There are a couple of Tests starting this week: Zimbabwe play New Zealand in Bulawayo tomorrow and Pakistan ‘host’ Sri Lanka in Sharjah on the third.
For Zimbabwe it’s just their third Test since returning to the longer form. They beat Bangladesh to mark their return, but collapsed spectacularly to lose against Pakistan. (Though Sri Lanka have shown that may have had more to do with the Pakistani bowlers than the Zimbabwean batsmen.) Daniel Vettori will play for New Zealand for the first time since the World Cup, having retired from one day cricket. New Zealand have been playing very few Test matches lately, and winning still fewer, but I think they will be too strong for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe are without one of their best batsmen, Tatenda Taibu, and I think they will struggle against Vettori. The pitch won’t help him much, but he’s probably the best bowler that Zimbabwe will have faced and the only one who can bowl long, tight spells to put the batsmen under pressure. He will play on their patience and I don’t think they will be able to keep their nerve. My prediction: New Zealand to win by seven wickets/225 runs.
Sri Lanka need to beat Pakistan in their final test to draw the series, but I frankly don’t see that happening. Sri Lanka have not looked like taking twenty wickets in the first two matches of the series, or in any of the three matches in England. Their bowling has only been at all penetrative at home on a pitch that favoured the bowlers to the point of insanity. Their best hope is to grind out a draw, which they may well do. Despite being bowled out for under 300 three times out of four, they have shown glimpses of competence at various times. Pakistan have had trouble scoring quickly in both matches, and I think Sri Lanka could hold out for a draw in a similar fashion to the First Test. I think that they will, but it might be a close run thing and I would not be surprised to see Pakistan win. My prediction: Match drawn.