Taylor searches for settled team
As Zimbabwe climb the next rung on the ladder to Test playing competency, Brendan Taylor had some specific areas that he wants to target, the most important of which is developing a settled Test XI.
"There are not too many places guaranteed in the team at the moment," Taylor told ESPNcricinfo. "We have guys in the squad putting pressure on each other and we want to see how everyone fits."
Depth is not usually something any team would have qualms about, leave alone Zimbabwe, but with the near future handing them only one-off Test matches, there is not much opportunity to toy with combinations. There will be no dead matches in a series where a fringe player could be given a chance to prove himself or an under-performing player a chance to redeem himself. It's not a challenge that Taylor thinks is insurmountable, but it is one that his team has to get right in order to develop.
"We will probably stick with the same bowling combination and have Brian [Vitori] and Kyle [Jarvis] opening with Chris [Mpofu] as first change," he said, indicating the need not to tamper with a three-pronged attack that worked well against Bangladesh. On a slow Bulawayo pitch, the fourth seamer is not essential and Elton Chigumbura's injury is probably a blessing in disguise as it will allow for offspinner Greg Lamb to come in as a second spinner to Ray Price.
The bowling was near flawless against Bangladesh but the batting is still a concern, and Taylor hopes that the batsmen in the top order can cement themselves while the middle order will strengthen in this match. "It was good to see Hamilton [Masakadza], who had a bad 12 months previously, and Vusi [Sibanda] striking the ball well and we've got Tino [Mawoyo] who is tough to get out," Taylor said.
It's at positions six, seven and eight that will likely be occupied by Lamb, Craig Ervine and Price that Taylor wants improvement. "Some people may have some doubts about Craig but he played in a winning Test and it would be unfair to drop him," he said. "We're probably a bit light at number eight but having said that Ray Price can hold a bat and we back him to do well. Anyway, we are also confident that number one to seven should be doing the job for us."
Pakistan should be a sterner challenge than Bangladesh, though Taylor admits that the touring side are probably not as intimidating as the team that visited in 2002 - the last time Zimbabwe and Pakistan tussled in a Test. Like others in his team, he has singled out Sohail Tanvir as the man Zimbabwe have to watch out for. "They will be a tough challenge, especially on a good batting wicket," he said. "It also looks like quite an abrasive surface so it might reverse a bit s that may be a concern for us."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent