to our advantage,” Taylor said of Zimbabwe’s underdog status.

“South Africa will be expected to put in a massive performance but we just need to focus on the basics and enjoy the moment because it’s a great occasion to play South Africa in a Test match.

“But we are looking forward to that challenge, we prepared nicely and hopefully we can just take it day by day, session by session and not worry about the end result too much.”

Yesterday, Zimbabwe named a squad comprising of four seamers – Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara, Elton Chigumbura and the uncapped Donald Tiripano for the traditionally seam friendly Harare Sports Club wicket.

Sean Williams and debutant John Nyumbu are the only recognised spinners in the 12-men Test squad and will probably be helped by returning batsman Mark Vermeulen, who can also bowl off-spin.

“It’s job as usual and we wanna go out there as a team and represent our country to the best of our ability on the given day,” Zimbabwe’s new coach Stephen Mangongo said.

“We are taking the world number one team and it’s such a privilege and honour. We are excited about it but at the same time it is really a perfect opportunity to put our best foot forward for the cricketing world to see that we can play the game in this country.

“It’s a great challenge; it is the ultimate playing the best in the world. We are a professional team, we are under no illusion because we know what we are up against and we have to bring the best game for us to compete.”

Without fearsome pace bowlers nor top spinners, it wasn’t clear yesterday what kind of wicket Zimbabwe would prepare.

“We are expecting a typical Harare Sports Club pitch, which is a good pitch with a good bounce early on, good carry and then it settles down and there’s also enough runs for the batters. Typically, Sports Club has always had that bounce and carry and we do expect it to be the same.”

Meanwhile, South Africa Test captain Hashim Amla insisted the Proteas will approach the game like any other.

“It is a little different (pressure), there’s different type of pressure but you got to respect the game and respect the opposition and I think this team has done that very well over the last few years,” Amla said.

“I think there’s been some areas which we could have worked on from Sri Lanka. There’s been a lot of talk of Alviro (Petersen) opening the batting position and the role of the spinner in the team but we have few games left in the season so I think we just need to find the right formula, this is where our thinking will be.”

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