Australia A fight back after Taylor, Masakadza fifties
Zimbabwe XI 250 for 5 (Taylor 85, Masakadza 64) v Australia A
Zimbabwe XI welcomed Brendan Taylor, the new national captain, back to their ranks for the second four-day match against Australia A at Harare Sports Club and he made an immediate impression, top-scoring with 85 and sharing a 96-run stand for the third wicket with Hamilton Masakadza. Their efforts put their team in a good position before a brace of late wickets for Luke Butterworth pegged Zimbabwe back to 250 for 5 at stumps.
Taylor was one of four changes to Zimbabwe XI's team for this match, with Ray Price, Chris Mpofu and Kyle Jarvis also included. His first duty after returning from the shoulder niggle, and nasal surgery, that kept him out of the first match was to win the toss, after which he decided to bat. Opener Vusi Sibanda rocketed out of the blocks in uncharacteristically attacking fashion, striking seven fours before he was bowled by left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc for 33 in the 12th over.
A boundary-hitter in domestic cricket, Tino Mawoyo continued to curb his attacking instincts and was not removed until the 27th over, for a grinding, 78-ball 24. His departure brought Masakadza and Taylor together, and after seeing their side safely to lunch they set about the Australian bowlers with increasing assertiveness in the afternoon.
Both men passed fifty and looked set for plenty more before Trent Copeland trapped Masakadza in front of his stumps for 64. Once again the batsmen went into survival mode, mindful of a brittle middle order, and both Taylor and Craig Ervine played with utmost caution to take their side to 196 for 3 at tea.
They batted on through the afternoon at a fairly sedate pace, but the new ball was taken with just under five overs to go before stumps, and it quickly brought results for Australia. Butterworth got through Taylor's defences to remove him leg before for 85, and end the fourth-wicket partnership at 76, and in his next over found the edge of Ervine's bat as Zimbabwe slipped to 250 for 5.
Nightwatchman Ray Price and wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva survived a nervous few minutes, but after Zimbabwe had held their own for extended sessions of play the late wickets tipped the balance of the day's honours in Australia's favour.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo