When Pakistan toured Zimbabwe in September for a Test three ODIs and two T20Is, the national selectors took the opportunity to give inexperienced players an opportunity. Frontline bowlers Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul were rested and Cheema was chosen as part of the squad. On 1 September he made his Test debut against Zimbabwe; Pakistan's fast bowlers in the match were inexperienced at international level, with just one Test cap between them. Pakistan won the match and coach Waqar Younis praised Cheema's performance, saying he "bowled with fire and aggression". His first wicket was that of bowler Ray Price. Cheema took eight wickets in the match for 103 runs, the second best bowling figures by a Pakistan player on Test debut. Pakistan won the subsequent ODI series 3–0; Cheema made his debut in the series and his figures of 3/36 were the joit fourth best by a Pakistan bowler in his first ODI. Cheema was the leading wicket-taker in the series with eight dismissals, with best figures of 4/43. His haul for the series was the second most for a Pakistan bowler in a three-match away series.