We preview the one-off Test between the Proteas and Zimbabwe, taking place in Harare from 9-13 August.
The equation is simple. It’s No 1 in the world vs No 9 in the world. One side has played 19 Tests in the past two years, while the other has played just six. In short, Zimbabwe are up against it this weekend.
The last time they played a Test was September 2013, 11 months ago, against Pakistan. On that occasion the men from up north claimed a famous and well-deserved victory. Unfortunately for Zimbawean fans, that will not be the case this time around.
The Proteas come into this Test fresh off a hard-fought series win in Sri Lanka, and are brimming with confidence. They have also decided to take their full-strength Test squad to Harare, so Zimbabwe will have to deal with the likes of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, are once again a side in the midst of profound change. They have a new coach, have seen two assistant coaches leave in recent months, and will have a side lacking experience in all the key areas. If they manage to lose by less than an innings, it will be considered something of a moral victory for the embattled nation. Things are that bad.
For the Proteas, look out for Vernon Philander. He didn’t take many wickets in Sri Lanka despite putting together some good spells of bowling, so he will be keen to cash in this weekend. And against some average batsmen, in conditions that suit his nagging line and length, he should be able to.
For Zimbabwe it’s all about Brendan Taylor. He is a genuine leader of the Test side, and will not give his wicket away, no matter the situation. If anyone in the hosts’ team has the potential to post a big score, it’s Taylor. The hope is that he will do just that in at least one innings, and make the game more of a contest.
There is only one possible outcome here – a resounding win for the Proteas. Anything less will simply be unacceptable, given the quality of their opposition.
Zimbabwe (25-man training squad) – Brendan Taylor (c), Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Steven Chimhamhiwa, Michael Chinouya, Luke Jongwe, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Neville Madziva, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingirai Masakadza, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Natsai M’shangwe, Cuthbert Musoko, Richmond Mutumbami, Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Prosper Utseya, Mark Vermeulen, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams
South Africa – Hashim Amla (c), AB de Villiers, Kyle Abbott, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/Backpagepix