Report by Neil Robinson 29/06/03
On a day when Southern Africa brought sunshine and spectacle to sleepy Canterbury situated in the South East of England, a second century in two days by Jacques Kallis helped South Africa post another impressive total which ultimately proved too much for Zimbabwe to match.
Staging an immediate and impressive recovery from their comprehensive defeat at The Oval, South Africa put together a highly professional performance which leaves all three teams level on six points at the end of the first round of matches. For Zimbabwe, there was the consolation of managing to edge past the threshold of 217 runs in the penultimate over, to claim a bonus point and ensure that this triangular series remains all square.
Put in by Zimbabweís captain Heath Streak on a pitch that was just as flat but slightly slower than that at The Oval, South Africaís innings was almost a carbon copy of their effort 24 hours before. Both openers fell early, either side of a bizarre 10 minute delay caused by the sun reflecting off windscreens in the car park. Gibbs was yorked by Blignaut, his feet going nowhere and his weight falling across to the off-side. Smith was trapped lbw driving leaden footed at a Douglas Hondo inswinger, looking equally out of touch as his partner.
For a time it looked as though Zimbabwe had a stranglehold. Hondo, returning to the side after injury, bowled a quite superb opening spell, regularly swinging the ball away from the right-handed Kallis, and nipping the odd one back sharply off the seam. His initial figures of 8-3-15-1 were a far cry from his difficulties in the Test Series. But a promising partnership between Kallis and Rudolph developed nevertheless, until Rudolph, having cracked Ervine through the off-side for a couple of handsome boundaries in the previous over, tried to break the shackles imposed by Price and slashed a cut to gully for 32.
Just as at The Oval, it was the fourth wicket partnership that proved to be the cornerstone of the South African innings. Pushed up the order to try and speed things along, Andrew Hall, clearly benefiting from his early season acclimatisation with Worcestershire, added 91 with Kallis, steadily increasing the scoring rate, and leaving his side well poised for a brutal final assault. Hallís 56 came off 51 balls and included three sixes, one of which was pulled far over square leg to bring up his second 50 in one day internationals. Kallis, meanwhile, dropped anchor, took few risks and looked to ensure his presence at the end. It was another innings of few highlights until, with the end in sight, he opened his shoulders to heave several big shots over cover and point.
Both men had moments of fortune, Hondo dropped Hall at long-on one ball before he reached his fifty, Taibu might have stumped him soon after. Kallis ought to have been run out on 60, but Flower failed to gather a powerful return to the stumps. By the time Hall pulled Ervine high to square leg, where Flower took a fine running catch, the momentum was growing. After 45 overs the score had reached 208 for 4. The last 5 overs brought a further 64 runs as Zimbabwe began to look increasingly ragged. A moment of farce ended the innings. Blignaut, searching for the perfect yorker to finish, produced a high full toss which the umpire deemed to be a no-ball and which Kallis swatted for 6. This being Blignautís second such transgression, he was removed from the attack at the order of the umpires, Hondo having to return to bowl the extra, and final delivery. Kallis could only shovel it away for a single, but it was enough. He had moved on to 125 off 147 balls, his team had chalked up 272 for 5.
Zimbabwe are always a tougher proposition in the limited overs game, and they were brimful of confidence following their win over England, but chasing 273 against a South African side determined to make amends for their own last showing was always going to be a tough ask. After a poor start, losing Marillier with only 3 on the board and restricted by some fine accurate bowling by Pollock and Ntini, they looked to be progressing well. Dion Ebrahim took on Kallisís anchor role, while Travis Friend, standing tall and hitting straight, played one of the most promising innings of his career so far. He was particularly severe on the gentle outswing of Alan Dawson, whose first 5 overs cost 35 runs. Together they posted the first ever 100 partnership by a Zimbabwean pair against South Africa in a one day international. But once Ebrahim chipped Boje to midwicket for a well made 40, it all slid downhill.
Soon the required rate had crept above 7 runs per over. When Friend was bowled by a fullish delivery from Hall for 82, it grew to 8. Then it was beyond 9 when Matsikenyeri was run out by a direct hit from Hall at mid-on. Blignaut, Streak and Flower then all fell in quick succession for a cost of just 7 runs and, at 178 for 8, Zimbabwe had only their bonus point to look to. Taibu looked to have got them there with the help of Ervine and Price, but when Price was yorked by Hall to make it 212 for 9 in the penultimate over, that too looked like slipping away. But, looking for another yorker, Hall produced a low full toss which Hondo cracked past point for 4. The next ball was clipped off his toes for another boundary. As consolations went, it wasnít much, but it was enough to raise a smile from Hondo.
Three games gone and each team with one win. South Africa will be relieved to have regained their professionalism in the field today and will be confident that if those standards are kept to, they should remain the strongest side in this competition. But, Zimbabwe will know that they are good enough to take advantage of any slip ups their more illustrious opponents might make. They now go to Headingley on Tuesday, where they will hope to catch England on another off-day.
South Africa 272 for 5 (Kallis 125*, Hall 56)
Zimbabwe 226 for 9 (Friend 82, Ebrahim 40)
South Africa won by 46 runs.
Man of the Match: