With not much at stake in the one-off Test between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in Harare, there is hardly any pre-match buzz. Zimbabwe are not part of the World Test Championship. Bangladesh are. But the home side has shown that it can provide stiff competition to higher-ranked sides in the longest format at times.
The match was expected to mark the comebacks for some key players. But Sean Williams and Craig Ervine have both been forced to self-isolate after coming in contact with Covid-19 positive family members. Brendan Taylor will be the stand-in captain for Zimbabwe.
Bangladesh will welcome back allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, who missed most of the West Indies series at home because of a left thigh injury and opted out of the Sri Lanka Tests in April to play in the IPL. Shakib brings the perfect balance to the Bangladesh side with his aggressive batting, accurate left-arm spin, and tremendous experience.
Zimbabwe have much to do in this Test after Pakistan crushed them in both Tests in their last series at home. Tendai Chatara returns to the Test squad, with Blessing Muzarabani very much the leader of the pace attack, while wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva has recent form on his side, having done well against Pakistan. Zimbabwe have also included four uncapped players – opener Takudzwanashe Kaitano, fast bowler Tanaka Chivanga, and batters Joylord Gumbie and Dion Myers – in their 20-member squad. Myers, in particular, has been impressive lately, with two half-centuries against South Africa A last month.
The visitors will have nothing but a win on their mind after losing three of their four Tests this year. As for Mominul Haque, he has won just one of his eight Tests as captain. He has often not had the services of all the big guns, and might be without Tamim Iqbal for this one.
Haque will also expect the likes of Saif Hassan, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Liton Das, who have all been plagued by inconsistency, to contribute. For Bangladesh, the pace attack will be led by Abu Jayed and Taskin Ahmed. However, given the nature of the Harare pitch, the spin duo of Shakib and Mehidy Hasan Miraz might have a big role to play.
Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are locked at seven wins apiece over the years, with three of their 17 matches ending in draws.
Last five completed matches
In the spotlight
Against Bangladesh, Brendan Taylor often brings out something special. On two occasions in the last seven years, he has scored hundreds in each innings of a Test against Bangladesh. Taylor also has five of his six Test centuries against the opponents and will once again be a vital cog in the Zimbabwe line-up.
Taskin Ahmed has worked hard on his fitness and skills in the rebuilding phase of his international career. He is not a newbie anymore in the Bangladesh attack and can bowl consistently for long periods. In conditions where patience will be key, Ahmed could play a crucial role for Bangladesh.
With Williams and Ervine in self-isolation, Milton Shumba could continue in the middle order, while newcomers Joylord Gumbie and Dion Myers may also be considered.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 3 Regis Chakabva (wk), 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Milton Shumba, 6 Joylord Gumbie/Dion Myers, 7 Donald Tiripano, 8 Roy Kaia, 9 Richard Ngarava, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Blessing Muzarabani
Shakib’s return will give Bangladesh the balance they missed in Sri Lanka in April. Iqbal remains an injury concern although Mushfiqur Rahim, who suffered a hairline fracture on his left index finger ahead of the tour of Zimbabwe, could be fit to play.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Abu Jayed, 11 Shoriful Islam
Pitch and conditions
Spinners might play a bigger role as the Test progresses at Harare Sports Club, where pitches tend to be on the slower side. Conditions are likely to be dry.
Stats that matter
Shakib needs 70 more runs to complete the double of 4000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket. The other members of this elite group are Garry Sobers, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Daniel Vettori and Jacques Kallis.
This is the third one-off Test between the two sides, with both having won one each in 2011 (Zimbabwe) and 2020 (Bangladesh).
“They have improved massively in the last 18 months in their understanding of fast bowling, skillset and endurance. I don’t think that day is too far away when a fast bowler wins Bangladesh a Test match in tough conditions.”
Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo on the side’s pace attack
“It is going to be a lot more competitive especially in our home conditions. We know our conditions quite well. It is always a big challenge playing in their backyard. Hopefully we have tailored the conditions to suit us. We have a young vibrant team, and we are excited to get going.”
Zimbabwe stand-in captain Brendan Taylor on the challenge