ZIMBABWE will welcome back regular captain Brendan Taylor into the team ahead of the start of the second Test against Pakistan starting at Harare Sports Club this morning as they look to bounce back from last week’s disappointing 221-run defeat in the opening five-day game.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Taylor missed the opening game after being given some time off to be with his family following the birth of his son on the eve of last week’s first Test.
The 28-year-old batsman is expected to bolster Zimbabwe’s batting line-up while also taking back the captaincy role which had been temporarily taken over by Hamilton Masakadza.
Zimbabwe’s batting line-up performed well in the first innings with 327 runs in reply to Pakistan’s 249, but clearly missed the experience of Taylor in the second innings as they meekly folded for 120 runs chasing a target of 342 to win.
Zimbabwe will take some encouragement from the performances of Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura and Sikandar Raza though. The three are expected to retain their places in the side.
They made half-centuries in the first Test and occupied the crease for long spells especially in the first innings after the top order failed, hinting that a big score could be around the corner.
Should the selectors decide to keep faith in their middle order, Taylor’s comeback could be the only change to the side while Sean Williams could be left out of the team despite recently making himself available for the selection.
Although Tino Mawoyo could not make any significant contributions on his return to competitive cricket since March, he will be expected to retain his place at the top of the batting line-up alongside Vusi Sibanda.
In the bowling department, Tinashe Panyangara might retain his place alongside Tendai Chatara after an encouraging display in his comeback to Test cricket after a lengthy absence.
Panyangara bowled excellently, finishing with five wickets for the match, including excellent figures of four for 42 from 30 overs, including 14 maidens, in Pakistan’s patient second innings.
The only change in the bowling attack could be the return of Brian Vitori — most likely ahead of Shingi Masakadza.
Hamilton Masakadza, stand-in captain in the last match, expressed his concerns about the pitch at Harare Sports Club after the same venue hosted all three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals and last week’s first Test.
“It’s going to get a lot worse, a lot quicker,” Masakadza said. “It’s going to be tough for the groundsman with such a short turnaround and the spinners will definitely come into play much more in the second innings.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan will look to win consecutive Test matches for the first time in more than 18 months having last won two Tests in a row in January and February 2012, when they beat England 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates.
Since that series ended, Pakistan have played just seven Test matches, failing to win one until they claimed a 220-run success against Zimbabwe last week.
Zimbabwe: Tino Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Shingi Masakadza, Brian Vitori, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Khurram Manzoor, Asad Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Rahat Ali.