Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Harare, 1st day April 17, 2013

Taylor feeds off Caribbean woe

The Zimbabwe captain, like the team, had an awful tour of West Indies but as put in the hard yards since returning and gained reward for efforts

Brendan Taylor brought up his fifty without much fuss. While the small crowd cheered with gusto, including one who shouted, 'That's it captain!', he simply shook Malcolm Waller's hand sternly.

He celebrated his century far more boisterously. A leap in the air, a punch, an all-round acknowledgement of the crowd, a raise of the bat - all the classical things that if done with the mute button on would tell the viewer three-figures had been brought up.

The job had not been done but some part of the reputation restoration had. Taylor was one of the batsmen who returned from West Indies with what was being talked about as a tattered technique. Much else about Zimbabwean cricket was also torn apart.

In the weeks between the Caribbean tour and the current series, their internal strife has caused more shredding than anything Shane Shillingford did. Taylor has been at the heart of it. As the captain, he had to motivate a group that did not know when they would be paid and pacify increasingly tetchy administrators. He was, for some parts of it, nothing more than a go-between.

He was also dealing with his own sub-standard showings in West Indies. As the leader, he felt he had let the team down. Personally, he knew he had let himself down. So when he battled through on his home turf, survived a chance and pulled the team to a position of some security, he had every reason to feel relieved and proud enough to show it.

"That celebration was due to the poor performance we had in West Indies," he admitted afterwards. "To fail in every game was very hard to swallow so today was very rewarding for me. I've prepared well, I've worked hard and it was nice to see it pay off."

While some batsmen in the modern age talk about preparation as something they do on a yoga mat with their legs crossed and their heads in a good space, Taylor sticks to the more orthodox methods. When he returned from West Indies, the only way he thought he could get better was by practising.

Every day after training he spent an extra hour and a half in the nets with batting coach Grant Flower, who was not part of the touring party in the Caribbean. "I just hit countless balls and kept it as simple as possible. I concentrated on things like keeping my head still. I feel if I prepare well and hit a high volume of balls, then I will feel relaxed. Not having Grant in the West Indies wasn't ideal because I work closely with him."

He must also have worked on his feet because he moved them an unusual amount. Taylor is known for not being a dancer but he was confident in bringing out the moves against both seam and spin.

While the improvements in his technique were noticeable, the extent to which he stretched himself mentally was the hallmark of the innings. He came in at 22 for 2 with the ball seaming and swinging. His first 10 runs took 34 balls and the next 10, 36. His century came up in 200 deliveries. He had to be defensive for periods and could only attack for an isolated shot or two, not for any length of time.

That made it the least fluent of his three centuries but "probably my most patient innings." He admitted that it was "hard work," and "lots of concentration was required but it was all worth it." Only for a short while after tea, while Waller and Taylor together, did he find things eased up a little. "The fielders quietened down a bit which helped us because generally they are quite noisy and they don't give you a sniff. It was good to grind them down."

Having survived the first ten overs of the second new ball with six wickets still in hand, Taylor is hopeful he can continue in the same fashion with the rest of the line-up. "We know they've got good spinners but we've still got some depth. It seems like they are running out of ideas as well."

Bangladesh's coach Shane Jurgensen is still eyeing removing Zimbabwe out for under 300, but seemed disappointed enough with the number of chances they put down, for the hosts to spot a weakness they can pounce on. Taylor knows there is still much that must be done before any prolonged faith in the country's cricket will be obtained. But he knows there is an opportunity to do so. He took part of his chance today and will want the other members of the squad to take the rest over the next four days.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 18, 2013, 12:33 GMT

    As Ska. said earlier Zim of the sleeping nineties is where we would like to see the team reach. Miss the ever reliable Zim side of 90s.

  • Sharad on April 18, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    This means a lot of us non-zimbabweans too. I grew up watching the Flower, Strang and Whittall brothers, Campbell, Carlisle, Streak, Goodwin, Johnson, Olonga, Mbangwa, Blignaut, Marillier - it was great to see the fight these guys put up. Really likeable characters too. Who can forget Marillier's innings vs India 56*(24) complete with outrageous scoops. Hope the current team can rise to those standards and beyond. It'll be good for cricket and fans - both domestic and foreign. IPL teams would do well to include Zim players too. They deserve every opportunity. Wonder why Charles Coventry isn't playing these days!

  • Eugene on April 18, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    Great knock by Taylor today, yet again proving why he is Zimbabwe's best batsman.

  • ZCF on April 17, 2013, 17:27 GMT

    That celebration certainly wasn't routine. It wasn't merely the elation of getting to triple figures. That was a sign of a man who had just had a HUGE weight taken off his shoulders. It reminded him of what he is capable of-scoring plenty of runs and grinding out results whatever the circumstances.

    No doubt he got some let-offs, but events leading up to the WI tour, his poor showing there, a miserable tour to NZ and pathetic T20WC showing for Zimbabwe prior to that were mentally and emotionally sapping should put this milestone into perspective. As captain, regardless of his limited influence, the off-field turbulence did little to give him time to regroup outside of camp.

    Being able to achieve this ton on the back of all of this speaks volume of his sheer determination and will to succeed. At the toss, my usually disinterested wife remarked that he had aged considerably. He does look spent, which shows the amount of strain he has taken for some time. This will have helped!

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