Zimbabwe switch focus to fast bowlers
Zimbabwe are re-adjusting the focus of their bowling attack from spin to seam in preparation for their return to Test cricket against Bangladesh in August. Spinners have increasingly become Zimbabwe's mainstay in limited-overs cricket, but national coach Alan Butcher believes that in order to be successful in Tests good fast bowlers are a necessity.
"We are working with about 14 fast and medium-fast bowlers hoping that they will be fine-tuned to get them ready for the Test matches," Butcher told The Independent in Zimbabwe. "In the limited-over games we would get away with playing three or four spinners and one fast bowler but for the Tests we will need more of the fast bowlers.
"We have a number of young bowlers that we have brought in and we will have to fast-track some of them so that they are ready for our first Test against Bangladesh. It is a big challenge and Test matches are more challenging but we are confident we can get them ready well in time."
Before the series against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe will face Australia A in two four-day matches and a one-day tri-series also involving South Africa. Butcher pointed to the first-class games, in particular, as being vital to Zimbabwe's preparations for home Tests against Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan.
"If we win those matches then it means we will be well ready for the Bangladesh Challenge. They [Australia] selected a very strong squad, never mind the 'A' tag, and if we can win against such a team I am sure we will be able to beat Bangladesh. We will also play a triangular 50-over series that will include South Africa and it will be important that we compete because these are two very strong teams that we will be facing."
Chris Mpofu, Shingi Masakadza and Ed Rainsford are Zimbabwe's senior fast bowlers, but they were away on national duty for much of last season and in their absence a younger crop of largely untested seamers has come to the fore, some of whom could well feature in Zimbabwe's Test plans.
Tendai Chatara, a 20-year-old seamer with both pace and movement at his disposal, topped the Logan Cup wicket tables with 55 scalps at 17.69. Chatara has already played for Zimbabwe - in a Twenty20 against India last year - but it is his commendable first-class record that will grab the selectors' attention.
Also in the running for a Test debut is Matabeleland Tuskers allrounder Keegan Meth, who does not have Chatara's pace but whose control and ability to move the ball brought him 54 wickets at the eye-catching average of 13.31 in nine first-class games last season, culminating in the extraordinary match figures of 13 for 109 in the Logan Cup final, won by Tuskers.
Ian Nicolson, probably one of the fastest bowlers in the country, appeared out of his depth against South Africa in October but had a strong domestic first-class season. Tuskers' Njabulo Ncube has developed into a skiddy, attacking fast bowler and, though he did not play any first-class cricket last season, Kyle Jarvis could yet force his way back into national reckoning. Jarvis, 22, bowled with impressive pace before picking up a stress fracture in his back before Zimbabwe's trip to the Caribbean early last year. After a lengthy rehabilitation, Jarvis secured a club contract with Burwell in the East Anglian Premier League and was then picked up by Essex to play in their Second XI, starting impressively against MCC's Young Cricketers.