Black Caps usher in new era against Zimbabwe
BULAWAYO: New captain Kane Williamson has promised that New Zealand will continue their positive approach to Test cricket under his leadership.
But he warned that the brand may look a little different when they face Zimbabwe in the first of two Test matches at Queens Sports Club.
Williamson will become New Zealand’s 29th Test captain when he leads the Black Caps out on Thursday, taking over from Brendon McCullum following his retirement from the international game in February.
McCullum was credited with turning around New Zealand’s fortunes and image over his last three years as captain, when he led them to the final of the 50-over World Cup and adopted a popular, attacking outlook.
Under his watch, New Zealand drew just three of their last 21 Test matches, and one of their last 12.
Williamson promised to carry on that legacy, but said that the nature of the Queens pitch may force him to adopt alternative fields to what fans are used to seeing from the Black Caps.
“We’re certainly going to play in a way that gives us the best chance to win, which is what we do every time we go out in a Test match,” he said on Wednesday.
“How ‘attacking’ looks on some of these surfaces may be different, it may not be four slips and two gullies because there might be no point in doing that.
“You don’t tend to get the pace and bounce that you do in other parts of the world which can help bowlers take wickets, so you have to try and skin it another way.”
Zimbabwe have not played a Test match since losing a series 3-0 to Bangladesh in November 2014, but New Zealand have not forgotten the last time that they met in Bulawayo, when the hosts threatened to chase down a target of 366 and lost by just 34 runs.
As such, New Zealand will not be taking the home side lightly.
“They know these conditions better than anyone so we are expecting a tough challenge,” said Williamson.
“That last Test match could have gone either way up until the last few overs of the last day – it was an exciting game and no doubt it will be another hard-fought match this time around.”
Zimbabwe will be without strike bowlers Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara as well as opening batsman Tino Mawoyo, while legspinner Graeme Cremer will captain for the first time in a Test.
Although Zimbabwe’s recent lack of five-day experience will be an obvious hindrance, interim coach Makhaya Ntini also sees it as a motivational factor.
“My boys are ready because they have been waiting for too long to play Test cricket,” he said.
“This country is a Test country and we don’t have enough of those. They have been waiting for too long to show how hungry they are.”