South Africa v Zimbabwe: One-Off Test Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

South Africa will play host to Zimbabwe in the very first four-day Test set to be contested in Port Elizabeth. 

India's delayed arrival forced Cricket South Africa too look for new Boxing Day opposition and, while Pakistan were in contention, Zimbabwe were the final choice.

The day-night Test will be a first in the country and its four-day nature, being trialled by the International Cricket Council, a first for Test match competition the world over.

South Africa v Zimbabwe | 26 December - 29 December | St George's Park, PE | 13:30

To Win Match
South Africa 1/11 | Draw 15/2 | Zimbabwe 28/1

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South Africa
A string of Proteas players will enter the Test on the back of participation in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge - and potentially face a tricky period adjusting from the shortest to the longest format. This applies to the batsmen in particular, while the bowlers will have extended spells rather than mere four-over allotments.

Faf du Plessis is in doubt for the one-off fixture, opening the door for Theunis de Bruyn. Who would captain the XI in du Plessis' absence, though, remains in the balance. Giving AB de Villiers the leadership in his return Test isn't wise, while Hashim Amla hasn't been entirely willing to do the job in the past. Dean Elgar, then, should get another Test as captain.

The biggest news centres around de Villiers and Steyn's inclusion in the squad - and probably the playing XI, too. The Proteas medical team have, understandably, been oh so careful in preparing Steyn for his comeback. There has been an obvious sense of urgency to get de Villiers back in the Test ranks, though.

This will not be South Africa's first day-night Test. They played under lights in Adelaide in November 2016, when Australia emerged comfortable victors. The Proteas' composition is pretty different now, though, with JP Duminy, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kyle Abbott and Stephen Cook no longer around. The opposition, admittedly, is significantly weaker as well.

South Africa, regardless, must not underestimate the visitors. This is a Zimbabwe outfit that managed to force a draw with the West Indies in October and have been known to surprise the biggest guns in limited-overs cricket. Victory for the tourists, or at least a draw, in a Test truncated by trial isn't a far stretch.

Zimbabwe will have learnt a lot from their three-day, day-night match against a Cricket South Africa Invitation XI at Boland Park in Paarl. The ins and outs of bowling with a swinging pink ball and the ups and downs of batting under lights genuinely challenged each of the XI, the bulk of which will playing the one-off Test.

Having Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis back in the team is a massive boost for the African minnows. The Nottinghamshire and Lancashire sign-offs would have encountered some Proteas players on the county circuit - and should have hatched plans for their eventual Zimbabwean returns. The inclusion of Sikandar Raza, too, makes for a threatening presence.

This will be Zimbabwe's first visit to Port Elizabeth for a Test - and they'll be determined to capitalise on a rather average record for the hosts at this ground. South Africa, indeed, have won just 11 of their 27 Tests here. They have, however, beaten the Zimbabweans by an innings on four occasions at other grounds.

Captain Graeme Cremer and coach Heath Streak have spoken a lot of the opportunity to pave the path ahead for Zimbabwean cricket. They've been rebuilding for a while now - and December is their chance to show exactly how well it is or isn't going. A respectable defeat would promise more, while heavy defeat could bring bigger questions.

Verdict: South Africa 1/11
Even if Steyn and de Villiers fire at just 50 percent and du Plessis doesn't play, one surmises South Africa will win comfortably, perhaps even in three days.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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