Taylor wants to sign off series on a high-note
Brendan Taylor arrived at the Harare Sports Club at 8:30 this morning and got ready to leave more than four-and-half hours later. Save for about 15 minutes of chit-chat with a journalist, he spent the rest of that time training, first on his own in the nets before a squad practice, and then on his own again.
Grant Flower, Zimbabwe's batting coach, oversaw his individual sessions, conducting the throw-downs with a side-arm, and then his own arm as Taylor concentrated on different aspects of his game.
He spent the last 45 minutes working on left-arm spin. He swept well and then pushed away to the off-side. He asked Flower to pitch it up slightly and he looked flustered as he was occasionally beaten.
"I'm missing some match practice," Taylor said afterwards. "I found a bit of form in the one-dayers but obviously the India series was tough for me. I just want to make sure I'm ready so I've been putting in some extra hours."
Taylor managed just 35 runs in the five ODIs against India, and was out for a duck three times in the series. He slowly found form against Pakistan, and scored an unbeaten 43 and a 79 in the first two ODIs to gain some confidence. But he did not play the first Test and is worried about his longer-format form.
The birth of his son, Mason, forced him out of the game, even though he was "preparing for it like I am going to play." When his fiancee Kelly went into labour in the early morning, a day before the Test, Taylor still thought he would make it. But Mason took 17 hours to arrive and left his father without much rest.
"By the time everything was done it was 2am and I went home, got three hours sleep, and then came back to the hospital. I took the call that I wouldn't play because I was quite drained. I felt I was 24 hours off [from] being ready to play."
Despite not being in the XI, Taylor was in the change room for lengthy periods in the match, and even had a few practice sessions while his team-mates were in the field. "Kelly needed a lot of sleep and the baby was in the incubator. There's only so much time you can spend looking into a glass box so I thought I'd get down here and be around."
What he saw encouraged him as Zimbabwe had the better of Pakistan for three and a half days. "There was definitely some fight and that was so good to see, especially the way the guys batted for long periods." Malcolm Waller, Sikandar Raza and Elton Chigumbura all spent more than two-and-a-half hours at the crease in the first innings and Taylor knows the same, if not more, is expected from him.
He will likely displace Raza from the No.4 spot, despite the promise the Pakistani-born debutant showed, and has decided not to keep wicket in order to be as fresh as possible for playing a key role in the line-up. "Batting at No.4, captaining and keeping is going to be quite mentally taxing," Taylor said.
The mind games are what Taylor is focused on going into this match because he believed that is where Zimbabwe were beaten in the first Test. "Pakistan just switched on and switched off better than us. They were more mentally aware." He hopes his players have learned from that and can show the right temperament in this game. "To play Test cricket you have to be very determined."
Physical fatigue is also a worry, especially in the seam bowling department. Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara and Shingi Masakadza all bowled in excess of 30 overs each between Thursday and Friday, and if any of them needs to be rested, Brian Vitori will make a comeback, but Taylor hopes they will all be fully fit. "They've made it clear their bodies are good to go. This may be the last Test we play for a while, so I have no doubt they will get up for it."
With Sri Lanka's October tour due to be postponed at Zimbabwe Cricket's request and the next Test series scheduled only for July next year against South Africa, Zimbabwe will have a long wait before wearing whites again. They may also find they don't have much cricket in the coming months. No confirmation has been received on when their domestic season will start, although there are talks it could be in November, and some players are hoping to follow Sean Williams' lead and head to the Dhaka Premier League for a while.
Taylor himself is not sure how much cricket he will fit in over the next few months, especially with a baby to look after. That's why he hopes Zimbabwe can sign off for this season on a high note. "We'll pick ourselves up and try to do our very best for this game. After that, who knows?"
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent