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Brian Vitori

STREAK HANDS VITORI AND MPOFU A LIFELINE

WHEN Zimbabwe played a two-Test series match at home to New Zealand a couple of months ago, the bowling attack dismally failed to contain the visitors’ batting firepower. BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

In the first Test, the Black Caps declared on 582 for four on their way to dominant innings victory, and then in the second Test they declared again with a first innings score of 576 for six, eventually prevailing 254 runs for a series whitewash.

Zimbabwe cricket selectors last week recalled two bowlers — Brian Vitori and veteran Christopher Mpofu — who showed a lot of promise early in their careers, but struggled to transform themselves into regulars in the team.

In the absence of injured strike bowler Tinashe Panyangara as well as out of sorts Tendai Chatara, the onus is on Vitori and Mpofu to resurrect their careers in the upcoming two match series against Sri Lanka, which begin next weekend at Harare Sports Club.

The two will be looking to impress new Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak.

Making his debut as a unique 21-year-old left arm seamer for Zimbabwe, Vitori burst onto the international cricket scene with a big bang.

On Test debut in August 2011, he grabbed four wickets in his very first innings against Bangladesh and a week later became the first Zimbabwean bowler to claim a five wicket haul on one-day international debut, taking five for 30 against the same opponents at Harare Sports Club.

Comparisons were made of the young starlet and Pakistan left arm bowling legend Wasim Akram, but sadly what followed was a career constantly dogged by injury which occasionally kept Vitori out of the national team.

And in January this year when it seemed like he was slowly approaching his level best, the Masvingo-born fast bowler was suspended by the International Cricket Council for an illegal bowling action.

Subsequently missing out on the World T20, he had to successfully go through remedial work and a retest performed in South Africa in June, and was eventually cleared to bowl.

The fact that Streak presided over the rise of youthful Bangladesh left arm bowling phenomenon Mustafizur Rahman is a cause for excitement for 26-year-old Vitori.

Now 30, Mpofu began his Test career with impressive figures of 4 for 109 as a teenager on debut against Bangladesh in 2005.

Blessed with height and amazing control, Mpofu never lived up to his potential as a reckless lifestyle off the field of play negatively affected his performance and he found himself in and out of the team.

When he came back into the ODI team last year after a long layoff, Mpofu declared that he was now a better player and would finish his career with a flourish but was then dropped from the team.

The lanky fast bowler last featured for Zimbabwe in Tests back in 2011. Mpofu boasts of nine Test appearances for Zimbabwe as well as 68 caps in ODIs, while Vitori has represented the country four and 19 times in both versions of the game respectively.

It remains to be seen which one of the two players will step up to the blade and grab the opportunity with both hands.

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