Zimbabwe in South Africa 2006-07 September 11, 2006

Zimbabwe target 2007 Test return

Cricinfo staff

Prosper Utseya leads an inexperienced Zimbabwe team against South Africa © AFP
Kevin Curran, the Zimbabwe coach, has revealed Zimbabwe are planning to return to Test cricket in November 2007, following their withdrawal at the start of this year. Zimbabwe have arrived in South Africa for a three-match ODI series as preparation for the Champions Trophy.

"We will be playing the West Indies at home in November next year," Curran told the Sapa news agency in Johannesburg. "We think that will give us time to develop our very young team, and we also believe that the West Indies would be at the right level of play for our return to Test cricket."

Cricinfo revealed more than a month ago that Zimbabwe's return to the Test arena would be when they met West Indies at that time.

Curran added that tours such as this short trip to Zimbabwe were vital for an inexperienced team. "It's a very young team - the average age is about 21 so we need to play lots of competitive cricket. We are also planning a number of four-day matches against teams like South Africa A and other A sides.

"As these players gain international experience, they will improve and become more competitive. If they can get 30 or 40 international caps under their belts, they will be much better prepared for the return to Test cricket.

"So we will grab any opportunity with both hands. Losing about 20 senior players made a huge dent in Zimbabwe cricket."

The team were greeted at Johannesburg airport by Gerald Majola, the Cricket South Africa chief executive, who said the tour shows how South Africa are keen to help Zimbabwe.

"We are very serious about the future of Zimbabwe cricket. We have taken a conscious decision to help Zimbabwe whenever we can, and the three ODIs are to help their preparations for the qualifying round Champions Trophy."

However, Majola was quick to point out that the series is also vital for South Africa's build-up to the tournament in India next month, especially after their withdrawal from the tour of Sri Lanka after bombings in Colombo.

Zimbabwe, led by Prosper Utseya the offspinner, start their tour with a 20-over match against the Eagles in Kimberley, before their opening ODI at Bloemfontein on September 15.