Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 4th day August 12, 2014

Taylor pleased with fighting effort

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We fought well for an inexperienced side - Taylor

The flicker that could be seen from close range in the Zimbabwe players' eyes during the lead-up to this Test was exactly what it was suspected to be: anxiety of what awaited them when they faced the world's best. Brendan Taylor can admit that now that his team have defied expectations of being walkovers after they put up as tough fight.

"We were quite nervous in the beginning, to be honest with you, knowing that they were bringing their three-pronged pace attack" Taylor said. "But I'm happy with the guys. They held their own. For three days we were competitive and we fought hard."

Zimbabwe showed their willingness to front up from the first morning when Taylor opted to bat first despite knowing Harare Sports Club's reputation for offering a bit to the bowlers early on.

Taylor's line-up took on Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel with stoic determination and the knowledge that at least the trio would not be able to count on the surface for too much assistance. "We didn't give them the wicket that they wanted," Taylor said. "But it was still very challenging."

A dry, abrasive surface, however, threw up other hurdles such as sharp turn during the first morning, and reverse-swing later on. This meant that the batsmen could not get comfortable and that feeding on scraps was always going to be Zimbabwe's main strategy.

"It was never easy but it was manageable," Taylor said. "Even though the wicket was quite slow paced when Dale Steyn starts reversing, he is quick through the air so it doesn't matter how slow the pitch is."

Zimbabwe only really experienced the wrath of a fired up Steyn on the fourth day when the seamer led the post-lunch assault that ultimately proved to be the hosts' undoing. Five wickets fell for 26 runs in 10 overs, sending Zimbabwe tumbling from 98 for 2 to 124 for 7, and threatened to subject them to an innings defeat.

Although there was not much Mark Vermeulen could do about the inswinger that trapped him on the front pad, Taylor was disappointed with the way some of the other batsmen unravelled during the collapse.

"There were a couple of soft dismissals there. We could have cashed in and made it a lot better for our team," Taylor said. Vusi Sibanda offered Dane Piedt a simple return catch, Taylor himself popped one up to short leg and Regis Chakabva left one he should have watched more carefully. Those were three dismissals Taylor felt could have been avoided had Zimbabwe "hung in there and put prices on our wickets."

Zimbabwe had a lesson on how to do that from South Africa on the second and third day when the likes of Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy played with the self-denial of monks. Their approach, which moved between blocking and leaving, was also the result of Zimbabwe having their best period in the game.

Their seam bowlers lack the pace, bounce and bite of any of South Africa's pack but they operated within their limitations to deny the world's No.1 team the satisfaction of a steamroll.

The respect South Africa showed to Zimbabwe's attack did not go amiss and Taylor recognised that would only serve his men well in future.

"Our seamers were exceptional. Tinashe didn't get hit for a boundary in 30 overs in the first innings - that's a huge plus. Tendai Chatara backed him up well and even Donald bowled some really good deliveries," he said. "This will give them a lot of belief that they restricted two of the best batsmen in the world in AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla."

Chatara, who is just 23 years old and has only played five Tests, accounted for Amla while debutant John Nyumbu could count AB de Villiers among his five wickets. Both men will be an important part of Zimbabwe's future plans. Overall, Taylor was pleased with the lessons he could take away from Harare.

"A debut five-for is fantastic by anyone's standards," he said. "John looked like he'd been playing Tests for a couple of years. He was very responsible and thought his plans through. His line and length will only get better the more he plays."

A statement like that only leads to the inevitable lamenting of how lean Zimbabwe's international calendar is and how seldom they play against top teams. It also means that when they do, they want to show their best side and Taylor does not believe they managed that entirely. "I wanted to go five days. I felt we were good enough to do that," he said. "If we had a better session after lunch we might have done that."

But those post-mortems can be conducted in the days and weeks to come. Tonight, Taylor knows that even though Zimbabwe did not win, they have a reason to celebrate and the only thing their eyes need to do is smile.

"For guys that haven't played a lot of cricket, we can be very proud of 80% of the cricket we played."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • themba on August 15, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    I still think a nine wicket win is basically a full blown hammering. No Doubt SA took their foot of the gas especially with the night watch man partnership of Zim.

    They also took it very easy against Nyumbu as they gifted him easy wickets, lets face it NYUNBU'S deliveries were gun barrel straight you could hardly call that spin, i think i saw one delivery really turn from him all test.

    If he plays in the one day side he is going to play alot of fetch.

  • Marius on August 13, 2014, 8:02 GMT

    As an Aussie, I think it's great to see Zim back in the world of international cricket. After all, we have them to thank for the ramp shot (some of my friends still call that a 'Marillier'). From what I could tell from what little of the match I got to see, the Zim players have definitely got the raw talent needed for this level, it's just a pity that there's hardly a chance for them to refine that talent against other world-class sides. They could do with a legitimately fast bowler, and with another world-class batsman who can back up Taylor in a similar way to how Clarke and Hussey held the Aussie middle order together for a few years. Zim's a good enough side, and there's a lot to work with there. They just need to play more international cricket, and who knows? Maybe next time they play SA they could beat them instead of just giving them a run for their money.

  • Steven on August 13, 2014, 3:05 GMT

    Credit for zimbos fighting hard but surely there's got to be some talented young black bowlers that have some pace about them somewhere in zimb the black players are athletic get some of them into a gym bulk them up a little get them fit and get them bowling fast that's what zimb needs afew fast bowlers the spinners are adequate and they need another classy batsmen to support Brendon Taylor then the zimbos would be more competitive

  • Andrew on August 12, 2014, 20:28 GMT

    @sussmith0589: I think saying cricket is "better, alive and well" in ZImbabwe is a little bit of an exaggeration! In terms of players, yes, there are more players coming through than we had in the old days. My personal favorite is Mutumbami - he has lots of potential. Zim have shown grit in most of the tests they have played since 2010. But the administration is really shocking and if they do not improve, the talent will move elsewhere. Can you imagine a Zim team with the likes of Gary Ballance in it as it should have?

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2014, 18:54 GMT

    When zim got its test status in 92 i was there to watch the match and see the play India. I was only 14 years old and a junior I high school. I have followed my zim through the highs of our first test win against India and the competitiveness of the 90 through the dismal 2000's the highs of having the worlds too rated batsmen and company bats with bowlers to boot and reading the glowing editorials on the gutsy Zimbabwean men to the very lows of test innings barely lasting the length of a school boy cricket match at under 13 level as we succumbed to even defeats by Uganda! Today I say my zimbabwe lose but I was proud! Proud that we had play a test and taken it four days against the worlds number one side. Proud because for once it really felt like we belonged and the acceptance from our peers is growing like the rising sun! Brendan spoke of having done our best, Nyumbu spoke of the honour of taking prized wickets Amla and AB gave kudos to zim I hope not only for the sake of diplomacy

  • Susan on August 12, 2014, 17:54 GMT

    To be honest I was one who had written Zimbabwe off well before the match began. With their below par performances against Afghanstan, an attack lacking experience and a long time out of test cricket I thought Zimbabwe would gift records to SA. I was impressed with the performance from Day 1. The future looks bright for the game if these players are well taken care of. To those who like comparisons, this was one of the best Zimbabwean performances against either SA or Oz. I painfully remember 2 matches in the early 2000's - a test against Aus at HSC and another test at Bulawayo against SA. In the Aus match Zim was mercilessly dispatched in about 2 and half days, Trevor Gripper scoring a gritty 60. In the SA match I remember SA piling up a mammoth innings in a ruthless fashion. And this was a Zim team comprising the Flower brothers, Campbell, Streak and Olonga. If this week's performances is anything to go by cricket is better, alive and well in Zimbabwe again!

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