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September 1, 2013
When Zimbabwe last played a Test, opening batsman Tino Mawoyo could only watch from the sidelines. He was nursing a severe groin injury, awaiting a hospital date and commentating on Zimbabwe's performances and what Mawoyo saw concerned him.
Although Zimbabwe had solid contributions with the bat from Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza, they lacked a dependable opening pair. The highest first-wicket partnership was 36, scored by Vusi Sibanda and Regis Chakabva in the second innings of the second Test. Those same two players had put on 23 in the first innings. Sibanda and Timysen Maruma were even less successful at the top, managing only 10 and seven in the first Test, which would explain why Maruma was dropped.
Mawoyo is careful not consider himself Zimbabwe's saviour but judging from the performances against Bangladesh, a batsman in his mould is exactly what they were missing. And now, they could have him back. He has successfully healed from the groin surgery he underwent in Johannesburg on May 22 and despite five months out of action, has been hard at work to ensure he is ready to return.
"I've had a lot of one-on-one sessions with Grant Flower," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I know that I haven't had many match situations recently but I also played in the inter-squad two-day match we had and I hope I will get my place back in the team, especially because it will be against a side I have done well against."
If Zimbabwe's think-tank relies on history, they will recall Mawoyo without hesitation. In just his second Test, he scored an accomplished, undefeated 163 against Pakistan and demonstrated temperament which eluded his team-mates. He was also the only Zimbabwean batsmen who handled the spin threat of Saeed Ajmal with absolute assurance.
"He is just a wizard; he can turn the ball on glass," Mawoyo said of Ajmal. "And we know he'll be coming at us again but he is also not the only bowler we need to concentrate on."
Although Ajmal remains the main threat, Mawoyo has also been preparing for Abdur Rehman, who he thinks could have as much of an impact on the series, although he hopes conditions can negate both of them. "I don't think the wickets will take as much as turn as, for example, what we played on in the West Indies," he said. "It will probably move around quite a bit in the morning in Harare and even Bulawayo, we've heard won't be as dry as normal."
Zimbabwe were, in the words of assistant coach Stephen Mangongo, "embarrassed," by slower bowlers in the West Indies, where their inability to combine footwork with finesse was sorely exposed.
Mawoyo, who last played on that tour, believes Zimbabwe have progressed from then. "We had a few issues then and we wanted to go forward. I think we've learned a lot. Winning the ODI was a big confidence booster. It was very encouraging to see the guys bat for longer periods."
Patience is the hallmark of Mawoyo's game so he was heartened to see others in his team willing to employ the same mindset. Coach Andy Waller was in agreement. "The guys know they can go out and score runs against Pakistan," he said, after the final one-dayer. "There's a bit of confidence and self-belief."
No-one knows that better than Mawoyo, although he also knows being able to do something once does not guarantee one can do it again, unless the requisite determination and commitment is there. "I think we can do well in the Tests and I think I can do well but it's not like I am going to be starting on 100 again. When I walk out there, I will be on nought, we all will and we've just got to show what we can do."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala