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October 11, 2011
Keegan Meth could return to international cricket during Zimbabwe's Twenty20 series against New Zealand after being named in their squad for the matches on October 15 and October 17. Meth suffered a horrific mouth injury after being struck by the ball during an ODI against Bangladesh in August, but has showed good all-round form since returning to competitive cricket with Matabeleland Tuskers.
The names on Zimbabwe's team list showed continuity in selection after their home series against Bangladesh and Pakistan, but Brian Vitori's was a notable absence. After an explosive start to his international career against Bangladesh, Vitori found Pakistan more of a challenge and was sidelined by a shin niggle during their visit. He has not played a competitive match since the third ODI against Pakistan, and has not taken part in the opening rounds of matches in Zimbabwe's domestic season.
He is yet to regain full fitness, but is expected to return in time for the one-off Test against New Zealand on November 1. Another injury casualty, batsman Craig Ervine, will play no part in the tour, however, after being ruled out with a shoulder injury.
"I'm happy with the balance of the side, but obviously the injuries to Ervine and Vitori mean that we have to make minor changes to our plans," said coach Alan Butcher. "But I feel we have a strong squad which can compete against New Zealand. New Zealand are bringing a very strong squad, but it's going to be important for the players to believe that they can compete which hopefully can see us cause some surprises."
Chris Mpofu and Kyle Jarvis will lead the seam attack in Vitori's absence, with Meth and former captain Elton Chigumbura able to provide medium-paced support. Indeed, depending on what bowling combination is opted for, Chigumbura and Meth could both be competing for one allrounder's slot in the line-up, particularly as both Ray Price and Prosper Utseya are in the squad and likely to play.
There is also a third slow-bowling option in the group in the form of Mountaineers legspinner Natsai Mushangwe. Mushangwe, 20, has risen through the ranks during Graeme Cremer's injury lay-off, and was part of the Zimbabwe XI team that took on A sides from Australia and South Africa during the winter.
With Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Tatenda Taibu virtual certainties in the starting XI, there will be some stiff competition for batting places between Charles Coventry, Chamu Chibhabha, Forster Mutizwa and Malcolm Waller.
Waller and Mutizwa have both started the domestic season in purring form, Waller having slammed 174 during his 341-run stand with Gary Ballance in the innings victory over Southern Rocks and followed that up with an unbeaten 59-ball 86 in the tied one-day match against the same opposition. Mutizwa has also found the Rocks attack to his liking, his 73 guiding Mashonaland Eagles to a six-wicket win over them at Masvingo Sports Club and his unbeaten 164 securing a hefty fourth-innings run chase in the Logan Cup.
Coventry, on the other hand, has not played any domestic cricket since Pakistan's visit, while Chibhabha has managed a pair of first-class half-centuries in two Rocks defeats. Both men have undeniable potential and international experience, however, which may swing selection in their favour.
After the two Twenty20s in Harare, Zimbabwe will play three one-day internationals against New Zealand, the third of that will be played at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, which is also the venue for the Test match which begins on November 1.
Zimbabwe Twenty20 squad: Brendan Taylor (Captain), Charles Coventry, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Keegan Meth, Natsai M'shangwe, Christopher Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa, Raymond Price, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?