After a year without test cricket, Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor praised his side's competitiveness against top-ranked South Africa that suggests they deserve a greater share of the international calendar.
The Proteas claimed a nine-wicket victory on Tuesday as the shadows lengthened on day four of a one-off test match they never looked like losing, but were made to work harder than expected to beat a determined Zimbabwe side. The credit for that should go to the home bowling attack and Taylor himself, not just for his innings of 93 on day one that deserved a hundred, but also the way he captained the side within the limitations of his resources.
"For guys that haven't played a lot of cricket, we can be very proud of 80 percent of the cricket we played. I wanted to go five days," he told reporters. "I felt we were good enough to do that and if we had a better session after lunch (on day four) we might have done that."
The Harare Sports Club curator produced a wicket that was perfectly suited to Zimbabwe's bowling, turn on day one to assist the spinners and abrasive enough to slow down their moderately paced seam attack, making scoring difficult.
"Our seamers were exceptional. Tinashe (Panyangara) didn't get hit for a boundary in 30 overs in the first innings - that's a huge plus. Tendai Chatara backed him up well and even Donald (Tiripano) bowled some really good deliveries," he added. "This will give them a lot of belief that they restricted two of the best batsmen in the world in AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla."
Taylor admits his side were daunted by the prospect of facing the Proteas' lethal pace attack of Dale Steyn. Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, but with a wicket intended to quell the threat, the batsmen coped better than expected.
"We were quite nervous in the beginning, to be honest with you, knowing that they were bringing their three-pronged pace attack," he said. "But I'm happy with the guys. They held their own. For three days we were competitive and we fought hard. It was never easy but it was manageable."
Zimbabwe have no test matches scheduled at home in the near future but travel to Bangladesh for a three-match series starting on Oct. 26.
Perhaps that tour will be the true acid-test of this side's potential and their place in the world game.
"Bangladesh will be slow and flat with turning wickets, so it won't be too much different to what he had here. We know what to expect, if we get two good spinning options together, we can do well."
The most pressing assignment for the side though, is a three-match one-day international series with South Africa in Bulawayo starting on Sunday, before Australia arrive for a triangular competition back in Harare starting on Aug. 25.