1st Test, Sylhet: Desperate Zimbabwe face old foes Bangladesh
Hamilton Masakadza's Zimbabwe are desperate to win a match. @AFP

Hosts Bangladesh may be without their best ever batsman and allrounder in Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan, but it is Zimbabwe who have more worries in Sylhet where the first Test begins on Saturday.

Zimbabwe, who over the last one month have been beaten consecutively by South Africa and Bangladesh across ODIs and T20Is, were dented in their preparation for the Test series when the tour match with BCB XI was rained out after 66 overs, during which their bowlers had only 18 overs.

Their batsmen have been culpable across the tours to South Africa and Bangladesh, with not enough big scores to pose problems for the opposition or to back a good bowling attack. Ranked tenth out of ten Test teams, below Bangladesh at ninth, the challenge of rising up the ladder has become increasingly difficult for Hamilton Masakadza’s team given the struggles with players missing series and the limited opportunities to play Tests.

Zimbabwe last won a Test match in September 2013 when they edged Pakistan by 24 runs, and now as they return to Bangladesh after four years it is with the arduous task of trying to prevent another series loss.

This will be a rare instance of Bangladesh playing a home Test series without Tamim and Shakib, but it gives the stand-in captain Mahmudullah and new coach Steve Rhodes a chance to assess the bench strength. There is a good blend of experience and youth, some of it untested at this level, and with Mushfiqur Rahim and Mustafizur Rahman around the hosts are outright favourites.

Date: November 3

Venue: Sylhet International Cricket Stadium

Time: 09:00am IST

Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 30 degrees

Team News

Bangladesh 

With Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan out nursing injuries, spots have opened up for the uncapped Ariful Haque  and Mohammad Mithun. Ariful opened for the BCB XI in the warm-up match with Zimbabwe, scoring four, but looks set for his Test debut alongside one Imrul Kayes at the top. Kayes, recalled to the ODI side in September, made 144, 90 and 115 in the ODI series and looks set to play his first Test since February.

Imrul Kayes scored a career-best 144 in the last ODI.
Imrul Kayes scored a career-best 144 in the last ODI. @AFP

The wicketkeeper’s role should go to Liton, with Nurul Hasan dropped, which means that he will also take Shakib’s place in the middle order ahead of Mithun. The uncapped Khaled Ahmed appears in line for a spot as one of the pace bowlers. Mustafizur Rahmam’s return is a big boost.

Probable XI: 1 Ariful Haque, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Liton Das (wk), 7 Mehedy Hasan Miraz, 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Khaled Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Abu Jayed

Zimbabwe

Chris Mpofu could play his first Test since December 2017 after being recalled once Richard Ngarawa was sent home with injury last week. Brandon Mavuta, the legbreak bowler, should make his Test debut after some impressive limited-overs performances recently.

Probable XI: 1 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 2 Brian Chari, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Regis Chakabva, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Sikandar Raza, 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Kyle Jarvis, 10 Brendon Mavuta, 11 Tendai Chatara/Chris Mpofu

Statistics

-  Zimbabwe last played Bangladesh in Tests in November 2014. Their last win over them was in April 2013.

- Bangladesh lost 0-2 in the West Indies in July and before that were beaten 0-1 in Sri Lanka.

- Of the current Bangladesh squad, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur are the most successful batsmen against Zimbabwe with 373 runs each.

Quotes

“We have a lot of work to do to be a good Test team. We have learned a way of playing in Bangladesh that makes us compete with the best. When we go away from home, we need to learn how to bowl in those wickets.”  – Steve Rhodes