Black Caps in town

HARARE - The New Zealand cricket team arrived in Harare yesterday just two days after their union backed the two-tier Test system which has negative implications for lowly ranked teams like Zimbabwe.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has proposed a system that seeks to “add meaning and context” to Test cricket by creating a more competitive competition with teams playing each other that are of a more equal standard.

If approved the move will see Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and West Indies possibly being relegated to the second division and joining emerging nations such as Afghanistan, Ireland and Nepal in a league of their own.

The move will however, have huge financial repercussions since playing Test series against powerhouses like India, England and Australia brings the highest television revenue for the lower ranked nations.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive David White said his board was in full support of the ICC proposal spelling doom for Test cricket in Zimbabwe.

The upcoming two-match Test series against the Black Caps which starts next week at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, could be the last Zimbabwe hosts.

White also a Full-Member representative on the ICC Cricket Committee said: “We are big supporters (of the two-tier system). There’s already lot of interest in New Zealand in Test cricket, but if we had a competition with promotion and relegation and a winner at the end, it would really increase interest, no doubt about that.

“Everyone agrees we need context, we need something that's aspirational. (But) the countries who don't make the top division in the first instance (should not be) not disadvantaged financially - that's really important.”

Bangladesh have openly opposed the proposed two-tier system so did Sri Lanka and West Indies but Zimbabwe Cricket have remained mum with an insider suggesting that “we will only comment after a decision on either to implement it or not has been made by the ICC.”

While White and his board are out to get rid of teams like Zimbabwe from Test cricket, the Black Caps on the other hand want to pile more misery on the pitch.

Black Caps opening batsman Tom Latham, who was also part of the touring squad in last year’s limited overs series, said the team is looking forward to a successful series just like last August.

“We wanna win every game like we do in most tours and its obviously nice to have everyone back and everyone seems fully prepared and would be nice to have the warm up done and get into the Tests,” Latham said after the Black Caps touched down at Harare International Airport yesterday afternoon.

New Zealand won the ODI series 2-1 having trailed from a Zimbabwe batting master-class in the series opener where the locals chased down the visitors’ 303/4 to win the match by seven wickets.

Zimbabwe reached 304/3 in 49 overs with man-of-the-match Craig Ervine unbeaten on 130 and Hamilton Masakadza scoring 84.

Latham and fellow opener Martin Guptill came back stronger in the second ODI both scoring centuries in their 10-wicket to level the series before they edged the hosts by 38 runs in the decisive ODI and also won the only Twenty20 match by 80 runs to complete a successful visit to Zimbabwe.

“Nice to finally be here, obviously that stuff is said to be under control and New Zealand Cricket are calling the shots,” Latham said in reference to the civil unrest that characterised the country in recent weeks.

“We were here last year, we had a good tour and I’m sure we pretty much the same.”

The Black Caps will play a three-day match against Zimbabwe A starting tomorrow at Harare Sports Club before they leave for Bulawayo ahead of the first Test which starts next Thursday. 

This will be Zimbabwe’s first Test series since November 2014 and there is no doubt the hosts with will be rusty when playing with the red ball.

New Zealand Test squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.

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