Blignaut included in squad for Twenty20
Andy Blignaut is set to return to international cricket after a hiatus of almost five years after he was included in Zimbabwe's squad for the World Twenty20 in West Indies.
His inclusion completes a remarkable return by Blignaut, 31, who was one of the 'rebel' cricketers whose row with Zimbabwe's cricket board resulted in the sacking of 15 senior white players in 2004. He subsequently returned to the side, and had been tipped as a potential national captain, but then walked out again in 2006 over after a disagreement about money owed to him by the board.
Blignaut hinted at a possible comeback in January this year, and after his fitness had been assessed by the Matabeleland Tuskers franchise he returned to action in Zimbabwe's domestic Twenty20 competition, striking 111 runs in four innings at an average of 37.00 and a strike rate of 133.73, including a matchwinning half century on his return to competitive cricket. He was then included in a provisional squad for Zimbabwe's tour of the West Indies, but didn't make the final touring party.
The 15-man group also includes batsman Craig Ervine, the younger brother of former national player Sean Ervine, who has returned to Zimbabwe but is still tied to a contract with Hampshire. Shingi Masakadza and Stuart Matsikenyeri, who were both members of the Zimbabwe side that toured the West Indies in March, have not been included in the squad.
Masakadza played in only one international game on the tour, taking two wickets in the final over of the second ODI in Guyana to set up a tense two-run win on his international debut. Despite good returns in domestic cricket, Matsikenyeri was woefully out of form on the tour, scoring just 42 runs in six innings.
Chamu Chibhabha also returns to the national set-up, being reward for his sparkling Twenty20 form for the Southern Rocks. He was the second-highest run scorer in this season's Twenty20 tournament, racking up 230 runs at 57.50, including three fifties.
With Zimbabwe seeking to bolster their sparse fast-bowling resources as they build towards a return to Test cricket, Tendai Chatara, the Zimbabwe Under-19 opening bowler, will travel with the team to the West Indies to gain some experience of cricket at higher levels, and will play in a four-day match against West Indies A, starting on April 16, before returning home.
The World Twenty20 tournament, which begins on April 30, will also see new coach Alan Butcher take control of the side for the first time. Zimbabwe are grouped with Sri Lanka and New Zealand at the competition, and begin their campaign with a game against the Sri Lankans at the Providence stadium in Guyana on May 3.
Zimbabwe squad Prosper Utseya (capt), Brendan Taylor, Charles Coventry, Andy Blignaut, Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Greg Lamb, Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Ray Price, Graeme Cremer, Chamu Chibhabha, Chris Mpofu, Timycen Maruma, Craig Ervine