Bulawayo — Batsman Brendan Taylor and fast bowler Kyle Jarvis will make their returns to international cricket on Saturday when Zimbabwe take on the West Indies in the first of two Tests in Bulawayo.
Jarvis has not played for Zimbabwe since signing a Kolpak deal with English county side Lancashire in 2013, while Taylor followed suit in 2015 when he moved to Nottinghamshire.
However both players have been lured back as part of Zimbabwe Cricket’s attempts to revive the national team, which, last year, included hiring former Zimbabwe captains Tatenda Taibu and Heath Streak as national selector and head coach respectively. Those appointments appear to be bearing some fruit: in July, Zimbabwe won their first one-day international series in Sri Lanka, and nearly pulled off an upset in a one-off Test as well.
The additions of Taylor, Jarvis and Solomon Mire, who was previously based in Australia, have given Zimbabwe the belief that they could cause an upset in their first home Test of the year. "I feel that we’ve probably got an even better team now than we had in Sri Lanka," Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer said on Friday. "We’ll take that confidence from Sri Lanka, but we know we can perform even better than that."
The West Indies are undergoing something of a resurgence themselves. Written off in the wake of an innings and 209-run thrashing by England at Edgbaston in August, they bounced back to win a pulsating second Test at Headingley, proving what they are capable of.
"I think we’ve had a pretty reasonable year in terms of improvement. The guys have been getting attuned to Test cricket," West Indies captain Jason Holder said. "We’re still not the finished product but we’re headed in the right direction."
At the heart of their improvement has been the faith shown by the selectors in a young group of players, with Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope emerging as two batsmen of promise.
Meanwhile, the pace of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel is likely to unsettle Zimbabwe’s batsmen, and the fast bowlers may also find some assistance in the hot, dry conditions at Queens Sports Club.
"With the Kookaburra balls, reverse swing is always a factor — they tend to reverse earlier than most and go a bit softer," said Holder. "I would expect some reverse swing in these dry conditions." Spin is also expected to play a part, so Zimbabwe could give left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro his first Test cap.
Zimbabwe squad: Graeme Cremer (C), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Regis Chakabva, Michael Chinouya, Chris Mpofu, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chisoro, Nyasha Mayavo.
West Indies squad: Jason Holder (C), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (WK), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.