About the Match
A contest between Zimbabwe and West Indies is much more keenly contested than they once were. Both the teams are far from their best ever, especially in the case of the West Indies.
The return of some of Zimbabwe's best players before the test series and the fight that the West Indies displayed on their tour of England lends hope that this could be an excellent series for cricket lovers.
The last tour that Zimbabwe went on to Sri Lanka turned out to be historic for the team. They won the ODI series and came within a whisker of one of the greatest test upsets ever witnessed.
Now, Zimbabwe has Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis back in the fold, two players of absolute international quality, and plenty of players in great form.
Rarely has been the morale of Zimbabwe cricket better. They truly believe that they can beat this West Indies team at home and it is easy to see where this confidence comes from.
The batting of Sean Ervine, Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, and Sean Williams looks very strong. They have a lot of international experience to bank on, more than their opposition for certain, and should fancy themselves against a bowling attack which is known to be extremely inconsistent.
The bowling unit of Mpofu, Jarvis, Cremer, and Chisoro are all adequate without being out and out threatening but they know the conditions in which they are going to be playing very well.
As Zimbabwe has shown in the past few months, their bowling may not win them matches but is steady enough to keep them in the game and give their batsmen a chance.
Zimbabwe also has Sean Ervine and Sikandar Raza to chip in with some useful overs to take advantage of what is certain to be a slow wicket.
We really like the shape this Zimbabwe cricket team is taking and they can be certainly seen as equal favorites to win this test series against the West Indies.
Even after losing the series against England quite comprehensively, the West Indies came out with a lot of praise for the fight they showed in the game. It is something that is not always a given with this team but the emergence of players like Shai Hope, Kraigg Braithwaite, and captain Jason Holder has provided the West Indies with a spine.
They came back magnificently against England to equalize the series at Leeds and will be hopeful of building upon those performances in the future.
The West Indies are in the middle of a serious crisis as they try to qualify for the World Cup, try to come up from the bottom of the test rankings, and try to get their domestic affairs in order. The return of their star players to the limited overs format has given them plenty to cheer about but none of those big names will be available to play tests.
We can see players like Shai Hope and Kraigg Braithwaite scoring plenty of runs in this series and cementing their place in the test arena against a Zimbabwe bowling attack that is generally steady rather than threatening.
We also really like the look of Kieron Powell, a player with plenty of class and promise but someone who keeps missing out after getting the starts. He could be one of the players to stay under the radar before the series but really come into the limelight afterward.
Another huge positive for the West Indies is going to be their pace attack. The likes of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, and Jason Holder are much superiors to anything their hosts will be able to put together.
It is not entirely unlikely to imagine a scenario where the Zimbabwe top-order gets rolled over and then the rest struggle to come up with a decent total. The West Indies must not only hope that this possible but believe it is likely.
Pitch and Conditions
The conditions at Bulawayo will be dry, slow, and conducive to spin. Zimbabwe will not leave any grass on the pitch that the West Indian pacers can exploit and this will make the test match all about the first innings. Getting a big total on the board and then trying to take a lead will be vital.
We think that Zimbabwe is going to be more motivated for this match, and possibly be better prepared as well. The West Indies will fight but could end up falling short.
Zimbabwe to win.