Zimbabwe set for busy home season

Steven Smith bowls in the nets as Usman Khawaja looks on Getty Images

Zimbabwe Cricket have confirmed that Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand will be touring the country in the course of a busy schedule in 2011 that includes both one-day internationals and Test matches, as well as a triangular series including South Africa and an Australian A side.

"The Zimbabwe Cricket team is scheduled to have a busy schedule in 2011-2012 season commencing in August," ZC managing director Ozias Bvute told News Day in Zimbabwe. "Tours have been confirmed with Bangladesh, Pakistan, New Zealand and a triangular series against South Africa and Australian 'A' sides."

Bvute admitted frustration at Zimbabwe's performance at the World Cup, where the team thrashed Canada and Kenya but struggled to be competitive against the top sides. He suggested that more matches against strong teams was the key to Zimbabwe's development.

"There is a lot of disappointment after our inability to progress to the quarter-finals at the World Cup, however, given the schedule of matches lined up over the next four years we feel this should adequately prepare our team for the next World Cup."

Zimbabwe's home season begins with Bangladesh's visit between July 1 and July 22. The two teams have been regular opponents in recent years, having played 18 ODIs against each other since January 2009, with Bangladesh winning 13 of those games. Zimbabwe will play a one-off Test match and four ODIs against them before Australia A arrive for a one-day tri-series also involving Zimbabwe and South Africa, and two four-day matches against the host. Match details are yet to be confirmed at this stage, but the tour will run from late June to late July.

Pakistan then visit for another Test match, three ODIs and two Twenty20 matches from July 26 to August 19. New Zealand, who sent an A side to Zimbabwe for an unofficial Test series against Zimbabwe A last year, have not yet finalised dates for their tour.

Understandably, the squads for visiting international sides are yet to be named, but Cricket Australia's National Selection Panel has announced a provisional 24-man squad which will be trimmed in May.

"We have given the provisional squad advanced notice for this tour to allow them sufficient time to prepare for the series pending selection in the final squad," said National Talent Manager Greg Chappell. "The Australia A program in recent years has played a big role in readying athletes for the rigors of international cricket, with players such as Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Cameron White and Mitchell Starc all coming into the Australian set-up at varying times over the last couple of years and having an impact.

"This group is a cross section of the best young players in the country. Some of them have already had a taste of international cricket and show signs of being among those that will be the backbone of our teams in the future, while the others have shown enough in domestic cricket to suggest that they are the type of cricketer that we will need to be able to challenge India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka for supremacy in the next few years.

"With the new World Test Championship and the new ODI ranking periods beginning straight after the ICC Cricket World Cup and with tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa later this year and New Zealand and India touring Australia next summer, it will be a great opportunity for these young players to show their skills and put their name forward to be part of this challenging period for Australian cricket," added Chappell.

The last time an Australian representative team visited Zimbabwe was in 2008, when a Centre of Excellence Scholarship team toured Africa.

Provisional Australia A squad: George Bailey, Michael Beer, Luke Butterworth, Trent Copeland, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson, Aaron Finch, Peter George, Jon Holland, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Nicolas Maddinson, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Stephen O'Keefe, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.