13 August 2014
The Proteas confirmed their status as the number one team in test cricket when they defeated ninth-ranked Zimbabwe by nine wickets in a one-off test at the Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.
While the margin of victory was comfortable and came within four days, the South Africans were made to fight hard during the match, with Zimbabwe using the slow pitch to restrict the Proteas to only 2.50 runs per over in their first innings of 397, which lasted 158.3 overs.
Proteas’ off-spinner Dane Piedt, on debut, played a key role in the outcome of the contest, earning the man of the match award for his performance after picking up eight wickets to help South Africa to victory in the first meeting between the sides in nine years.
“You have to encounter different wickets and they made a wicket that probably suited them more than us,” Proteas’ captain Hashim Amla said afterwards.
“Special mention to our batters for digging deep and getting that crucial lead. The ball was turning and they played really well.
“Piedt bowled exceptionally well,” he added. “He stuck to his job and the pitch assisted him too. I hope he continues to grow.”
While Piedt explored the favourable conditions well, fast bowler Dale Steyn showed why he is the world’s number one ranked test bowler by also picking up eight wickets, even though the pitch was far from helpful to the quicks.
South African bowling coach Allan Donald praised his three-pronged pace attack and made special mention of Morne Morkel, who went wicketless in the first innings, finishing with 0 for 39 in 19 overs, followed by 3 for 15 in 15 in Zimbabwe’s second innings.
“It’s a great attribute that Dale and Morne can swing the old ball and credit to our three pacers for being outstanding,” Donald said.
“Morne always flies below the radar. He’s the big donkey of the team. He does terrific work. He does so much work behind the scenes.”
“We were competitive for three days and were blown away after lunch today,” said Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor.
Retaining the number one ranking
Haroon Lorgat, the CEO of Cricket South Africa, said in a statement: “All test matches are important, but this win was key for the Proteas to retain their number one ranking on the ICC Test Championship table.
“Zimbabwe put up an expected tough fight for which they are to be commended, and it shows that all teams are hard to beat under their own conditions, regardless of their ranking.
“The Proteas once again, as they did in Sri Lanka, showed their ability to play the conditions that are placed in front of them and at times it may have looked unattractive, but they got the job done with their typical determination.”
Lorgat said it was a significant match, when he added: “Considering the need to develop cricket on our continent, it was fitting to resume competition against our neighbours in the most significant format after a break of almost a decade.”
After winning the toss on Saturday, Zimbabwe batted first and posted 256 all out, with captain Taylor leading the way with 93.
Wicket with first ball in test cricket
Opener Hamilton Masakadza weighed in with 45, but was bowled by Piedt with the off-spinner’s very first ball in test cricket. Piedt went on to finish with 4 for 90, while Dale Steyn picked up a five-for, knocking over 5 for 46 in 22.4 overs.
The South African batsmen had to graft hard in their response to the Zimbabwean batting effort, with the slow pitch and some negative bowling lines keeping the scoring rate down.
That, however, was not something that bothered Faf du Plessis, whose game is perfectly suited to that kind of challenge. He top scored with 98, while Quinton de Kock contributed 81 and shared a partnership of 119 with Du Plessis for the fifth wicket.
Dean Elgar, with 61, and JP Duminy, with 55, also registered half-centuries as the Proteas tallied 397.
Off-break bowler John Nyumbu, playing in his first test match, claimed 5 for 157 in 49.3 overs.
Batting again, Zimbabwe failed to get out of first gear. Vusi Sibanda made 45 at the top of the order, and Richmond Mutumbani added an entertaining 43 later in the innings, but there was little else to get excited about as the home side totalled just 181 all out the second time around..
Piedt snared 4 for 62 in 25 overs, Steyn picked up 3 for 38 and Morkel removed the remaining three batsmen.
That left South Africa needing only 41 for victory and they duly reached the required target in the 11th over of their second innings, with Elgar out for 21.
South Africa and Zimbabwe next meet in three one-day internationals, starting on Sunday at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
That series will be followed by a Tri-Nations tournament, also featuring Australia, beginning on Wednesday, 27 August, in Harare.