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It’s match on in Harare

Zimbabwe’s players set to take the field in first Test against Pakistan despite disputes with Board

It’s match on in Harare - Cricket News
Issues with the board aside, Zimbabwe is all set to take on Pakistan in the first Test tomorrow.
Zimbabwe’s players confirmed on match eve that they would take the field on Tuesday (September 3) in the first Test match against Pakistan at Harare, despite the disputes between the recently formed players’ union and the Zimbabwe Cricket board. Vusi Sibanda, the opening batsman, said: “Yes we will play tomorrow and we had practice today and definitely the game is on tomorrow.”

Zimbabwe’s first task is to find a way of picking up 20 Pakistani wickets if it is to cause an upset. Its afternoon practice session was dented by Sean William’s departure, as he withdrew from the squad as he was unhappy with the terms of the contract Zimbabwe Cricket had offered him.

The players and the board initially had a standoff before the ODI series last week but the players agreed to play after a pledge from the board to pay salaries during the tour. When the board did not honour its promise, the players had a series of meetings in which they demanded payment dating back to the Bangladesh tour to the current tour, even after July salaries were paid. On Monday, Zimbabwe Cricket assured the players that the unpaid dues would reach their bank accounts by Friday (September 6).

Brendan Taylor, the captain, was not able to spend the full day with the team, as he had to be with his wife, who is due to deliver their first child at any moment.

The task of taking 20 wickets will be a tall order as Kyle Jarvis is no longer available as he retired from international cricket at 24, and Graeme Cremer pulled out from the squad due to pressing family issues.

Pakistan was likely to miss Mohammed Hafeez, who suffered a hamstring injury during Pakistan’s 108-run ODI win against Zimbabwe on August 31. Hafeez will face a late fitness test ahead of the first Test. “We are still having a look at him and we will know by tomorrow morning if he will be able to play,” said Moin Khan, Pakistan’s manager. Sources told Wisden India that Hafeez would be taken for an MRI scan after Pakistan’s afternoon practice session at Harare Sports Club on Monday, September 2.

Junaid Khan, the quick bowler, will lead Pakistan’s bowling attack and promised to keep a tight lid on all Zimbabwean batsmen after reading the easy batting conditions on the pitch. “Bowling wicket to wicket and having good line and length will be the key. The pitch is going to support seamers to start with, but as time goes on, it may have reverse swing as well, so there is something for the fast bowlers,” said Junaid. “It will not matter which batsmen will be at the crease the main aim is taking ten wickets an innings.”

Both squads are better served by their batting, on paper, with even Zimbabwe boasting players such as Tinotenda Mawoyo, who scored 163* against Pakistan in 2011, and the difference between the teams could be the bowling.

“The pitch looks like it will favour fast bowlers. It’s got a lot of green grass,” said Prosper Utseya, Zimbabwe’s main spin weapon. “We just need to be disciplined as bowling unit and create enough dot balls. We need to make the new ball count and take all our chances.”

Utseya looked forward to bowling in tandem with Natsai Mushangwe. “We understand each other well as we have played together before,” said Utseya. “We played three seasons in the domestic first-class for Mountaineers. In the spin department we should be fine.”

Teams:

Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Abdur Rahman, Adnan Akmal (wk), Azhar Ali, Ehsan Adil, Faisal Iqbal, Junaid Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Hafeez, Rahat Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Shan Masood, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan, Imran Farhat.

Zimbabwe (likely): Tinotenda Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor (capt, wk), Hamilton Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbani, Sikander Raza Butt, Malcolm Waller, Prosper Utseya, Natsai Mushangwe, Brian Vitori and Tinashe Panyangara.

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