THE Castle Lager Proteas cracked the spine of Zimbabwean resistance by taking three wickets in 10 minutes after lunch to canter to victory by nine wickets with a day to spare in their one-off Test match at the Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.
In all, Zimbabwe lost five wickets for 45 runs during the afternoon session. At one stage it looked as though they might set the Proteas something of a target when they reached 80/2 at lunch in pursuit of knocking off their first innings deficit of 141 runs.
But everything changed in the afternoon session against the reverse swing of Dale Steyn, the guile and spin of Dane Piedt and the menacing accuracy of Morne Morkel.
Piedt took four wickets in an innings for the second time in the match to give him a match return of 8/152 in only 49 overs for the best ever figures on debut by a South African spin bowler. Previously Ian Smith had taken seven on South Africa’s tour of England in 1947. Since unity Paul Harris took five in his first Test match and Paul Adams and Claude Henderson four each.
Piedt was a well deserving winner of the Man of the Match award. His four wickets in the first innings were highly encouraging but his real job was to finish the business in the second and again he responded extremely well. His mix of flight and turn was simply too much for his opponents.
In the past the Proteas have relied too much on the seam attack to do the job in the second innings and Piedt has brought the classic combination to the team of being able to keep things tight in the first innings and play the major role in the second.
His strike rate for the match was a wicket every 36.75 balls which is exceptional by any standards regardless of the assistance provided by the surface.
As always, Steyn stood up when it really counted and also took eight wickets in the match to put him level with Sir Ian Botham on 383 Test career dismissals.
Morkel’s figures spoke for themselves – 3/15 in 15 overs. He kept the batsmen on the hop throughout the match and what he would have done on a surface with any kind of pace and bounce does not require much imagination.
The victory confirms the Proteas as the No. 1 ranked team in the world.
Zimbabwe took quite a few positives out of the match not the least of these being the potential realized by their debutant spin bowler, John Nyumbu, and the obvious talents of their wicketkeeper-batsman, Richmond Mutumbani, who was always prepared to take the fight to the Proteas and was responsible for the Proteas having to bat a second time.
The Proteas play the first of three ODI’s against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Sunday. There will be live coverage on SuperSport2 from 9am with play starting at 9.30am.