Harare: Alan Butcher, the Zimbabwe coach, believes his team can derive much confidence from their success against New Zealand in a one-off Test match in Bulawayo back in November, as well as a record one-day chase of 329 in the same series. In the Test match, chasing a stiff target of 336 on the final day, Zimbabwe put on a spirited chase but came up 34 runs short, and in the final ODI of the three-match series the hosts pulled off a stunning chase to take a share of the spoils.
Butcher said the team could channel that sense of assurance into the upcoming Test starting January 26 in Napier. "I hope that the confidence we showed in those two matches will continue," he told a cricket website. "In a lot of areas we showed that New Zealand can be beaten. What was really pleasing is that we did not have a bad day in the Test match, we played good cricket on all five days. And to win a one-dayer of that magnitude gave us a big boost.
“When we get into winning positions we have to be able to finish it off. The more times you get into a winning position, the more times you believe you can win."
Butcher, who represented his home country England at the highest level twice, had words of praise for Zimbabwean captain Brendan Taylor. Taylor, 25, has been a central figure in Zimbabwe's sporadic displays of self-confidence while averaging 71.60 in Tests – much higher than a career average of 31.20 – and 63.66 in ODIs as leader of the side. Taylor's century during the attempted chase on the final day of the Bulawayo Test gave New Zealand a scare, and in the subsequent ODI series he reeled off successive hundreds.
Taylor recently featured in the HRV Cup, New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 tournament, and was in the top ten run-getter's list. Butcher felt the experience of conditions would be helpful. "It's been good to have him there, getting some inside information and insights on the conditions and a few of the players," he said. "And he has been fairly successful, which is a great feather in his cap."
Butcher called on Zimbabwe's young crop of players to step up on what promises to be a difficult tour. "[Kyle] Jarvis and [Brian] Vitori will be vital for us with the new ball but I would like to see one of Keegan Meth or Shingarai Masakadza do well in the third seamer's spot," he said. "And both of them can hold a bat as well.
"Graeme Cremer will also be interesting to watch. He may not get to play this time but it will be nice to see how an attacking spinner progresses."
New Zealand host Zimbabwe for a one-off Test followed by three ODIs and two Twenty20s.