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Zimbabwe thrashed Bangladesh by a huge margin in the first Test, and hope to better their performance in the second
Firdose Moonda in Harare
April 21, 2013
The fans could hardly believe what they saw on the scoreboard in Harare. "Zimbabwe won by 335 runs." Never mind the last three words, the first two were enough for them.
Many wanted to immortalise the moment and cameras came out in dozens to capture images that confirmed Zimbabwe's victory over Bangladesh. They snapped away - at the writing on the board, the singing fans on the wooden stand, the team huddle on the field and themselves, beaming with the afterglow of victory.
A day earlier, the same people were debating whether or not Zimbabwe should enforce the follow-on. Popular opinion was that they should, given the lead of 255, because on the evidence of Bangladesh's batting there was an opportunity for an innings win. Then someone brought the masses down to earth by reminding them that just a few weeks ago, talk of following on only applied if Zimbabwe were being put in again. Everyone laughed. How things had changed.
Movements on the ICC rankings
Zimbabwe's turnaround was as unexpected as it was spectacular, and it could be another restart for a team that has had the handbrake pulled on their attempts to move forward. It shows that cricket has not been crippled and, although it was badly wounded, it has made some sort of recovery.
"This is a confidence booster after the thrashing we got in West Indies," Stephen Mangongo, Zimbabwe's interim coach said. "We got on to our two feet, which is important."
Zimbabwe's victory was as important for team morale as it was for demonstrating the progress of individual players. Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis now have career best ICC rankings, Graeme Cremer moved up in both the batting and bowling rankings while Shingi Masakadza also made himself known.
The hosts achieved their success by nullifying Bangladesh's strengths: not allowing their spinners to get into the game and keeping their best batsmen, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, quiet. In the next match Zimbabwe will have to do the same, and will probably also have Tamim Iqbal, almost recovered from a thumb injury, to tie down.
That's the difference this time: there is a next match. When Zimbabwe made their Test comeback in August 2011, they celebrated like there was no tomorrow because in cricketing terms, there wasn't. One-off fixtures were a good way to re-enter the longest format and Zimbabwe had four of them. But it was also too spread out for them to develop any long-term strategies and the lack of match time showed, especially when they went overseas and battled to adapt to conditions.
This series gives Zimbabwe an opportunity to change that. With both Tests being at the same venue, it will allow them to isolate areas that need to be worked on - such as the performance of the top order against medium-pacer Robiul Islam - and measure their development.
While Zimbabwe's performance against Bangladesh was dominant, it was not perfect and they know it. There was much to celebrate and Taylor and the team did when they walked off the park to the sounds of the traditional song Shosholoza and their fans saluting them. There was also much to reflect on.
After their change-room celebrations, they joined their other halves for a few quiet ones. They may have gone on to wilder things after that but while at the ground, they provided sobering illustration that they know the job is not done. "It's nice to have some momentum but we know Bangladesh always seem to bounce back on us. We can't get complacent at all," Taylor said. "If we play the way we played in this game, we are going to be tough to beat. We are going to find the areas where we can improve, go to training and keep trying to better ourselves."
Zimbabwe understand one victory does not mean the end of their aims, as it did in 2011. It's just the beginning. If the schedule is as it should be, Zimbabwe will have Tests against Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home in the next six months. Those challenges will be greater than the one Bangladesh pose now and the only way to prepare adequately for will be to repeat and improve the showing in next week's Test.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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