Jason Holder expects an important factor to counter Zimbabwe’s attempts to stifle the West Indian fast bowlers in the first Test: reverse swing.
With Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel in their attack, the Windies have two bowlers with the sort of pace that Zimbabwe are unaccustomed to, given their own lack of seamers with genuine speed. Like any savvy team, the home side have therefore done their best to sabotage their visitors by preparing a dry surface.
But captain Holder believes it may allow a new element to come into play. “With the Kookaburra balls, reverse swing is always a factor,” he said on Friday (October 20). “They tend to reverse earlier than most and go a bit softer. I would expect some reverse swing in these dry conditions. The square looks pretty decent but you never know what to expect.”
Although the Queens Sports Club outfield is relatively lush, and grass has been kept on the square around the playing pitch, this is the hottest time of year in Bulawayo. Temperatures on Friday topped 35 degrees, and are expected to hover around that mark during the Test, which could hamper the fast bowlers.
With that in mind, Zimbabwe are likely to turn to spin as their main weapon. Although they have Kyle Jarvis in their lineup for the first time since 2013, Tendai Chatara is injured and Carl Mumba – Zimbabwe’s quickest bowler – has undergone surgery on his knee.
While Chris Mpofu is likely to support Jarvis, the quality of the other seaming options is expected to lead to a debut for left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro. The Windies are in no doubt about what Zimbabwe’s attack means for potential conditions, with coach Stuart Law also pointing to the number of part-time spinners in the home side.
“Look at the team Zimbabwe have picked, they’ve got six players who can bowl spin,” Law said. “With the characteristics of this ground, and two Tests at the same ground, it does favour spin bowling more than medium pace bowling. Having said that, we’ve got two or three guys who can crank it up to over 90mph and that pace it doesn’t really matter where you play, it’s hard to bat against.”
While they will need to adjust their tactics after spending the past two months in England, the Windies are not expected to shuffle their team. Both Law and Holder pointed out that a young and inexperienced side deserved time to prove themselves, a philosophy that has translated into an unchanged squad between the two tours.
Although conditions will be very different, Holder sees areas where his side’s experience in England will come in handy in Zimbabwe.
“Coming from England to here puts us in really good stead. There is a lot more movement in England and our batsmen had to make improvements to their techniques to be successful there, and I think that’s something that will help them in any conditions around the world.”