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Sunday, February 15, 2015

World Cup Report Match 3: South Africa v Zimbabwe

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Either South Africa took their neighbouring opponents a tad too easy, or Zimbabwe took the bull by the horns, because for all but the final 12 overs of South Africa's innings, the less experienced team had the upper hand in this match. The final result almost flattered the World Cup favourites, and one wonders what was said in their dressing rooms this evening.
For the third match in succession the team that won the toss decided to field, and for the third match in succession they lost comfortably. However, South Africa teetered slightly at 4/83 in the 21st over, Amla, du Plessis and de Villiers all out. One more wicket could prove to be conclusive. Miller and Duminy would have been as aware of this as most, and batted sensibly from this point, adding 100 runs in the next 19 overs without playing a stroke in anger.
Then the crash began. In the final 11 overs, South Africa's pair scored 159 runs. It was an amazing exhibition of power hitting from two set batsmen. Sure, the wicket was true. Yes, the ground was small and clearable. But the bowling was atrocious. From the very moment that Miller and Duminy moved into overdrive, accepting that the time to accelerate had arrived, Zimbabwe's bowling plans crumbled. They had no answer, no discernible idea on setting a field and bowling to it. Full tosses, half trackers, slower balls - all were delivered and all were dispatched. Perhaps they were planning on a full bowling strategy, but if they were it was abominable. They are not the only team that appear to have no plan to bowl at the death, but this was carnage.
The real tragedy of those final overs was shown in their own chase of an insurmountable 4/339. Zimbabwe started well, didn't lose early wickets, and maintained a pace of around six runs an over, reaching 2/190 in the 33rd over. While they were never going to be able to chase down the total required, they showed great intent. Imagine if in those final 11 overs they had only gone for 100 runs? That really should have been the maximum - and if they had, they would have finished three runs from the South African total. In the end, their score of 277 was commendable, but surely must have clearly indicated where they lost the game.
South Africa may have won by a comfortable margin of 62 runs, but was it dominating? Apart from Philander with the ball, their other strike weapons appeared far less dangerous than has been intimated in the lead up. Like their 4-1 loss in the ODI's in Australia in November last year, the big names don't seem to scare their opponents as much as they probably should. It's early in the tournament, but I would be surprised in their coach wasn't working them very hard in the next few days to find some better form.
Zimbabwe have shown they have a lot to give here, and that they certainly have enough to reach the quarter final stage if they can make some small improvements. South Africa have the win they required, but at the cost of their invulnerability in the tournament.

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