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Zim cricket : So near, yet so far

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ZIMBABWE could not reproduce Sunday’s heroics against Australia as South Africa — led by a second consecutive century by Faf du Plessis — comfortably won the last tri-series round-robin cricket match by 63 runs at Harare Sports Club yesterday to qualify for tomorrow’s final.

DANIEL NHAKANISO

Brendan Taylor’s 79 off 96 balls could not take Zimbabwe close to causing another upset as they were bowled out for 208 runs in 47.2 overs, chasing 272 runs.

The hosts went into yesterday’s match with a mathematical chance of sneaking into the final, but their slim hopes had already been quashed way before they took to the field to bat as they needed to chase down the target in 25 overs.

Earlier, Zimbabwe had won the toss and put South Africa in to bat before Du Plessis scored his second consecutive ODI century to steer South Africa to a competitive 271 for six in their allotted 50 overs.

After his 126, albeit in a losing cause against Australia on Tuesday, du Plessis continued his brilliant form, scoring 121 runs from 140 balls in an innings that included 5 fours and 4 sixes.

Unlike his quick-fire century on Tuesday, Du Plessis played a more watchful innings, sharing two vital partnerships with JP Duminy (51) and Rilee Rossouw (36) to lead his team’s recovery after a slow start.

Zimbabwe had earlier got off to a dream start with the seamers removing both openers inside the first eight overs.

Tendai Chatara had Quinton de Kock (2) caught behind by Taylor in the first over, before Hashim Amla (14) mistimed Neville Madziva’s delivery straight to Elton Chigumbura at mid-off.

A 70-run partnership between Du Plessis and Rossouw was broken when the latter was clean-bowled by Sean Williams with 96 runs on the board before usually prolific AB de Villiers managed just 16 runs.

Zimbabwe needed the wicket of Du Plessis early for them to restrict the Proteas to a low total, but the 30-year-old put a huge prize on his wicket, going on to share a 103-run wicket partnership with Duminy.

The fifth-wicket stand — South Africa’s highest of the match — effectively ended Zimbabwe’s hopes.

As has become the norm, Zimbabwe’s batsmen got starts before cheaply giving their wickets away.

The opening duo of Vusi Sibanda (11) and Sikandar Raza (29) flattered to deceive with a 31-run opening stand before the former was brilliantly run-out by a De Villiers direct hit at the strikers’ end.

Raza soon followed him to the change room as he holed out straight to deep point exactly two overs later to leave the hosts on 46 for two in the ninth over.

South Africa continued to take wickets at regular intervals with Hamilton Masakadza (26) also failing to convert his good start as he was easily caught by De Villiers at cover off Morne Morkel.

Sean Williams (3) had hardly got going before he was caught by Amla at first slip before Chigumbura (13) pulled Duminy straight to midwicket. Duminy was South Africa’s pick of the bowlers claiming three wickets for 35 runs in 8.2 overs.

A 46-run partnership between Taylor and Malcolm Waller proved to be the hosts’ last bit of resistance as it ensured they avoided an embarrassing defeat.

Skipper Chigumbura was disappointed that his batsmen could not convert their starts into big scores.

“The guys batted themselves in, but gave wickets away cheaply,” Chigumbura said afterwards.

“There’s a lot to take from the series — the bowlers bowled great, but we have to put in performances together as a group.”
Yesterday’s defeat saw Zimbabwe finishing bottom of the three-team log standings behind South Africa and Australia, who will clash in the tri-series final at the same venue tomorrow.

Final tri-series table:
1) South Africa (14pts)
2) Australia (10pts)
3) Zimbabwe (4pts)

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