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Political unrest? In Zimbabwe, the game must go on

Bisma Ahmed reports from Harare, where cricket continues as normal despite significant political unrest in the country as Zimbabwe prepare to host New Zealand - with the tour set to go ahead as scheduled.

The first unofficial Test match played between Zimbabwe A and South Africa A resulted in a draw at the Harare Sports Club, thanks to unwavering batting by the hosts.

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) are currently hosting the Proteas for two four-day games, with the second Test match scheduled to be played between the two national A sides in Bulawayo from 15th to 18th July.

Zimbabwe A will then take on the New Zealanders in Harare for a warm-up match from 22nd to 24th July before the Kiwis kick-start their tour of Africa, which includes two tests against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and two against the Proteas in Durban and Centurion.

The Black Caps arrived in Pretoria, South Africa yesterday for a week-long training camp ahead of the Test series. For them, it was business as usual, as this tour instigates nine months of non-stop international cricket. However, in neighboring and soon to play host Zimbabwe, things aren’t as normal as one would expect, as political unrest prevails, with protests and shut down calls being the order of the day.

As a result, there were rumors that New Zealand may cancel their tour of Zimbabwe, but head coach Mike Hesson unequivocally said that he was sure the matches would go as planned.

"There is nothing that suggests that it won’t at this stage," he said.

At the Harare Sports Club, there is a sense that things are normal and there are no security concerns, and this is where Darlington Majonga, ZC's media manager, updated reporters with the status of the Test series.

"New Zealand is certainly coming to Zimbabwe to play the two tests this month" he claimed, dismissing rumours that they may cancel the tour in the light of the current disorder.

When questioned, South African players all confirmed that they did not feel in danger and were at ease in the country.

Left-arm orthodox spinner Keshav Mahraj said: "To be honest we haven’t experienced anything that may make us feel uncomfortable and we’ve had police escorts so not once did we, as a team, feel threatened."

While in Pretoria, The New Zealanders will be keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe, and will be relying on feedback from Cricket South Africa, and will also be liaising with the British High Commission in Harare.

All being well, the Black Caps are scheduled to arrive in Harare on 20th July and will be attending a welcome dinner be hosted by Zimbabwe Cricket, before playing a three day warm-up game in the capital.

Meanwhile, preparations at Bulawayo’s Queens Sports Club are in full swing, as the century-old stadium, which also boasts some breathtaking views, gears up to host its first Test in five years.

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