ZIMBABWE stun favourites South Africa, beating them by nine wickets in the final of the Twenty20 tri-nations tournament.
Prior to this tournament Zimbabwe had only beaten South Africa twice in a pair of ODIs in 1999 and 2000-01. They have now gone past them for the second time in five days Zimbabwe in a warm-up event for the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka this September and October.
South African Innings
South Africa batted first in the tri-series final at Harare Sports Club making what looked like a decent 146 for 6 in their 20 overs, but it could have been much worse for the Proteas earlier as they lost opener Richard Levi for a first-ball duck and were reduced to six for two in the second over.
Then Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, Justin Ontong and Dane Vilas fell cheaply to the Zimbabwean spinners and were looking decidedly wobbly at 67 for 5 in the 12th over. But Faf du Plessis steadied the ship and with some fleet footwork, especially to the slow bowlers brought up a 48-ball fifty in the 16th over. He eventually went on to make 66, before being caught by Hamilton Masakadza off the bowling of Kyle Jarvis.
Albie Morkel made an unbeaten 34 and Colin Ingram (19) and Wayne Parnell (12) were the only others to make double figures in the South African innings.
Kyle Jarvis finished with figures of two for 22 and there was a singe wicket each for Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Creamer and Malcolm Waller.
Zimbabwe cruised to 1-150 with 17 balls to spare thanks to a superb unbeaten partnership between captain Brendan Taylor (59no) and Hamilton Masakadza (58no).
Faced with a tricky target of 147, both Masakadza and captain Taylor showed remarkable poise and confidence to race to the win with a full 17 balls to spare and the South African bowling attack had no answers to a flawless batting display.
Masakadza had been a little lucky to survive what seemed to be an adjacent lbw call against Lonwabo Tsotsobe off the very first delivery and Zimbabwe lost an adventurous Vusi Sibanda to a stunning catch by Farhaan Behardien at cover point in the fourth over.
The match turned decisively in the sixth over of the innings, bowled by Robin Peterson. Peterson had been South Africa’s bowler of the tournament before this match, giving away less than six runs an over in his previous games. But he fell victim to a stunning assault in his first over with 21 runs coming off it as Taylor led the charge with a slog-swept six and a brace of offside boundaries before Masakadza stepped out to smear a towering blow over wide long on.
With a trademark ramped uppercut, Taylor moved swiftly through the 20s and Masakadza extended Peterson’s pain by shellacking a second six over deep midwicket as the runs continued to flow for Zim and South Africa started to look increasingly desperate in the field.
Taylor was first to his fifty, reaching the mark from just 32 deliveries thanks to a sloppy overthrow in the 15th over. Masakadza celebrated his own half-century two overs later with joyful emotion, pumping his fist and embracing his captain before saluting all corners of a packed Harare Sports Club. After reaching his fourth fifty of the tournament – an achievement that rightfully earned him the Man-of-the-Series award – Masakadza took Zimbabwe to the brink of a famous victory with a flurry of powerful boundaries off a listless Tsotsobe, before Taylor ended the match with a crunching pull.
“I am over the moon after beating a quality team and so proud of the boys,” said No.3 batsman and wicketkeeper Taylor. “We don’t get days like these very often so we are going to enjoy ourselves tonight.”
“I thought 146 was a defendable total so hats off to Zimbabwe,” said South Africa captain Hashim Amla. “While Zimbabwe were the better team on the day, we have learnt a lot regarding who should go to Sri Lanka and who should hot.”
Many South African cricket writers had argued against the Proteas going to Harare, saying Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were too weak to provide meaningful opposition. But the Proteas were unable to put in the performances when it mattered, however there were a few positives for South Africa as with only three matches to play until the ICC World Twenty20 in September in Sri Lanka. Faf du Plessis showed off his all-round capabilities; Wayne Parnell proved that he can perform under the pressure; and Richard Levi showed that he is more than a one-hit wonder.
Players of the Tournament
Hamilton Masakadza was named man of the series after finishing as the tournament’s top run-scorer with 267 runs with an average of 66.75 and notching up four half-centuries in five matches. He also scored a hundred in the tour match against Bangladesh and is enjoying what Alistair Campbell said is the form of his life.
Chris Mpofu was the joint leading wicket-taker in the tournament, with seven wickets and an average of 16.14. He showed good ability on a familiar surface to mix up pace with cutters and performed the role of the senior seamer that he is. Mpofu said he benefitted from being pushed by youngsters like Kyle Jarvis and now has another pace bowler to contend with as well.
The find of the tournament was surely Richard Muzhange. He bowled with control and executed the yorker with perfection, especially at the death of an innings. Jason Gillespie, who coached Muzhange at the Mid-West Rhinos last season, identified him as a future star and Butcher, the Zimbabwean coach could not be more pleased. “He is definitely one for the future. He showed great composure and that he is willing to learn.”
This enthusiasm and willingness to learn could be associated with almost all of the Zimbabwe side. Zim have a way to go, but have learnt what to do in certain conditions and how to play in certain situations and this has made them a more competitive team and Butcher said it has also had an influence on their mindsets. “The players are growing in confidence and self-belief. Hopefully, we will take that with us into the ICC World Twenty20 to be held in Sri Lanka this September and October.”
Zimbabwe Cricket Books
Amazon, have a bunch of Zim related cricket books, including "Blood, Sweat And Treason" by Henry Olonga, “A History of the Rhodesia and Zimbabwe National Sides” by Jonty Winch who traces the history of cricket in this country (Zimbabwe) from the first recorded game played in 1890, through two World Wars and a guerilla war, to the comparative peace of post-independence and eventual world recognition in the 1980s when Zimbabwe was able to send a side to England to take part in the I.C.C. Trophy competition which it won.
There is also the Autobiography of another great Zimbabwean cricket coach Duncan Fletcher “Behind the Shades”
At the moment Amazon UK don’t have as wide selection as the US site, but I have ordered books from the US and had them delivered to the UK with no problems.
Zimbabwe Cricket on Amazon.co.uk
Where to Buy Blood, Sweat and Treason
Currently available in Hardcover it is available online through Amazon, in the UK and US