Mawoyo patience provides example
Tino Mawoyo remembers when people used to laugh at him just because he was practising patience.
"I was in the nets with the bowling machine practising [against] away swingers. Most of the balls were too good. I think I hit three out of 45 and left the rest of them," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Ian Kemp, who was the groundsman at Harare Sports Club at the time, came and told me that some people were making fun of me because I was leaving so many balls. I just said I was practising [leaving] good balls, so if they want to laugh that's fine."
Zimbabwe may need someone of his patience at the top of the order if they get the pitch Brendan Taylor is hoping for in the second Test against Bangladesh, which starts on Thursday. "Exactly the same as the one we had for the first Test would be great," Taylor said. That would mean assistance for the bowlers and a tricky time for batsmen, which may not play into the hosts' hands entirely.
As much as Bangladesh struggled on the surface, Zimbabwe's top-order also battled against pace and movement. Their opening pair was under particular scrutiny against Robiul Islam, and they are on even closer watch now that Bangladesh have called in bowling reinforcements.
"They were at the ground early this morning and [have done] an hour of extra practice themselves for the last two days, and they also put in time on Sunday after the match," Taylor said. "They are very determined and take their batting seriously. They're definitely due some runs and they deserve to get some."
With Zimbabwe set to field an unchanged XI, the opening pair of Vusi Sibanda and Timycen Maruma will be followed by Hamilton Masakadza, and all three have shown the technique and temperament required at this level. Taylor is hopeful Sibanda and Masakadza's experience will come through, while interim coach Stephen Mangongo expects big things of Maruma who, he said, "deserves his chance".
Maruma is not an opener by trade, having usually batted in the middle-order, and may not have played had Mawoyo been fit. A groin injury, sustained in late December and exacerbated in the West Indies, has ruled Mawoyo out for up to six weeks after he has surgery.
He hopes to go under the knife this week and recover in time to play club cricket in the UK to stake a claim for a comeback. Mawoyo is due to turn out for Wickford in Essex, where he hopes to play second-team cricket for the county.
His main mission abroad is to get the kind of experience Zimbabwe lack in the batting department: the ability to adjust to conditions overseas. Mawoyo was part of the group that were humiliated on their last two away tours and admitted he found it "hurtful" to suffer so many dramatic batting collapses.
"The Test matches were very tough for us and I hope we learnt lessons. I want to play on different surfaces and in foreign conditions. We had the New Zealand tour, which we struggled in, and the West Indies, where I had never been before, so it will be good for me to go to the UK, with the ball swinging around a bit, and get used to it and try to further myself."
Mawoyo is aiming for a comeback for the series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. He also wants to play a part in keeping the game going in his home town of Mutare, where the Mountaineers franchise he captains are based.
"We are struggling a little bit for numbers in the league there. We had four teams, but we had to cut them down to three because we had a lot of schoolboys and so on," he said. "But one of the positives was that the team which won the league, West Side, is where Tendai Chatara plays, and he has emerged with real promise."
Chatara was left out of the first Test against Bangladesh in favour of Shingi Masakadza, but remains part of the squad. Mawoyo is certain his "enthusiasm" will continue to create competition among the pace pack. When Mawoyo returns to match readiness, he hopes his presence will have an impact on the tussle for Test spots for the batsmen.
For now, he is happy to admire the progress. "We made a bit of a difference in the first Test and it showed that we can put into practice what we learn," he said. "Now, we need to repeat it in the second. The batters have to look at Brendan and the way he constructed his innings. He gave himself a fair chance. It's good to see the captain lead from the front and for someone like Malcolm Waller to follow. Those are the guys that reap the rewards for the hard work."
Zimbabwe's efforts have put them on the brink of their first series win, other than one-off Tests, since 2000-01 when they beat Bangladesh 2-0 at home. If they win the second Test, it will be the first time in 12 years they have triumphed in consecutive matches, which would be a massive feat for a side that has struggled in the longest format since then.
Taylor knows how important that is for their development, and was carefully mixing caution with anticipation in the lead-up. "We don't want to look too far ahead, and we expect Bangladesh to bounce back strongly," he said. "There will be some nerves, but [everyone] understands [their] roles." If the opening batsmen can turn that understanding into application, Zimbabwe could prove tough to beat at home.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent