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The home side showed commendable resolve to almost reach 400, but they started poorly with the ball and their hard work could easily unravel
Firdose Moonda in Harare
April 18, 2013
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Matches: Zimbabwe v Bangladesh at Harare
Series/Tournaments: Bangladesh tour of Zimbabwe
Only once since February 2004, when they piled up 441 against their current opponents, have Zimbabwe managed a greater total than their effort in Harare over the last two days. In 2011 they made 412 on a docile Bulawayo surface against Pakistan (although still lost) and other than that had not past 370 in almost a decade.
This rare substantial total was achieved through patience, application and largely, the determination of one man. Brendan Taylor's 171 was the highest by a Zimbabwean captain and the most runs any individual has scored since 2001. It was an innings that tested his natural style as a strokemaker and required him to put into practice the things he has been discussing with batting coach Grant Flower over the last few weeks. Things like reading situations, knowing when to hold back and fostering partnerships.
On seeing Taylor act those out, Flower rated the innings as one of the best he had seen by one of his countrymen. "It's right up there. He showed amazing application and he changed his game, particularly yesterday, to the type of wicket he was playing on," Flower said. "He left the ball really well and bided his time. That was great to see. He struggled in the West Indies but he came back got fitter and worked on a few things and it's paid off."
While receiving more throwdowns than the number of zeroes on an old Zimbabwean banknote to get himself technically ready, Taylor also had to gain an understanding of his role. Being the captain, he shoulders a lot. Being the side's key batsmen, too, requires him to take on even more. Being expected to lead and bat well, puts the weight on him close to tipping point.
Flower can see some of his brother, Andy, in Taylor and has tried to pass on some of his sibling's values into him. "Brendan as always been under pressure as one of the best players like Andy was," he said. "We've spoken about just batting and the runs will come and sometimes just being selfish, play for yourself and you will end up playing for the team. Sometimes, especially in ODIs, Brendan ends up trying to make up for the other players like Andy used to and this time he didn't have to that."
The latter part of Flower's analysis is the perhaps the most important. Because Taylor shared in two century stands, with Malcolm Waller and Graeme Cremer, and had Shingi Masakadza and Keegan Meth to fight on without him, Zimbabwe benefited from more than just a solo effort.
That is also because of behind the scenes work, as Zimbabwe sought to change their reputation of their batting ending at No.6. "I've spent a lot of time talking to the lower-order batsmen about how important their position is and how we have got a reputation of having a long tail. I made them aware of it and put a bit more emphasis on it so we can work on it," Flower said. "We did more work in the nets, we had specialised sessions with the so-called all-rounders so we could get them ready."
The most obvious change in Zimbabwe's lower-order was their willingness to dig in. They frustrated the Bangladesh attack with stubbornness and took Zimbabwe to 11 runs shy of their goal - a total of 400. "We got to where we wanted to," Flower said.
Bangladesh may feel the same. Their coach, Shane Jurgensen, admitted he would have been satisfied with bowling Zimbabwe out for under 300 and although his team conceded an extra 89 runs, they wiped out the excess quickly scoring with far more ease than the hosts. So much so, that it took Bangladesh 73 balls to achieve what Zimbabwe had in 174 - 50 runs on the board.
While the pitch was still a testing one, Bangladesh were helped by poor bowling from Zimbabwe's opening attack. Kyle Jarvis created chances in every over but he also gave away boundaries. Meth did the same, Masakadza was the best bowler, he beat the bat regularly, he hit good lengths but even he veered on the side of too short.
Against batsmen who enjoy attacking, that was a mistake. Jahurul Islam and Shahriar Nafees both drove strongly, sending boundaries down the ground at will. The inexperience of the bowlers may have been to blame, and their eagerness to prove themselves as the batsmen did, but Flower was far from impressed.
"We bowled way too full and sometimes too short and wide. Of course, it doesn't help if you drop an early catch but our bowling was far from good enough," he said. "There's definitely a bit in the surface for the bowlers and it will still be there as the game goes on. We can definitely bowl a lot better than that."
Zimbabwe's bowlers will have to emulate their batsmen and employ discipline and patience, rather than look for glory immediately. The batsmen have waited the better part of a decade to see the rewards of that kind of calculated approach. The bowlers have tasted success more recently - in 2011 against Bangladesh - when they took the side to victory on a similar surface.
Bangladesh also remember that Test, when their batsmen could not do enough and their attack was at times impotent. That's why they have come out with such a different approach this time. "We think we can win this match. We are playing positively with the bat and we think we can get them out again," Enamul Haque Jr said. Whoever can learn from history better will ensure their words match their actions.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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