Brendan Taylor, Kyle Jarvis and Alan Butcher, the Zimbabwe coach, were soaked in pink champagne and beer as they walked into their post match press conference after Zimbabwe's historic win over Bangladesh. "Now I know what it means when they say you smell like a brewery," Butcher said.
What it really meant is that Butcher and his men had just sipped from the cup of victory, something Zimbabwe had not even had the chance to experience in the Test format in almost six years. To announce their return to the premier format of the game with authority was better than just a sip, it was gulp after gulp of satisfaction.
"The good win might have silenced a few critics," Taylor said. "Zimbabwe cricket invested in us and were patient with us encouraged us and we are really glad to replay that favour."
The new Test team represents a coming of age for some of the older players, who were once a group of young, inexperienced men thrown into the international scene out of need, not merit. After the player walkout in 2004, Zimbabwe had no choice but to field the best they had, even though many of them were not ready for the pressures of playing at the highest-level. Seven years have passed since then and their poise and self assurance has grown, their maturity is evident, and, finally, they appear ready. "It's nice to see a lot us have stuck together," Taylor said. "We're a side that's always worked really hard to try and improve."
The match had special significance for Taylor, who scored his maiden Test century in the second innings, at a time when the match was on the verge of tilting in Bangladesh's favour. Zimbabwe resumed day four on 92 for 4, a lead of 175, but in a position that needed consolidation. "At the end of day three, we certainly felt a bit of pressure," Taylor said. "I must commend Tatenda [Taibu] and Craig Ervine for the supporting role they played to get us back into a wining position."
Taibu scored 59 and Ervine, who was at the other end when Taylor reached his landmark, an unbeaten 35. "Getting the hundred was special but winning the match was more important," Taylor said, taking the spotlight off himself and shining it on the collective effort. "The guys showed good courage and had smart heads on their shoulders."
Such a composed performance may seem somewhat extraordinary, given the length of time Zimbabwe has spent away from Test cricket, but it's a testament to their domestic four-day tournament, which has become more competitive with the introduction of the franchise system two season ago, and the A team tours, such as the recent one against Australia A. "We prepared the best we could possibly prepare," Taylor said, while Butcher added that even though the side lost to Australia A it showed them that could compete against big name players.
One such big name player is Tamim Iqbal, who was named Test Player of the Year by the Wisden Cricketer magazine in 2010. The Bangladesh opening batsman was confident his side would chase down the target against an "ordinary" bowing attack. Instead, they crumbled, giving Taylor a reason to get his own back. "His [Tamim's] performance was pretty ordinary too," he said. "He is a quality player and his team were looking for him to get a big total and he got out pretty carelessly. He should let the performances do the talking and not concentrate too much with the mouth."
In particular, Tamim was made to eat his words about Jarvis, the bowler he called "just ok", when Jarvis claimed the last two Bangladesh wickets after lunch to end with five for the match. Jarvis' new-ball partner, Brian Vitori, also bagged five wickets and together they provided a big reason to be optimistic about Zimbabwe's future. "They were outstanding," Butcher said. "Every time they picked the ball up they looked a threat and made the Bangladeshis look uncomfortable."
With such an exciting side under his guidance, Butcher couldn't hold back his smiles as he entered a new era with a Zimbabwe side that has gone from fractured to fertile under his tenure. "When I first took on the job, I felt that what the team needed was some love," he said. "It seemed to me that any time that they did something wrong there were lots of people ready to jump down their throats. I have tried to instil a more positive outlook and culture and I think people have responded to that."