Kimberley: South Africa's inexperienced top order failed to convince in their ultimately successful run chase after their bowlers made light work of Zimbabwe's batting line-up in the first ODI here.
The hosts grabbed a five-wicket victory after demolishing Zimbabwe for a lowly 117
on a lively wicket at the De Beers Diamond Oval on Sunday 30 October. After winning the toss and deciding to bowl first, South Africa's pace attack bowled with superb rhythm from the outset.
Lungi Ngidi in particular bowled a consistent line in and around off stump and was impressively tight throughout his opening spell, an ICC report on Sunday said.Aided by a pitch which provided seam movement and slightly uneven bounce, the South Africa bowlers never allowed the Zimbabwe batsmen to truly settle.
Confronted by tricky conditions, Zimbabwe opted to slowly accumulate rather than counter-attack, which meant the innings never had any momentum. It was Ngidi who made the initial breakthrough, dismissing Solomon Mire for a duck.
Hamilton Masakadza (25 off 52 balls) and Craig Ervine (7 from 20) tried to lay a strong foundation for the innings, keeping the wickets in tact until the end of the Powerplay.
However, Ervine's unfortunate dismissal in the eleventh over ? he was given out caught
behind but replays showed that his bat was a long way from the ball ? prompted a flurry
of wickets, leaving them 62/6 after the dismissal of Peter Moor.
Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo ran through Zimbabwe's middle order.
The trio all managed to extract steep bounce from the pitch as Zimbabwe's batsmen
gave catching practice to the slip cordon. Reeza Hendricks benefitted the most, grabbing
three catches at slip.
Elton Chigumbura provided some resistance and alongside Wellington Masakadza briefly showed aggressive intent. Not brought on until the 26th over, Imran Tahir's array of variations also caused problems for the batsmen. Parading his leg-breaks, googlies and sliders, Tahir's change of pace was as much of a threat as his different types of deliveries. He picked up the wickets of Wellington Masakadza and debutant Brandon Mavuta, trapping them both LBW.
Ngidi returned at the end of the innings to dismiss Chigumbura who top-scored for Zimbabwe with 27. Zimbabwe's total of 117 was their lowest score in an ODI against South Africa and despite the pitch offering the bowlers more than something to work with, it was unlikely that it would ever be enough.
With Faf Du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock all missing this match through either injury or resting, the small chase provided an opportunity for some of the Proteas' fringe players to lay claim for selection for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Dean Elgar, playing in his first ODI in nearly three years, was one of many South African batsmen not to make the most of their chance. A regular fixture in their Test side but rarely in their white-ball plans, Elgar fell for just two to Tendai Chatara, who bowled a probing opening spell.
Hendricks followed shortly after, misreading a Wellington Mazakadza delivery and Aidan Markram was eventually out to Chatara for 27, having been dropped by Brendon Taylor behind the stumps as well as being dismissed off a no ball. This left South Africa 45/3 at the interval and by no means certain to chase down Zimbabwe's total.
The uncertainty continued when Christiaan Jonker, another who was making his ODI debut, hit the ball straight to Sean Williams at mid-wicket to give Mavuta his maiden ODI wicket to leave South Africa 58/4. Whilst by no means on top, Zimbabwe would have felt like they had a sniff. Chatara and Mavuta's leg-spin in particular looked threatening.
It wasn't to be, though, as Heinrich Klaasen's run-a-ball 44 and JP Duminy's steady 16 not out took the game away from the tourists. In depositing Mazakadza for two sixes in an over, Klaasen effectively ended any hopes of Zimbabwe pulling off an upset. Ultimately, 117 just wasn't enough ? had they mustered a slightly more competitive total South Africa could have been under some serious pressure.
Though Duminy? who went past 5,000 ODI runs in his innings? only scored an unbeaten
16, he exuded a certain calmness that was lacking in many of his teammates. South Africa
may have won the game comfortably in the end ? they won with 23.5 overs to spare? but
they are no closer to knowing which fringe batsmen are deserving of a World Cup spot.
While they have question marks in the batting department, they have no such concerns , in particular,bowling. They really made the most of the favourable conditions and Zimbabwe's
batsmen will know they are in for a tough time in the remaining two matches of the series.(UNI)