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Match Preview Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test 2020

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Big Picture

The last time these two teams met, Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka an almighty scare. Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza struck hundreds, captain Graeme Cremer took nine wickets, and Sri Lanka were made to chase 388 for victory at Khettarama. Had a very tight stumping decision gone Zimbabwe’s way in the back end of that chase, the visitors would have been headed towards an upset. Earlier on that tour, Zimbabwe had won the ODI series.

It’s been only a little over two years since those series, but how much has changed. The optimism that Zimbabwe ended that tour with has not just dissipated in the time since, it has been replaced by gloom. Having been suspended from full-member rights for a large chunk of 2019, Zimbabwe Cricket has had to put a domestic tournament on hold, pending further funding from the ICC.

On the player front, Cremer is not even in the team, having put his career on hold to move to Dubai with his family, while Hamilton Masakadza has retired and swiftly become Zimbabwe’s director of cricket. PJ Moor – one of the best players from that Khettarama game – has been overlooked for the squad as well. In fact, where that old Zimbabwe squad had a little experience about it, the one that has been named for this series features five players who are uncapped in Tests.

It’s a strange series in which Sri Lanka actually appear to have the more stable outfit. Yes, it is Dimuth Karunaratne leading the Test team now, when it had been Dinesh Chandimal at these teams’ last meeting. But at least Chandimal still finds a place in the XI. Having named their strongest squad, Sri Lanka have serious experience on their side, particularly in Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal, who returns after having missed the entire Pakistan series.

The visitors go in as favourites, but they are far from unbeatable. There are huge questions over Dilruwan Perera‘s ability to lead the spin attack after he went wicketless in Pakistan. The top order has shown flashes of brilliance, but is in no way a consistent or cohesive unit. There are plenty of cricketers playing for their spot, which of course opens up opportunities for Zimbabwe.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LWLDL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDLWW

In the spotlight

The last time Zimbabwe won a Test, in late 2018, Sean Williams first-innings 88 had led them to 282 in Sylhet – a total that proved decisive on that surface, where each of the three other innings fell short of 200. His left-arm spin has also been helpful, such as against West Indies in Bulawayo, the previous year. Now, as he prepares to captain his first Test, he has the likes of Brendan Taylor, Raza and Ervine to call upon for support, but if he can make his own individual mark on the series, it may help a side playing their first Test in over a year rally behind him, and spark a little of that hope they found in their last encounters with Sri Lanka.

In September 2015, Angelo Mathews batting average was a touch above 52, and he was easily one of the best players in the world. At the start of 2020, his average is 43.87, the lowest it’s been in at least six years. Injuries have plagued him, yes, but even those can’t quite account for how he is now merely a good player, when once he was headed toward “great” status. Although it seems as if he’s been around forever, Mathews is only 32 – the kind of age at which many batsmen come into their most prolific years. In the last few months, he has also dropped a lot of the weight he carried through the last few years and suddenly seems as fit as he’s ever been. Can Mathews recapture the form of old? With a challenging year ahead, Sri Lanka are desperate for someone to lead the middle order as he once did.

Team news

Opener Kevin Kasuza, who has been in decent domestic form for Mountaineers, could be in line for a Test debut. He could be partnered by Rhinos opener Prince Masvaure. Seam bowler Victor Nyauchi is one of several bowlers who could debut, with Tendai Chatara out of the series with a bicep injury. Left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu is uncapped in Tests as well, and could get a run, if Zimbabwe feel they need a specialist spinner in addition to Raza and Williams.

Zimbabwe(possible): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams (capt.), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Regis Chakabva (wk), 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Victor Nyauchi, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Ainsley Ndlovu

Sri Lanka’s top order should be fairly settled – Lahiru Thirimanne the likeliest to sit out. Lahiru Kumara and Lakmal will most likely share the new ball, while Dilruwan and Lasith Embuldeniya will probably be the frontline spin options.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Oshada Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

There’s rain scheduled for the first half of Saturday, with showers predicted for Monday and Tuesday as well. The Harare Sports Club surface is generally good for batting in the first innings.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe have lost five matches and drawn five at home against Sri Lanka. The most recent of those draws, though, was all the way back in 1999. Their last two matches at the Harare Sports Club against Sri Lanka have ended in 225-run and 257-run defeats.

  • Ervine needs 59 more runs to complete 1000 in Tests. His highest score was the 160 at Khettarama in 2017.

  • Mathews has averaged less than 30 with the bat in three of the last four calendar years.



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Recent Match Report – New Zealand Women vs South Africa Women 2nd T20I 2020

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New Zealand women 120 for 5 (Devine 61, Khaka 2-24) beat South Africa women 119 all out (Du Preez 40, Tahuhu 2-10) by five wickets

Lea Tahuhu and Sophie Devine were in outstanding form for New Zealand, securing the team a 2-0 lead over South Africa in the ongoing five-match T20I series. Having slumped to a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI leg of the contest, this five-wicket victory to follow the equally convincing one on Sunday must taste all the more sweeter.

It was set up by a bowling performance that allowed only three South African batters into double-digits. Tahuhu was crucial, her four overs going for only 10 runs while also yielding the wickets of the captain Dane van Niekerk for 25 and the big-hitting Chloe Tryon for a duck. Mignon du Preez provided the only resistance to New Zealand, hammering 40 runs off only 26 balls. South Africa slumped from 94 for 3 in the 14th over to 119 all out.

After a wobbly start to the chase – 27 for 2 – opener Devine took control with a rapid half-century – 61 off 43, with five sixes and three fours. Her efforts ensured New Zealand were in sight of victory by the 13th over and though a few more wickets fell after that, it was more of a footnote.



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The Ranji Trophy blog – 9th round

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ESPNcricinfo’s live updates on all the action from the final round of Ranji Trophy 2019-20 group games. If the blog doesn’t load for you straightaway, please refresh your page.



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Seven Kolpak players South Africa would love to have back

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With Kolpak deals set to be nullified at the end of the year, South Africa could find itself with a whole lot of new (old) players to choose from. Though many of the current Kolpak clutch are likely to become overseas players at their counties, like the South African rugby players who ply their trade at European and Japanese clubs, they would technically be eligible for national selection. Given how well it worked for the Springboks, who won the World Cup for the third time last year, Cricket South Africa will doubtless be under pressure to accommodate their internationally based players. If they do, here’s the super seven we’d like to see in the mix.

Those we’d pick, just like that

Kyle Abbott

It’s a no-brainer – given his 182 wickets in three seasons in the Championship at an average of 18.62, the retirement of Vernon Philander and the current bowling stocks – that Abbott would walk his way back into the national team in all formats. South Africa have quick bowlers in Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi but need someone with the skill to move the ball at will. Abbott can do that, through the air and off the seam, and his experience would be a welcome addition to an outfit in transition.

Duanne Olivier

With Nortje doing the job Olivier did in his breakthrough summer, it may not be as easy for Olivier to saunter back into the side but he would definitely cause a healthy selection dilemma. Olivier’s nous for striking regularly, his pace and the bounce he generates are reminiscent of the role Morne Morkel (another Kolpak, but at 35, we’ll leave him be) played and though Olivier may not be able to displace Nortje immediately, he would provide more-than-handy back-up and allow for workload rotation.

The ones we’d grudgingly welcome back

Simon Harmer

Having argued with many prominent figures in the current system (Ashwell Prince is the latest – again), and called himself the best offspinner in the world (what say you to that, R Ashwin or Nathon Lyon?) Simon Harmer is not everybody’s cup of tea, but his 212 wickets at 20.25 in three county summers simply cannot be ignored. South Africa tend to anoint only one spinner per generation and this time it’s Keshav Maharaj, who could use someone of real quality nipping at his heels. Harmer initially left with the intention to improve and come back, so now that he has done the former, South Africans may not be opposed to him trying out the latter.

Rilee Rossouw

That’s Rilee with one l, just so we’re clear. Like Harmer, Rossouw rubbed some people (most notably Russell Domingo, whose name Rossouw spelt with only one l in a goodbye email to his then-national coach) up the wrong way but his precocious talent could come in handy at a time when South Africa need more free-flowing batsmen. Rossouw was being primed to step into the gap left by AB de Villiers, who may yet return for the T20 World Cup but can’t lengthen his comeback forever, and although he seems a limited-overs shoe-in, his early red-ball career suggests he may also be a contender in the longer format.

The one who would strengthen the domestic game

Dane Vilas

While it was difficult to choose just one of the former domestic veterans – which include Heino Kuhn, Farhaan Behardien, David Wiese and Hardus Viljoen – to strengthen a system desperate for old hands, Vilas, the captain of the inaugural Mzansi Super League champions, the Jozi Stars, and a son of the Johannesburg soil, stands out. Not only does he have consistent batting form over several seasons but Vilas has the personality for mentorship. This may be a tough one to swing though, because Vilas has planted roots in the UK and is building a home there, but with family still heavily involved in the game in South Africa – his mother Anne has had a long-term relationship with the Gauteng Cricket Board and in sports equipment – perhaps he could be persuaded.

The ones who can coach

Hashim Amla

His reluctance to captain does not mean Hashim Amla has a similar feeling about coaching as roles with the Cape Town Blitz and now, the Peshawar Zalmi, prove. Amla’s ability to inspire is a must in the current South African set-up, which would also benefit from his level-headed and thoughtful approach to his game. No-one begrudges recent retirees their late-career Kolpak cash-ins but in Cricket South Africa’s new push to involve former players, securing Amla’s involvement would be a major coup.

Vernon Philander

The same would apply to Vernon Philander, who called time on his career last month, and has already been spoken about by acting director of cricket Graeme Smith as someone CSA need to find a role for in the set-up. While the current national bowling coach, Charl Langeveldt, has done a good job in upskilling the likes of Lungi Ngidi (for whom slower balls and cutters are now a regular feature of his game), there needs to be someone who can work with aspirant internationals and Philander would be a perfect candidate.



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