ZIMBABWE’S resistance against top-ranked South Africa finally came to an end after they lost five wickets during the post-lunch session on the fourth day of the lone cricket Test to hand the visitors a nine-wicket victory at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
DANIEL NHAKANISO, SPORTS REPORTER
After reaching lunch on 80 for two on a difficult wicket to bat on, the hosts lost their last eight wickets for just 101 runs to be bowled out for 181 runs in their second innings.
This gave the Proteas a winning target of 41 runs which they duly chased down for the loss of just one wicket.
It was a cruel end to the match for Zimbabwe, who until the batting collapse had matched their higher ranked opponents for the first three days of the Test match.
In fact before the day’s second session, Zimbabwe would have fancied their chances of even forcing an unlikely draw as their batsmen defied the Proteas’ pace attack.
However yesterday’s batting collapse due to a combination of fine spin bowling from debutant spinner Dane Piedt and poor shot selection which dented any hopes Zimbabwe had of taking the match into the final day.
Paceman Dale Steyn took three wickets for 38 runs to take his tally in the match to eight while spinner Dane Piedt added four more wickets for a match haul to eight, the highest wicket tally by a South African spinner on debut.
After losing the prized wicket of Hamilton Masakadza late on day three Zimbabwe resumed their second innings on 28 for one with Vusi Sibanda unbeaten on eight while night-watchman Donald Tiripano had a single run.
Tiripano was resolute in defence, facing 63 deliveries for his five runs, frustrating the Proteas with a solid defensive effort before he was bowled by Piedt in the 29th over.
Sibanda (45) and Vermeulen (21) were equally valiant with a 40 run partnership which took Zimbabwe to lunch on 80 for two.
The duo would however fall in a space of three deliveries triggering a batting collapse which would have resulted in an innings defeat until a late effort by Richmond Mutumbami (43).
Vermulen trapped lbw by an in swinging delivery from Steyn in the 46th over before Sibanda followed him back to the pavilion two deliveries later after returning a sharp catch to Piedt while unnecessarily attempting to go over the top.
It would get worse for Zimbabwe after Brendan Taylor, the hero of the first innings became Piedt’s other victim after an inside edge lobbed up to the waiting arms of Dean Elgar at short leg.
A brief stand from Regis Chakabva (15) and Sean Williams (3) was ended by Morne Morkel before the 54-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Mutumbami and John Nyumbu (13) ensured Zimbabwe avoided an innings defeat.
Although starved off Test cricket Zimbabwe refused to be bullied by the top-ranked South Africans, posting 256 runs in the first innings after winning the toss and electing and electing to bat first.
Nyumbu was the star of the show with a five wicket haul on debut as the hosts bowled out South Africa for 397 to limit their first innings lead to 141 runs.
After yesterday’s fine start with the bat, Zimbabwe would have hoped to set a competitive target, but it was not to be as they managed to set a target of just 41 runs which the South Africans easily chased to retain their number one position on the Test rankings.
The cricket action will now move to Bulawayo where the hosts play against South Africa in three ODIs from August 17 at Queens Sports Club before returning to Harare for the triangular series involving Australia from August 25.