Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, Only Test, Harare August 3, 2011

Hope in the air as familiar foes face off

Match facts

August 4 - 8, Harare Sports Club
Start time 10:00 (08:00GMT)

Big Picture

This fixture usually does not jump out as the most eye-catching on the international calendar but this time it does. Both teams are making a comeback to the longest version of the game - Bangladesh haven't played a Test since June last year - but the return will be more special for Zimbabwe.

Seventy-one months have passed since Zimbabwe last played a Test match, when they lost to India by 10 wickets in September 2005. Their cricket has spluttered, drowned and been revived in the time since then and if most of the stories coming out of the country are to be believed, Zimbabwe is ready to be welcomed back. The first-class game is attracting interest from players and supporters, better coaching structures are in place and the game has grown and developed. The team of young hopefuls that formed out of crisis in 2004 is now a group of mature men, ready to play international cricket in whites.

There is no ranking at stake here, no places to be gained on the points table but there is pride to uphold and progression to show off. It's just a one-off Test, something Zimbabwe are set to stage more frequently in the coming months, as they make a measured return to Test cricket. They will want to show that they are capable of more and that longer series can be introduced in the future.

For Bangladesh, winning is still a concern, especially away from home. Their only away wins came against a second-string West Indies side, so victory in Harare would be their first in Zimbabwe.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LLLLL
Bangladesh LLLLL

In the spotlight

It's the first time Brendan Taylor will captain Zimbabwe and both, his batting and his leadership tactics will come under scrutiny. His 85 in the tour match against Australia A showed that he is in good form. With a first-class batting average of close to 40, Taylor is expected to be the rock of the middle order as well as the man marshalling a Zimbabwean side that will have to adjust to the unique pressures of Test cricket. He is one of only three survivors from the last time Zimbabwe played a Test match. Back then he was only 20 years old, so this is an opportunity for him to show how much he has matured.

Mohammad Ashraful returns to the Bangladesh national side after being left out of the ODI series against Australia. Since then, he has captained the A side and scored a century against South Africa A in a one-day game. Despite his inconsistency, he is one of the most talented players in the Bangladesh set-up and has been given another chance to stake a claim for a regular place. Ashraful has faced Zimbabwe many times, being the only man in the current squad to have visited this country in 2004, and the familiarity of the conditions and the opposition should work to his advantage.

Team news

Zimbabwe are likely to have four Test debutants in their line-up, opening batsman Tino Mawoyo, middle-order man Craig Ervine and bowlers Kyle Jarvis and Brian Vitori. With conditions unlikely to favour spinners, Ray Price could be used as a containing option.

Zimbabwe: (probable) 1 Tinotenda Mawoyo, 2 Vusi Sibanda, 3 Hamilton Maskadzaa, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 6 Craig Ervine, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Kyle Jarvis, 9 Ray Price, 10 Chris Mpofu, 11 Brian Vitori Mahmudullah was the only Bangladesh regular who was in doubt for this match after hurting his hand in the tour game, but was given the all-clear on Wednesday. Uncapped Nasir Hossain may have to watch from the sidelines as Bangaldesh are likely field an experienced XI.

Bangladesh: (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Junaid Siddique, 4 Shahriar Nafees, 5 Mohammad Ashraful, 6 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 7 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 8 Mahmudullah, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Robiul Islam

Pitch and conditions

Winter brings with it dryness and it is understood that the ground staff have been putting effort into making the pitch lively. It has a fair covering of grass on it and is expected to assist the seamers early on. With the weather set to remain sunny and cool, the pitch will flatten and become good for batting.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe is the first place Bangladesh played a Test away from home, in Bulawayo, in 2001. They are also the country first team Bangladesh beat in Test cricket, by 226 runs, in Chittagong in 2005
  • Collectively, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have won 11 Tests and lost 108
  • Tamim Iqbal has scored in a century in each of Bangladesh's last two Test matches, in England last year
  • Only three members in Zimbabwe's current squad played in their last Test, against India in September 2005 - Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor and Tatenda Taibu

Quotes

"Recently people in the country have become inspired by cricket and it's exciting to have Zimbabwe coming back and to be a part of it."

Craig Ervine, the Zimbabwean batsman, on the country's historic return to Test cricket

"We expect it to dry up and start spinning from the third day. Obviously we didn't bat well in the practice match and we're going to improve on that."

Shakib Al Hasan on the conditions in Harare in winter

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent