The Zimbabwean Test side had a torrid 2016, losing three matches by over 200 runs and a fourth by an innings. This year, they have witnessed something of a turnaround. After winning the ODI series in Sri Lanka, captain Graeme Cremer‘s Zimbabwe side nearly caused an upset in the Colombo Test. Cremer believes the team that will take on West Indies in Bulawayo in the first Test from Saturday is even better than the one that pushed Sri Lanka hard.
“I feel that we’ve probably got an even better team than we had in Sri Lanka,” Cremer said on the eve of the first Test. “We’ll take that confidence from Sri Lanka, but we know we can perform even better than that.”
Zimbabwe have been buoyed further by the return of batsman Brendan Taylor and seamer Kyle Jarvis to international cricket, and Cremer’s confidence was echoed by his coach, Heath Streak. “They bring a lot in terms of experience, and we know what they’re capable of,” Streak said. “And we’re focusing on playing our own brand of cricket and backing ourselves, rather than looking at the reputations of the opposition. With the ability that we have in our changeroom, we genuinely can go out and win.”
Though the conditions may suit Zimbabwe’s batting and spin-bowling strengths, both Streak and Cremer insisted Zimbabwe are wary of a West Indies side short on experience but having found some grit on their recent tour of England.
“We respect West Indies,” Streak said. “We saw what they were capable of in England, winning that Test. Despite that, we feel we’ve got the resources and the personnel to be able to win against these guys in a Test match in Bulawayo.”
West Indies have an advantage over Zimbabwe in terms of the pace of their seam attack, but Cremer pointed out that a traditionally sluggish Queens pitch may well blunt the likes of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel. As well as that, a slightly older, wiser Zimbabwean batting unit will have a little more to offer in terms of experience than the visitors.
“We feel that their seam attack is probably one of their strengths, but the Bulawayo pitch will negate that a bit,” Cremer said. “I think the pitch will be a little slow. Hopefully it will take some spin as the Test match goes on.
“They’ve got some good batters too, although they’re a little inexperienced. Our team is probably a little more experienced than they are. So we just want to play good consistent cricket over the five days. In Test cricket, even one bad session can hurt you.”
“We also obviously know the conditions ourselves, so all those things are factored in when we’re looking at the balance of our side and how might exploit any weaknesses in the opposition,” Streak added. “At the end of the day, it comes down to how well you execute those plans on the pitch. Being able to adapt, to think quickly on your feet, to adjust and adapt our strategies will be key.”