Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo, 4th day July 17, 2017

Raza credits Klusener for batting revival

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'It's quite a nice relationship all the batters have got with our batting coach.' © AFP

On a track that has now begun to produce unplayable balls, Zimbabwe's key to victory on day five will be discipline. So says Sikandar Raza, whose maiden Test century played a pivotal role in transforming the match situation.

Zimbabwe are seven wickets away from history, and have 218 runs to defend. Though the overnight pair - Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews - have each produced great rearguard innings before, there isn't much experience to follow. Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne have played only 12 Tests between them; Gunaratne is carrying a hamstring injury in any case.

"I think patience and discipline will play a huge role," Raza said. "If we can stay disciplined and patient, I think there is enough for Sean Williams, Graeme Cremer and the other spinners as well - for balls to misbehave. You could get a jaffa that you can't do much about. I think on a track like this, once you get the senior players out, with the way their batting is at the moment, it could open a door for us to sneak through."

As was seen with the dismissal of Dimuth Karunaratne, the pitch can also occasionally produce big-turning deliveries out of the rough. Karunaratne had in fact left a Williams delivery that pitched wide but leapt back at him to clip off stump. Williams persisted with a legside line, trying to find the same patch of rough, for many of the remainder of his overs in the day.

"We discussed with Sean, and because there was a lot of turn with that dismissal," Raza said. "The moment they try and get greedy to score, the slip could come into play, the off stump could be exposed, and we could sneak in a wicket there. We wanted to hold one end so that Cremer can attack from the other. While we are holding it, we're still creating a few chances."

Of his knock, Raza partly credited the inspiration he derived from batting coach Lance Klusener. Zimbabwe had been 23 for 4 at lunch on day three, then 59 for 5 not long after. But by the time Raza departed, they had a lead greater than 300 and were running the match. Along the way, he had forged partnerships worth 86 with PJ Moor, and 144 with Malcolm Waller.

"Yes, the heads were down for a little while during that lunch break when we were 23 for 4. Klusener had a word with us and said that it's up to us - the guys who were still to bat - whether we go down without a fight, or we show some heart."

Zimbabwe have used the sweep shot to excellent effect throughout the tour, and Raza - in particular - combatted the spinners with a range of cross batted strokes. Almost all the batsmen have contributed at some point in the tour, and Klusener has played a role in the run-making, Raza said.

"The batting plans come from us. Then we discuss and share our plans with Klusener and then he has his input. Of course he has a world of experience. If I have a plan which I think is too risky, Klusener will always advise me and say you could have a better plan - do XYZ. It's quite a nice relationship all the batters have got with our batting coach.

"If you look at the Sri Lanka tour, everyone has scored runs. In the ODI series we started with Solomon Mire, then Hamilton Masakadza. Then we had Tarisai Musakanda, who is a young guy who got into a team, batted in a difficult place, and did exceptionally. Craig Ervine, has been performing. Sean Williams had been performing.

All the guys heading into the Test had runs behind them. Everyone has a different plan. Everyone has their own plan. All our plans worked around being positive. Some were around being aggressive. My plan was certainly like that."

Zimbabwe had not had the happiest year before coming to Sri Lanka, having lost a home ODI series to Afghanistan, and one ODI to Scotland as well. But in keeping the same players around since the start of the year has begun to pay dividends, Raza said.

"I think since Heath Streak has become head coach and Tatenda Taibu has been chief selector, we have kept the same group of players. So, certainly it has been about six months that we've been together - this core of players.

"We haven't had a lot of changes in our touring 15 or playing XI either. Every time someone has got a chance in the playing XI, they've stepped up as well. We've had a very consistent squad, and I think that goes hand in hand with consistent performances as well."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Adam on July 18, 2017, 5:04 GMT

    @fi. Mooen was born and raised in England mate. Different circumstance with Raza and Tahir.

  • cricfan4772017897 on July 18, 2017, 4:28 GMT

    which team is going to win guy's?

  • A on July 18, 2017, 3:56 GMT

    Have a feeling Zim will win this. What a performance by Raza. Amazing how Pakistan exports talent to other teams like Raza to Zim and Imran Tahir to SA

  • Cricinfouser on July 17, 2017, 22:22 GMT

    This team, batting wise, strongly resembles the Zim team of the late 90's. That team had the Flowers, Goodwin, Campbell, Johnson and then allrounders in Strang and Streak. Generally, if one or two players failed another would step up. Apart from Cremer though I can't see any world class bowlers but given the lack of opportunities that Zimbabwe gets in Test cricket this is not surprising. if they do win this game hopefully they can take some confidence into the West Indies series. If that series goes well I'll be interested to see if it's just Ireland and Afghanistan looking for a Test series.

  • Fi on July 17, 2017, 22:16 GMT

    Any side with the impressive pedigree of Streak, Taibu and Zulu should be a force! Nice to see a bunch of severely underfunded real triers in Zimbabwe actually making it - glad they stuck with Raza (another Pakistani export ala Moeen and Tahir), not a fantastic average coming in but a great 100 in testing circumstances - away from home, vs the best spinner in world cricket today from 23-4, showing its more about sheer guts than averages. Sri Lanka, Hell India and Pakistan too, should take note. You can't ban the IPL (though you could the ICL) else Kohli would have made India untouchable in both Tests and ODI's - instead they are just another strong team, not total world beaters. Heck, even Root should take notice after the last 4 days performance - the future is in whites.

  • Adam on July 17, 2017, 19:51 GMT

    Really impressed with Raza's batting. I expected Zimbabwe to fold but they showed fight. Good stuff

  • Alex on July 17, 2017, 18:53 GMT

    Zimbabwe bowling lacks bite. They need bowlers. they need luck to win the game.

  • Altaf on July 17, 2017, 18:23 GMT

    Klusener have great experience and Streak already has made Bangladesh a world class team with excellent coaching.

  • javedm1853777 on July 17, 2017, 16:02 GMT

    The head coach, batting coach and the chief selector have played crucial roles in Zimbabwe's recent improvement according to the last two paragraphs of Raza says. An eye opener for Sri Lanka.

  • tichao2147390 on July 17, 2017, 15:05 GMT

    Yes we dream still. I remember the horror test of '98 when Houghton was banned and only pray the empires this time round are better and drs is used by Cremer. 400 would have been better to set for Srilanka and one feels zim have been a bit guilty of complacency at times instead on being proctive and attacking in field settings but then again non of them have been in this situation before... on the brink of a test win and series whitewash against srilanka. The spinners they have can and should be enough to do the job... Cremer will get 5 at least and Williams and Raza and Waller I back to a at least 1 'a-piece. ... important is to pick up a wkt early tomorrow and restrict the scoring to under 3.5 rpo first session so they are chasing over 150 last session and zim will win this. Whatever the result though I think zim have shown they are no longer pushovers & are worthy opponents for any of the other teams.The West Indies visit in oct. should include 5 ODI 3 tests I'm flying home to watch

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