Klusener confident of Zimbabwe batting out final day

Zimbabwe have seven wickets in hand as they head into the final day in Bulawayo AFP

A fondness for the fight at the end of an innings still flickers in Lance Klusener, South Africa's former and to date only real finisher. Now, in his role as Zimbabwe's batting coach, Klusener is eagerly anticipating the final day of the second Test against New Zealand, even with his side three down and 329 runs adrift of the target of 387.

"We are pretty confident we can bat for the day," Klusener said at the end of day four. "The pitch is pretty good and New Zealand have been in the field for a long time. From a team growth point of view, I am really looking forward to it."

Klusener's charges showed marked improvement from the first-Test performance when they collapsed to 36 for 4 and 164 all out in the first innings and 17 for 4 in the second, when they eventually totaled 295. They've done better in the second Test, with a first innings total of 362 which included a half-century opening stand, a 148-run partnership for the sixth wicket and a second hundred by a Zimbabwe batsmen in the series with Craig Ervine joining Sean Williams as a centurion.

The difference, Klusener explained, came with a chance in mindset. "We wanted to place a value on our wickets. In the first Test match, there were a couple too many soft dismissals. There were a couple that were a bit soft again here but we were prepared to grind out tough sessions and bat time. We want to make sure bowlers work hard for our wickets, like we had to do for theirs."

It also came with a change in personnel. Tino Mawoyo recovered from a thumb injury to take his place at the top of the order alongside Chamu Chibhabha and Klusener thinks they could be the pair to take Zimbabwe forward. "Since I have been involved, I've noticed we've always struggled to get a good platform. Tino and Chamu have settled things a little bit and take some shine off the ball. I am extremely impressed with them and hopefully they can grow as a partnership together."

Their stand was only worth 45 in the second innings and two wickets towards the end of the day will leave Zimbabwe's middle order exposed early but Klusener believes they have the players to bat out the day. Zimbabwe still have four specialist batsmen at their disposal: Ervine, who took a knock on the knee but should be all right to bat again, first-Test centurion Williams, Prince Masvaure, although he is nursing a sprained ankle, and debutant PJ Moor.

All four have shown signs of being able to occupy the crease and for them, Klusener had a message: "Their job is not finished," he said.

Ideally, he would like all of them to bat like Ervine did. "Craig was really organised. He had a good plan. That's where we need to get to with the other batsmen because it's one thing having a plan, but it's important to be comfortable with the plan."

Ideally, New Zealand would prefer none of them to bat like Ervine. Although Trent Boult gave Zimbabwe credit for showing "great resilience", he warned them it would be a "a new challenge to bat on a tiring wicket".

But the condition of the strip has remained fairly stable and it will as tough for New Zealand to take wickets as it will be for Zimbabwe not to give them away, and Boult knows it. "The challenges is the pace. It's been a wicket that we don't find where we come from. It's a testing surface but a good test at that," he said.

For Boult, who has yet to reach the speeds he did before he injured his back during the Australia series last summer, the challenge has also been against himself, but he feels he is getting back to his best. "I would have liked to take more wickets but that's the way it goes. I feel I am getting better with each spell," he said.

His end-of-day burst was particularly impressive, when he got the shape away and picked up the late wicket of Tino Mawoyo. Tim Southee followed up with a similar delivery to get rid of Sikandar Raza and the two late scalps gave New Zealand the edge, according to Boult. "We know it is a very slow and unresponsive wicket. Nice to come back here and only have to grab seven," he said.

Only seven? Or as many as seven? Klusener would say the latter.