Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer has targetted a big first innings-total as the hosts attempt to draw level with West Indies in the second Test at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo
"That first innings with the bat is so crucial in Test cricket," Cremer said. "If you don't do well in that first innings, you're always chasing the game. So we're hoping to rectify that. To win a Test match, you've probably got to score 600 runs in your two innings, so hopefully we'll do that and won't leave too much for our second innings with the bat."
Batting aside, both the captain and Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak suggested there would not be too much tinkering with Zimbabwe's tactics or their playing XI. "We're unlikely to make unforced changes," Streak said. "We've got a couple of niggles that we're managing, so we'll have a final check tomorrow on one or two guys, but we'll try not to change the team too much. That's what we've done consistently over the last year, trying to give guys a fair crack."
The quick turnaround between games does not give the hosts much freedom in testing out any new combinations, so Zimbabwe have instead focused on rest and recuperation, especially for a bowling attack that had plenty of work to do in intense heat during the first Test. "We just gave our quick bowlers a couple of days off with some achy bodies, and a couple of the guys had big workloads, the spinners especially, so just time to mentally refresh," Streak said. "And we went through what was effective and worked for us in the Test. There's obviously not much we can change in terms of our skills, just making sure that tactically we know exactly what we want to do and what we want to execute in the game."
Two issues for Zimbabwe are their middle order and the wicketkeeper position. Zimbabwe's lower-middle order crumbled twice in the first Test, with nos. 5 - 8 making 36 runs in the first innings and 48 in the second. Wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva had a reasonable game behind the stumps, but contributed just 13 runs across two innings.
"We spoke about soft dismissals and I know the guys were very disappointed, especially the middle-order guys," Streak said. "There were a few soft dismissals from the middle order. On the keeping front, Chakabva didn't score runs but he had an outstanding game with the gloves on a wicket that turned a lot. He's got an important role to do, and hopefully he can contribute with the bat in this next game."
After the extreme heat last week, the build-up to the second Test has seen rain and unseasonably low temperatures in Bulawayo. But with the warmth set to return next week, Streak expected very similar playing conditions for the second Test. "It's very unseasonal to get this cold, guti [persistent drizzle] type weather," Streak explained. "Normally October is quite hot, with thunderstorms. We'll have to see, but the forecast from Monday onwards is improving. If the wicket gets a bit of sun on it, I think we'll see it continue to dust up. It's dry now, and very similar [to the last pitch]."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town