Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE are set to play their first Test cricket match in almost two years after the West Indies confirmed they will be touring the country for a two-match series to be held at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
The Chevrons’ last Test match was way back in July 2021 against Bangladesh in Harare and, according to Zimbabwe Cricket Director of Cricket Hamilton Masakadza, the hosts will be eager to make the most of the upcoming series.
Both ZC and the Cricket West Indies board of directors confirmed the schedule, with the first Test slated for February 4-8, and the second Test match set for February 12-16. All matches are pencilled in for 10am starting time. The West Indies are expected to fine-tune for the series with a four-day warm-up match against a local side set for January 28-31 at Bulawayo Athletic Club.
“We are pleased to confirm the West Indies will be visiting us for two Test matches that will be played in Bulawayo.
“Although it’s been a while since we last played Test cricket, our boys will be hungry and ready for some red-ball action and I believe an exciting series against one of the game’s top sides is on the cards,” said Masakadza.
The last Test series between Zimbabwe and the West Indies was also played at Queens Sports Club in October 2017. The West Indies clinched the two-match series, having won the first game by 117 runs while the second match ended in a draw.
CWI’s Director of Cricket Jimmy Adams said the upcoming tour was crucial for the Windies as they kick-off their busy schedule for 2023. They are set to proceed to South Africa for a multi-format tour, soon after playing in Zimbabwe.
“The tour to Zimbabwe early in 2023 will be an important part of our 2023 Test programme, which also includes series against South Africa and India.
“Having produced some good results early in 2022, the team will be eager to begin the year with strong performances in Zimbabwe,” said Adams.
Zimbabwe and the West Indies have played five Test series between themselves with the Caribbean Islands outfit winning all. The West Indies have toured Zimbabwe thrice while the Chevrons travelled twice across the Atlantic for Test matches.
In total, 10 Test matches have been played between them, with the Windies winning seven while three ended in draws.
Most importantly, Zimbabwe will be featuring in a Test after one-and-a-half years, having last played the format in July 2021 at home against Bangladesh, in a one-off Test which the visitors won.
The Chevrons’ last win in the long version was in 2021 when they beat Afghanistan away at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in UAE. They have played four Test matches since then and finished on the losing side.
They don’t often play Test matches and the team would be pleased to end the prolonged drought. New coach Dave Houghton will also be eager to see how his team will fare in his first Test assignment in charge after engineering a transformation in white ball cricket in the last few months.
The Windies will also be under a new coach after the Cricket West Indies board named Andre Coley as the interim coach for the team’s tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Coley (48) took over from Phil Simmons who announced his decision to step down after the Australia series in the wake of West Indies’ poor outing at the recent ICC T20 World Cup. Interestingly, Simmons is also a former Zimbabwe coach.
“Following a meeting of the Cricket West Indies’ (CWI) Board of Directors on Monday 19 December, CWI announced that Coley will oversee the two-Test tour of Zimbabwe from 28 January to 16 February, as well as the multi-format tour of South Africa, which includes two Tests, three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three T20 Internationals (T20Is) from 21 February to 28 March,” said CWI in a statement.
The former Jamaica wicket-keeper/batter, is currently head coach of the CWI Academy programme. Coley previously served as the Assistant Academy Head Coach and Interim Academy head coach when the Sagicor Academy was launched in 2010.
He was also head coach of the West Indies Under-19 team; assistant coach of the West Indies Men’s and Women’s teams, as well as head coach of Jamaica Scorpions and Windward Islands Volcanoes, who were the 2018 Super50 Cup Champions.
In 2016 he was assistant coach of the West Indies Men’s Team which won the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup under Simmons. Earlier this year, he was assistant coach of Jamaica Tallawahs when they captured the Caribbean Premier League title.
“To be asked to oversee the West Indies team on the upcoming tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa is a special honour,” said Coley.
“West Indies cricket holds a special place in my heart. The upcoming assignment will be challenging as we will come up against two teams in their home conditions.
“We will need to ensure that our planning and preparation are appropriate, and demonstrate consistency in the execution of these plans, to give ourselves the best opportunity to achieve positive results.”
“The players, I’m sure, are enthusiastic about the opportunities that both series should offer and are eager to contribute to our team’s success. I look forward to the tours ahead and the opportunity to make a tangible and meaningful contribution to the growth of West Indies cricket.”
West Indies tour schedule:
January 28 – 31: Four-day warm-up at Bulawayo Athletic Sports Club
February 4 – 8: 1st Test at Queens Sports Club
February 12 – 16: 2nd Test at Queens Sports Club