Apr 152013
 

Previously Known As: Salisbury Sports ClubCapacity: 15,000Floodlights: YesEnds: City End, Club House EndHome Team: MashonalandTest History: 27 Tests; 6 home wins; 13 away wins; 8 drawsLast 10 Tests: 4 home wins; 4 away wins; 2 drawsLast 10 tosses: 5 batted first (3 wins, 1 defeats, 1 draw); 5 bowled first (3 wins, 1 defeats, 1 draw)

Overview

Situated on the leafy outskirts of Harare’s CBD, Harare Sports Club must be one of world cricket’s most pleasant grounds.

Even after the renovations prior to the 2003 World Cup, the ground has retained its laidback air with plenty of informal stands and a newly made grass bank on the east side.

The western stand is the only one with bucket seating, having originally been built for members of the tobacco industry who have long been ardent cricket watchers.

While the dressing rooms moved to a modern building in 2003, the original gabled pavilion has maintained some charm and houses both The Maiden – an old-style pub, and the Red Lion – a classic Rhodesian drinking hole whose regulars have not changed.

Castle Corner has kept its place on the south-west corner of the ground among the temporary stands, behind which the beautiful jacarandas continue to add a very Zimbabwean character.

A record crowd of 26,000 saw Rhodesia play the MCC in 1956, while the ground hosted Zimbabwe’s first Test in October 1992 and was the venue for Zimbabwe’s maiden Test victory – against Pakistan in 1995.

Last Time Out

Interestingly, the last time this venue was used for a Test, back in August 2011, it was also between the hosts and Bangladesh, and the Zimbabweans walked away victors by 130 runs, just after lunch on day five.

Weather was not a factor in that match, given Zimbabwe’s dry winter conditions, and Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor took advantage of the good deck to score centuries apiece, Masakadza in the first innings and Taylor in the second.

Day one saw the home side score 264 runs for two down, with Masakadza reaching 88 not out, and the next day they progressed to 370 all out. The lower order collapsed in the face of spinner Shakib al Hasan and paceman Rubel Hossain, who took three wickets each.

The Tigers then scored 287 all out, with Brian Vitori taking four wickets, and Shakib, Mohammad Ashraful and Shariar Nafees scoring half centuries. This left them 83 runs behind, and Zim proceeded to add 291 for five.

Taylor’s century and a fifty from Tatenda Taibu left Bangladesh 375 to win, which they failed to reach by a large margin. They were all out for 244, with Kyle Jarvis taking four and Chris Mpofu three scalps.

Happy Hunting Ground

England coach Andy Flower is the leading run scorer here, followed by his brother Grant, but of the current lot, Brendan Taylor has the best record with the bat, having played four matches here. He has a top score of 105 not out, and an average of 46.

As for the Tigers, Ashraful is the most successful, with two Tests at an average of 52 and a top score of 98. Their bowlers, however, don’t feature on the wicket list, with only Mohammad Rafique taking six wickets in a Test back in 2004.

Chris Mpofu is the most successful bowler of the current crop, with seven wickets in two Tests, which is well behind Heath Streak at the top of the table, who took 83 scalps in 19 Tests.

Weather Forecast

According to the forecasts, days one through three are set to be clear for full days of cricket, with temperatures in the mid-20s. Day four could be marred by some rain in the afternoon, while day five has thundershowers on the horizon, though the chance percentage is not above 50. Expect a full Test, at least as far as the weather is concerned.

Conclusion

The Tigers have improved consistently over the past few years, putting on good showings against the West Indies and Sri Lanka recently, while the Zimbabweans have continued to struggle.

The good batting track should give the Tigers a chance to put some runs on the board, though the home pacemen could thwart that if they bowl to their potential, given the track’s past assistance for the fast bowlers.

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