Hosts seek elusive Test win

HARARE - Zimbabwe end their two-year sabbatical in the longer format when they host New Zealand in the first Test match at Bulawayo’s Queens Sports Club in search of an elusive maiden victory against the Black Caps.

The locals’ last dance in Test cricket was in 2014 where they fared dismally against the Tigers of Bangladesh in Asia while their opponents hosted Australia in a two-match Test series in February.

Since 1992 the two nations have met in nine home and away series’ with the Black Caps wining six and three ending in a draw and in terms of individual matches, New Zealand has won nine and Zimbabwe are yet to win a match.

Their latest meeting was in 2012 in Napier, New Zealand where the hosts won the one-match series by an innings and 301 runs.

Zimbabwe interim coach Makhaya Ntini plans have been dealt a heavy blow with some of the players being side-lined through injury chief among them being seamer Tendai Chatara and top order batsman Tino Mawoyo.

Chatara picked an ankle injury and bowled 16 overs on the first day of the three-day practice match at Harare Sports Club before limping off to the pavilion while Mawoyo who was making a return to the national fold from a groin injury suffered a right thumb injury.

He was hit by New Zealand seamer Tim Southee just after four balls in Zimbabwe A’s innings and took no further part in the 259-run warm-up defeat to the visitors.

Interestingly, the series will see both sides being captained by new faces, Graeme Cremer for Zimbabwe and Kane Williamson for New Zealand.

“The last time we played Test cricket in Bulawayo it was well fought, so we also expect a tough series in the test matches this time around," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson told reporters.

“We respect every opposition that we play against, that’s something that we are very proud of, regardless of whether we are playing the No 1 team in the world or not.”

The Black Caps prepared for the tour with a week-long training camp at South Africa’s High Performance Centre in Pretoria, where they were exposed to the dry mid-winter pitches before travelling to Harare Sports Club where they beat Zimbabwe A in a three-day warm-up match.

The Queens’ surface is always an issue, which could present a challenge for the tourists in their bid for victory in the two Tests at the venue.

“I think the conditions will pose many challenges,” said Hesson.

“Zimbabwe’s players are obviously familiar with the nature of the surface, which I think is going to be relatively slow.

“Taking 20 wickets will be a challenge. Our bowling needs to be very disciplined.”

Zimbabwe Test squad: Graeme Cremer (capt), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Tino Mawoyo, Peter Moor, Richmond Mutumbami, Taurai Muzarabani, Njabulo Ncube, Donald Tiripano, Sean Williams

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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