HARARE: Zimbabwe hope to make a bright start under new coach Heath Streak when they mark their 100th Test in the opening game of a two-match series against Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Streak was handed the Zimbabwe reins two weeks ago as a long-term replacement for Dav Whatmore, who was sacked by Zimbabwe Cricket at the end of May.
A former Zimbabwe captain who played 65 Tests, Streak’s appointment has given the team much-needed structure ahead of the series, while they have also enjoyed some welcome match practice against Pakistan A over the past month.
“We’ve had some really good preparations with the games against Pakistan A, which has given the guys some match practice that was probably lacking in the previous Test series that we had,” Streak said on Friday.
“We saw that as the guys got into the Test series against New Zealand (in August) they started playing better, so hopefully this will stand us in good stead.”
Zimbabwe have fielded 99 different players in their first 99 Tests, and Streak all but confirmed that they would hand out another cap in Saturday’s first Test.
Top-order batsman Tarisai Musakanda and fast bowler Carl Mumba earned maiden call-ups to the Zimbabwe squad based on their performances against Pakistan A, with the latter the most likely to make a debut against Sri Lanka.
“It will be a nice stat, being the 100th Test match, and the possibility of the 100th cap is certainly on the cards for tomorrow,” Streak said.
“We’ve got some young guys who are pushing really hard now so there’s some good competition for positions.”
Zimbabwe’s chances of causing an upset against a Sri Lanka side that recently beat Australia 3-0 at home have been boosted by the touring side’s long injury list.
Regular captain Angelo Mathews and vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal are missing, along with fast bowlers Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera.
The absence of Mathews and Chandimal has paved the way for left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to make a remarkable captaincy debut at the ripe old age of 38, 17 years after making his Test debut.
Herath will be the oldest player to captain a Test team for the first time since Somachandra de Silva led Sri Lanka out in a Test match in Christchurch in 1983.
“Luckily I have played under a lot of captains so I can use that experience in bringing through the youngsters,” said Herath.
Although Sri Lanka visited Zimbabwe in 2010 for a one-day international tri-series, they have not played a Test here since 2004, when they thumped a Zimbabwe side shorn of its first team by the rebel saga.
“It’s been 12 years since we were here, so this is a new challenge and opportunity,” added Herath.
“Hopefully the guys who get the opportunity will play their best. This is a new challenge for me so I’ll take the experience very positively.”