Fit-again Mawoyo calls for more application from Zimbabwe's batsmen

Tino Mawoyo: "Realistically, to come out and say we're going to win the next Test would not be honest. If we can go out there and improve on the things we have spoken out, we are going forward." Associated Press

While New Zealand took three days off and spent a night at a game farm - former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak's game farm no less - Zimbabwe trained for three days and held a team dinner at what can safely be called Bulawayo's best eatery.

In the serene surrounds of 26 on Park - a restaurant converted from a family home on a massive plot in which a garden forms a green moat around a gabled mansion - they openly and honestly thrashed out their issues ahead of the second Test against New Zealand in Bulawayo.

Between bites of thick-cut steaks, Zimbabwe, "spoke about where we feel we fell short in the last game and what we need to do to improve," Tino Mawoyo, their opening batsman, said. "There were some encouraging things said to the up-and-coming youngsters from the senior guys, some good words from the coach to gee us up before the next game. Those kinds of things are important - doing things together a team."

As a Test team, Zimbabwe rarely even play together, and their lack of familiarity of the format, and each other, shows. Primarily, the top order's inability to provide a platform has placed extra pressure on the rest of the line-up and it is the first thing Zimbabwe want to fix.

"The guys have had a good look at how they got out and also had a good chance to look at New Zealand's bowlers," Mawoyo said. "There's a little bit more grit needed, a little bit more application and being able to say to yourself, 'let me go out there, suss out conditions and give myself a chance'.

Easier said than done, especially against a New Zealand pace pack that attacks through movement and length. While Tim Southee and Trent Boult swing the ball, Neil Wagner brings a barrage of short balls, which test Zimbabwe's technique. As Prince Masvaure suggested after the first day's play in the first Test, the more Zimbabwe told themselves not to succumb to Wagner, the more they did, but Mawoyo explained they have worked on a better mental approach.

"As the psychologists say, if you don't want to do something, don't say don't. Find a better way of saying it which is probably, look to get under the ball. As we saw the captain in the second innings, and a little bit of Donald Tiripano earlier, they took it on the body," Mawoyo said. "Saying don't is something negative and the mind gravitates towards it naturally, but those chats have happened. Guys have done a little bit more work with the shorts ball in the nets. I think that's something we will address a lot better in the second Test."

Mawoyo will have to walk that talk first. He has recovered from a thumb injury to take his place at the top of the order, and despite a week on the sidelines, believes he is ready. "I back my ability," he said, a rare statement of self-belief from a Zimbabwe batsman, but one Mawoyo is justified in. His unbeaten 79 for Zimbabwe A in a draw against South Africa A last month is fresh in his mind and he hopes to take that determination into this Test.

If he is able to, it will also be an act of leadership in a Zimbabwe team riddled with inexperience. Hamilton Masakadza's injury-forced withdrawal has left Mawoyo as the most experienced batsman in the line-up, alongside Craig Ervine, with both having eight caps each to their name. Only captain Graeme Cremer, who has played 12 Tests, is more experienced.

After handing out three new caps in the first Test, Zimbabwe could end up with another rookie in the second. PJ Moor, who scored a century and a fifty in two Logan Cup appearances last season, is likely to come into the starting XI and could even take the gloves from Regis Chakabva. Moor has shown promise for several years, including during a stint at South Africa's University of Pretoria Academy, where he was in 2010. "It was obvious that he was going to play at a high level," Pierre de Bruyn, who coached at the academy, told ESPNcricinfo. "He embraced every challenge in the academy year which is a very intense program, and what stood out was his work ethic, combined with very strong values."

Moor's talent, like Masvaure's, can only bloom in nurturing circumstances, and with so few fixtures in the Zimbabwe calendar, planning that way ahead may be too optimistic. That may be why Mawoyo offered nothing more than realistic expectations ahead of the second Test.

"If we show improvement, we've done well. We've spoken about the top order probably not doing as well as they should have, the bowlers not striking as well as often as we would have liked them to," he said. "Realistically, to come out and say we're going to win the next Test would not be honest. If we can go out there and improve on the things we have spoken out, we are going forward."