South Africa and Zimbabwe play each other in a one-off Test starting in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Saturday.
Venue: Harare Sports Club
Dates: Saturday, August 9, through Wednesday, August 13
Start time: 9 a.m. BST (10 a.m. local time)
TV and live stream: SuperSport (South Africa and Zimbabwe), PTV Sports (Pakistan), Ten Sports (India and others), Orbit Show Network (Middle East)
Weather: AccuWeather.com predicts a mild and cool five days in Harare. At the time of writing, there was no chance of rain, so a full day's play should be in order for all five days, should the Test last that long.
South Africa head to Zimbabwe for their one-off Test with the immense accomplishment of not having lost a series away from home in eight years. In contrast, Zimbabwe have not won a series since beating Bangladesh in a one-off Test back in 2011, if that can even count as a series.
South Africa have sent a full-strength squad to Zimbabwe, the same South African side which just beat Sri Lanka.
However, there are a few uncapped faces in the side, which could see South Africa experiment with a few new options. At the top of the South African batting order, Alviro Petersen has had a tough time recently. He has not scored a hundred since January 2013 and has only passed 30 thrice in his last 12 innings.
While South Africa have been known for persisting with players even when they are out of form, this is the ideal opportunity to try out something new and different. Stiaan van Zyl is in the squad, and although he doesn’t usually open in four-day cricket, he does do so in the shorter formats of the game.
Van Zyl was the top runscorer in South Africa’s domestic four-day competition and could earn himself a spot in the team as a trial against Zimbabwe.
Other possible changes could see Dane Piedt come in for Imran Tahir. Tahir has struggled for consistency as a spinner, even in conditions which flatter spinners. Piedt was the leading wicket-taker in the four-day domestic game last season and has showed much promise, so he could be set for being tested to see if he can live up to the hype.
South Africa might also want to rest one of their senior bowlers, who have all been rested for the ODI series. Kyle Abbott has been in good form on the county circuit in England and could come in to give some reprieve to one of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel or Vernon Philander.
Even with a bulk of changes, though, it’s going to be a tough outing for Zimbabwe. They do not play much Test cricket, and the gulf in class between the two sides is vast.
However, South Africa insist that they will not be taking this task lightly. JP Duminy said on Thursday that there is pressure on South Africa to “put in a big performance,” and he is quite right. Nothing more than a convincing win will do for the Proteas, with or without a host of changes.
Duminy chipped in with both bat and ball during South Africa's visit to Sri Lanka and is increasingly building toward becoming an all-rounder. His ability to shepherd the tail while still pumping out the runs is very handy should South Africa find themselves in the soup.
Zimbabwe have not played a Test this year, so it is almost impossible to judge who is in form and who is not. Captain Brendan Taylor will face a serious test of character in both his batting and the way he manages his players, though, and his motivational skills will be crucial.
Dean Elgar, Alviro Petersen, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla (c), AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock (w), Jean-Paul Duminy, Vernon Philander, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, Dane Piedt, Stiaan van Zyl
Brendan Taylor (c), Tendai Chatara, John Nyumbu, Richmond Mutumbami (w), Vusi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Mark Vermeulen, Sean Williams, Regis Chakabva, Elton Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza, Cuthbert Musoko, Tinashe Panyangara, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller
Quotes obtained first hand.
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