Sean Williams: 'We got close to the top of the mountain but couldn't quite get there'
Zimbabwe captain praises the fight his team showed even though they lost the second Test to Afghanistan
Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams lauded the way his side fought back in their second innings of the second Test against Afghanistan even though they lost the match on the fifth evening, thus missing out on a series win.
After winning the first Test in under two days, Zimbabwe would have fancied their chances but a returning Rashid Khan thwarted their hopes with an 11-wicket match haul. Still, Zimbabwe almost pulled off a Houdini-esque escape.
Following on, Zimbabwe were reduced to 142 for 7 - still 116 in arrears - before Williams (151*) and Donald Tiripano (95) added 187 for the eighth wicket. Their resistance meant Afghanistan needed to bat again and score 108 in a minimum of 45 overs; they reached there in 26.1.
According to Williams, this Test would serve as a good learning experience for his side, especially when they host Pakistan for two Tests (and three T20Is) next month.
"We got ourselves into trouble and then we managed to fight through that," Williams said after the match. "We got close to the top of the mountain but didn't quite get there. It was a good learning curve and it shows what mental and physical strength you need to get through Test matches like this.
"The young guys showed a lot of fight. Being 60 minutes away from winning the series, having one hand on the trophy and going through that fighting period was extremely important for them as a learning curve. Also, the senior players pulling the team together and showing that we would do anything for each other was important.
"I think it's a huge thing going into the Test series at home. Not only what has happened here but being at home is going to be huge, our wickets, our conditions. So yeah, I am looking forward to that series."
When Afghanistan came out for the chase, the Zimbabwe seamers bowled plenty of short stuff. Williams said that was part of the plan and if there were more runs on the board, they might have salvaged a draw and won the series.
"It was a tactical move because the wicket was up and down and there were a lot of cracks in it. It was very hard to score with seamers bowling cross-seam and slower balls. If we had more runs on the board, we would have won the series. We had three seamers, so going into day five in the last session, they would have pulled us through."
While Zimbabwe impressed overall, Wesley Madhevere, who made his debut in the first Test, had a torrid time with the bat. After a first-ball duck in his only innings in the first Test, the 20-year-old bagged another pair here. Williams, though, backed the youngster to come out stronger.
"With Wesley, it was purely a technical fault," Williams said. "But I think mentally he is in a good place and we just keep on supporting the guys to make it through the tough times. Everybody goes through a tough stage, be it cricket or life in general. We just keep on supporting, keep on growing, we don't stop. We just told him not to give up."
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo