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Brendan Taylor has given Zimbabwean Test cricket a pass mark after their drawn series against Bangladesh. Although their dominance in the first game put the hosts in position to claim a series victory and set them up to win consecutive Tests for the first time in 12 years, Taylor regarded it as achievement enough that they shared honours overall.
"We've gone forward, especially considering the way it went for us in West Indies," Taylor said. "It does take character to win Test matches and we leveled it. It's not the end of the world that we didn't win. There's still plenty of cricket to play and hopefully we will keep getting better."
Zimbabwe were blanked across all formats in West Indies a month ago but it was their Test defeats which stung hardest. Their batsmen were outspun by Shane Shillingford and Marlon Samuels and made to look like amateurs.
Zimbabwe were desperate to overturn that and do some damage control to their reputations. Twin centuries from Taylor and a hundred from Hamilton Masakadza went some way to doing that but overall, Zimbabwe's batting was what let them down. Their top order proved fragile and dented their hopes of saving the second Test, which Taylor said were still alive overnight.
"We thought batting out the day was the more realistic goal. We felt if we could bat around Hamilton and take it hour by hour then we could get there," he said. "But there were too many soft dismissals."
Taylor put Zimbabwe's batting inconsistencies down to mindset rather than inability. "It's our mental process. We practice really hard and technically we are ok but guys do work for a good solid hour and then find ways to get out. If we can all dig deep and find our ways to be a little sharper that will be good."
Despite the rest of the line-up making similar mistakes, Taylor was pleased with the progress they made overall. "Our middle order is looking strong again," he said. Malcolm Waller scored a half-century, Graeme Cremer notched up his highest Test score and Keegan Meth and Shingi Masakadza are proving handy lower-order all-rounders.
Taylor was particularly impressed with the showing of Shingi, the younger brother of Hamilton. He was Zimbabwe's leading wicket-taker with 10 at an average of 16.80, accepted the job of nightwatchman and performed it well and contributed with the bat in his regular position as well. "I am very pleased with the way he bowled. He is one hell of a trier," Taylor said. "He has got such a big heart and he never stops giving his best. If we had eleven of him, we'd have a pretty good side."
But not even Shingi could bowl as well as Zimbabwe hoped when they put Bangladesh in to bat on what they thought was a lively surface. It turned out to be a far tamer strip than the one on which the first Test was played on the same ground and the Bangladesh batsmen settled on it quickly.
Taylor stood by his decision to try and make first use of it. "There was definitely enough for the fast bowlers. We didn't hit the right areas consistently enough and we allowed them to score freely. It's hard to come back from that. We didn't back up anyone. Keegan Meth contained nicely from one end but Kyle Jarvis was trying too hard and we let the pressure go from the other end. Kyle still has a long to go as a bowler and I'm sure he will bounce back stronger."
Taylor thought the same of his whole team, who will have a healthy dose of Test cricket to measure themselves against this year, with incoming tours against Sri Lanka and Pakistan scheduled. "We knew we didn't help ourselves in this match but we are growing," Taylor said. "Bangladesh probably won two-thirds of the match and we had too many bad sessions. We were just outplayed but we will get better."