Uncapped 21-year-old Blessing Muzarabani, more than two metres tall with the experience of only five first-class matches, has a “strong likelihood” of making his debut for Zimbabwe in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Muzarabani bowled 20 overs, conceded 74 runs and took the wickets of Test batsman Temba Bavuma and under-19 international Dayyaan Galiem in the warm-up match against the CSA Invitation XI last week, and though not expressly quick, Zimbabwe are keen to unleash him as soon as they can.
“He’s very tall, he gets a lot of bounce and he gets the ball through when he gets a good rhythm. There was good positive feedback from the warm-up game and we’ll look to him to get us breakthroughs in the Test match,” captain Graeme Cremer said.
Coach Heath Streak confirmed Muzarabani could earn his first cap in the fixture. “There’s a strong likelihood. He’s performed well in the warm-up game so there is a strong chance. We’re excited to have him because he offers some variation to what we have. He’s an exciting prospect for the future of Zimbabwe cricket,” Streak said.
If Muzarabani plays, he will join an attack that will be led by Kyle Jarvis and will also include Chris Mpofu. Tendai Chatara, who has recovered from an injury that kept him out of Test cricket for three years, could carry drinks.
Zimbabwe are likely to have several other bowling options as well with Cremer’s legspin, Sikandar Raza’s offpsin and Hamilton Masakadza’s medium pace, but proper pace is crucial given the format. This is Zimbabwe’s first pink-ball Test and first under lights. As they discovered in the warm-up match, even fairly placid conditions can offer seamers more at twilight.
“There’s definitely more that happens when the lights come on and later in the evening. It’s almost a reverse of red ball, where it does more during the day time and less at night.” Streak said.
That’s good news for Muzarabani and his ilk, and also for Cremer, who took eight wickets in the warm-up match and enjoyed his first spell of the pink ball. “I find the seam a bit rougher, similar to a Duke ball. I actually prefer it to the red ball, so I saw a difference,” Cremer said. “I find the shiny sides are more slippery than the red ball, but as a wristspinner, the seam is better.”
But it’s not such good news for Zimbabwe’s batting line-up. They were bowled out for 196 and 243 and lost the match. “We weren’t as happy as we would have liked to be with our batting, so that’s an area we’ve addressed. Hopefully we can get some runs on the board in this Test,” Streak said.