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Page last updated at 18:34 GMT, Thursday, 24 February 2011

Zimbabwe plan to host New Zealand and Pakistan Tests

Australia's Shane Watson

Australia hammer sorry Zimbabwe at the World Cup

Zimbabwe will follow up a return to Test cricket against Bangladesh in May by hosting tough encounters with New Zealand and Pakistan later this year.

The African nation pulled out of Tests after political turmoil and rows in the game caused many of the team's stars to retire.

Zimbabwe's form plummeted and the team withdrew from playing Tests in 2006.

But with the domestic competition revamped and standards rising, they are set for a return to Test matches.

Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie arrived in Zimbabwe in August along with South Africa paceman Allan Donald as the star names to help restructure domestic cricket in order to raise standards in the country.

They were named coaches of two of five new franchise teams competing against each other in first-class and 40-over competitions, as well as a sponsored Twenty20 league, which has attracted the likes of Andrew Hall, Lance Klusener and West Indies batting icon Brian Lara.

Throughout their self-imposed Test exile, they have continued to play one-day international and Twenty20 cricket, with English coach Alan Butcher leading them to victories over India, Sri Lanka and West Indies and a series win over Ireland.

But problems on and off the field have plagued Zimbabwean cricket for the past 10 years.

President Robert Mugabe's land reforms turned Zimbabwe into a nation that few wished to tour.

England refused to travel there during the 2003 World Cup, effectively sealing their exit from the tournament, and they have not returned to the country since a one-day series in 2004.

In April 2004, Heath Streak was sacked as captain and when 15 white players also lost their jobs for backing Streak, the International Cricket Council (ICC) investigated the Zimbabwe Cricket Union on the grounds of racism.

Though they found no wrongdoing, the extended crisis threatened the future of the game in the troubled southern African nation.

Zimbabwe lost their first match in the 50-over World Cup in India on Monday, falling by 91 runs to holders Australia in Ahmedabad.

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see also
Cricket World Cup 2011
09 Mar 11 |  Cricket
Zimbabwe target Dizzy heights
20 Feb 11 |  Cricket
The road less travelled
16 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Zimbabwe return to Tests in 2011
12 Jun 10 |  Zimbabwe

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