Zimbabwe sweat on Streak
Of the quartet, Duffin, Coventry and Williams are likely to make their Test debuts while Mwayenga might have to wait as Zimbabwe look set to go into the match with three seamers and two spinners. Duffin is set to open the batting with Dion Ebrahim, who impressed the selectors with his superb 169 against the Indians. A technically sound left-hand batsman, Duffin missed out on the two Tests against New Zealand last month owing to a knee injury. He was unfairly left out of Zimbabwe's Tests against South Africa despite impressive performances for Zimbabwe A against Bangladesh A as the selectors kept their promise to play Ebrahim in the two games.
Brendan Taylor is expected to come in at No.3, with Tatenda Taibu at No.4. The selectors have to choose whether Hamilton Masakadza, who has been out of form of late, deserves another chance to redeem himself or to throw in the untried Williams. Masakadza scored 8 in the practice game against the Indians at Mutare while Williams scored 10, but he impressed the selectors with his ability to bat for long periods as he was at the crease for more than two hours and faced 91 balls. Williams is also a useful left-arm spinner and is likely to get the nod.
Coventry, a clean hitter of the ball seems set to be thrown in at No.6, but worries still remain on his ability to bat for long periods. He top scored with a brilliant 74 in Zimbabwe's four-wicket loss to India in their last match of the Videocon Cup and was Zimbabwe's most consistent batsman during that series. That led to the selectors giving him a chance to show that he can perform at this grueling level.
Zimbabwe's main worry is the fitness of their vice-captain and pace bowler Heath Streak, the only Zimbabwean bowler with the ability to trouble world-class batsmen. Streak underwent a minor operation last Saturday to remove a blood clot on his left shin after a ball hit him during the opening match of the Videocon Cup against New Zealand. Streak has not bowled since, and he will have a session in the nets on Monday. If fit, he will lead the bowling attack with Andy Blignaut and Blessing Mahwire, with left-arm spinner Keith Dabengwa and offspinner Prosper Utseya in support.
Utseya returns to the Test arena after impressing in the shorter version of the game. He played only one Test against Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club in May last year, and has since then been ignored as he has been regarded as a one-day specialist spinner. But his impressive performance in one-dayers, allied to legspinner Graeme Cremer's failure to make a mark, has to him being given another chance.
A worrying factor for Zimbabwe is that Waddington Mwayenga is the only other pace option, but sources close to the selectors have said either Christopher Mpofu or Anthony Ireland will be called in to supplement the squad should the need arise.
Zimbabwe Tatenda Taibu (capt/wkt), Andy Blignaut, Charles Coventry, Keith Dabengwa, Terence Duffin, Dion Ebrahim, Blessing Mahwire, Hamilton Masakadza, Waddington Mwayenga, Heath Streak (vice-captain), Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams.