April 15, 2003

Zimbabwe name England tour party

Wisden CricInfo staff

After weeks of anxious waiting, Zimbabwe's forthcoming tour of England was finally given the go-ahead today, as a 20-man squad was announced by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. The party will be captained by Heath Streak, and leaves Harare for London on April 29, after permission was granted by the Zimbabwean government's Sports and Recreation Commission. The tour has been in the balance ever since England's boycott of their World Cup fixture in Harare, and there had been widespread speculation that Robert Mugabe's regime might have decided on a tit-for-tat retaliation.

Peter Chingoka, the chairman of the ZCU, finally received a telephone call on Friday approving the tour from Anthony Mandiwanza, the commission's chairman, and Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the ECB, was officially informed of the decision today. "I am delighted we have been given the definitive green light," said Lamb, "This guarantees a full international programme for the summer, including the first-ever Test match to be held at Durham's Riverside Ground. With Zimbabwe, South Africa and Pakistan touring, I look forward to another great summer of international cricket."

Quite what sort of a challenge Zimbabwe will be able to mount, however, is anyone's guess. Their squad has been weakened by the loss of four key players, including the irreplaceable figure of Andy Flower, who was obliged to retire following his black-armband protest during Zimbabwe's opening match of the World Cup.

The extrovert fast bowler, Henry Olonga, who joined Flower in mourning the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe, has also been driven out of the national side, and the former captains Alistair Campbell and Guy Whittall have also played their final matches. Although the selectors have picked just the one debutant, Vusimuzi Sibanda, a fast bowler, the inexperience of the side is summed up by the promotion of Tatenda Taibu, the 19-year-old wicketkeeper, to the vice-captaincy.

Fifteen players have been selected for the two-Test series, which starts at Lord's on May 22, with a further five earmarked for the triangular NatWest Series, which also includes South Africa.

Zimbabwe squad Heath Streak (capt), Tatenda Taibu (vice-capt), Grant Flower, Dion Ebrahim, Mark Vermeulen, Barney Rogers, Sean Ervine, Andy Blignaut, Mluleki Nkala, Stuart Carlisle, Ray Price, Travis Friend, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Douglas Hondo, Douglas Marillier.

Additional players for the one-day matches Gary Brent, Waddington Mwayenga, Stuart Matsikenyere, Charles Coventry, Richard Sims.