Zimbabwe vs New Zealand: First Test Preview

Zimbabwe and New Zealand go head to head in the first of two Test matches in Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe and New Zealand will go head to head in the first of  two Test matches at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe will host a two-match Test series against New Zealand looking to win their first series since their 1-0 triumph over Bangladesh in 2011.

New Zealand are heavy favourites here, and bar any miracles, should win the series quite comfortably. That said, the Southern Africans will be looking to spring the biggest cricketing surprise of 2016. Whether they can do it or not remains to be seen, let’s take a look!

Zimbabwe vs New Zealand | 28 July – 1 August | Queens Sports Club | Bulawayo 

To Win Match
Zimbabwe 16/1 | Draw 11/2 | New Zealand 2/13

Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean cricket feels as though it’s been in a transitional phase ever since they were welcomed back into Test cricket in 2011. A slew of captains, a number of players who just don’t quite cut it at this level as well as an administrative body that finds itself in dire straits.

That said, the squad under the tutelage of Makhaya Ntini and the leadership of newly appointed Test captain, Graeme Cremer will be looking to – at the very least – make this series as competitive as possible. One feels that the last thing Zimbabwean cricket needs right now is two back-to-back innings defeats at the hands of the team ranked fifth on the ICC’s official Test rankings.

Vusi Sibanda has finally been dropped from the squad after sixteen years of service to the national Test setup. In that time he’s only played 14 Tests and averaged a shade over 21. In his place comes Tino Mawoyo who hasn’t played international cricket for over two years. He was involved in the A side’s exploits against South Africa A as well as the New Zealand touring side. His form prior to that has been fairly dire in the Logan Cup for Mountaineers. In the eight innings leading up to the ‘A’ series only yielded 72 runs at an average of 9.

He finished 45th in the Logan Cup run stakes, so why he’s been called up to the side remains a mystery to me, although I’m not familiar with domestic cricket in Zimbabwe. There must be someone out there with better recent form than Mawoyo? Perhaps not.

Zimbabwe’s competitiveness with the bat will likely hinge around how well Craig Irvine a Sean Williams do against a strong New Zealand attack. Ervine finished atop the Logan Cup run-scoring charts, claiming 477 in three matches including a magnificent double-century against Mountaineers for Tuskers. Williams finished 30th having only played once as he was involved the Brothers Union side in Dhaka Premier Division in Bangladesh.

I’m not really sure Zimbabwe can hold a candle to New Zealand at the moment. They’re a side in turmoil at the minute and will come up against one of the best drilled teams in world cricket. Let’s hope for their sake that they can make the first match competitive.

New Zealand
The New Zealanders got their tour of Zimbabwe off to the ideal start following their 259 romping of a pretty average Zimbabwe ‘A’ side. Martin Guptill, Mitchell Santner, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Ish Sodhi and Kane Williamson all got amongst the runs; albeit against a very weak bowling attack.

Let’s be honest here, the New Zealanders are going to use this series to warm up for their two-match series against the South Africans toward the end of August. They’ve brought along a strong squad that that should make short work of the Zimbabweans.

That said, they’re not taking their opposition lightly. Tom Latham came out this week saying that they need to exercise patience against their more unfancied opponents. “The conditions are low and slow compared to what we have back home and we need to adjust to them. It’s about being patient and playing the long game. It’s more about the patience side of things, you are not going to go and blast quick runs over here. So, it’s about the patience game, and wearing the bowlers down, and batting for a day or four sessions, and that is probably the biggest thing for this batting group.”

They definitely have the batting line-up to do just that – bat long and accumulate a massive score, especially against such a weak bowling attack. Both Latham and Martin Guptill have the ability to put the game out of Zimbabwe’s reach, however, they’ll need to address the impatience that has plagued them in the past. This is especially true for Guptill who only averages 29.92 – simply not good enough for a Test opener or a player of the Auckland native’s unquestionable ability.

While the opening combination is solid, there’s no doubting who the main man is. This series will be the first time that Kane Williamson leads the side as the full-fledged captain of the national side. The 25-year-old should have very little trouble racking up big scores against the Zimbabweans and will look to add to his 4037 Test runs. He’ll be joined in the top-middle order by Luke Ronchi and Ross Taylor

We can harp on all day about the strength of the Kiwi’s batting, however, it simply wouldn’t be right to overlook their bowling attack. We all know about the ability of guys like Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mark Craig and Matt Henry; but I’m most interested in seeing Ish Sodhi get a go on the slow Bulawayo deck. The India-born leggie isn’t afraid of throwing the ball up in the quest for wickets. He generates massive spin and will a constant thorn in the side of the Zimbabwean batsmen.

Verdict: New Zealand 2/13
This is a no-brainer, barring any miracles or three days of heavy rain, New Zealand will win this Test… comfortably. While 2/13 doesn’t really offer that much value, it could be something to add into your mid-term multiples.

Value Bet: Sean Williams to top score in Zimbabwe’s first innings at 7/2
Sean Williams is a quality batsman, probably the best Zimbabwe has produced in the last few years. While he’s only ever played two Tests, his solid ODI and T20 International averages (33.4 and 22.7) are evidence of his undoubted quality in a team of perennial underachievers.

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.

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