The Zimbabwean attack managed to keep their team in the Test by restricting the flow of runs, but South Africa are in a position to pull away on day three.
The Proteas reached tea trailing by 110 runs with eight wickets in hand. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis resumed after the break on 146-2 with the aim of increasing the scoring rate from 2.6 runs per over and erasing the deficit before the close of play.
In an attempt to raise the scoring rate, Amla tried to drive Tendai Chatara through the covers. The ball stopped in the wicket and cover completed a simple catch. The South African captain made just four, but the arrival of AB de Villiers promised to increase the flow of runs.
It took du Plessis almost 45 minutes to score his first run after tea, but he stayed patient and brought up his 50 after surviving the difficult period. The stalemate was finally broken when de Villiers lost his concentration and chipped John Nyumbu straight to midwicket. He went for seven, leaving South Africa on 157-4 at the drinks break.
Quinton de Kock’s attacking nature prevented the scoreboard from coming to a complete standstill, but it was still slow going. The hosts tactic of bowling outside off stump and setting a ring field achieved the desired result of drying up the runs.
The Zimbabwean attack was very disciplined without ever looking dangerous. A slow pitch and the hosts tactics made scoring very difficult, but the batsmen were untroubled in defence as the Proteas reached stumps on 201-4. They trail by 55 runs with six first innings wickets in hand. Du Plessis, 69, and de Kock, 27, will start again in the morning with the aim of batting most of the day and setting up a match winning lead.
Earlier in the day, Dale Steyn wrapped up the Zimbabwe innings for 256, before Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar set the platform for a big first innings by helping the Proteas reach 62-1 at lunch. The pitch offered a little turn, but it was slow and shouldn’t cause too many problems if the batsmen don’t do anything reckless.
South Africa will be eager to bat just once in this Test as the pitch will only become more difficult over the next few days. Elgar and du Plessis made these intentions clear as they dug in after the resumption, bringing up the 100 in the 37th over before reaching drinks at 102-1.
Elgar brought up his 50 shortly after the break by hoicking Nyumba through mid-on. The left-hander didn’t celebrate with any great conviction as he knew that his job was only half done. However, the 75-run partnership came to an end when Elgar chased a wide delivery and edged Donald Tiripano to the keeper. He stormed off for 61 after throwing away a golden opportunity to score a big hundred.
Amla joined du Plessis at the crease with the score on 132-2. The two ensured that the visitors only lost one wicket in the session, but the scoring rate was below par. Amla and du Plessis left the field for tea with four and 48 to their names respectively.
In the morning session, Zimbabwe resumed their innings on 248-9 after 89 overs. The last pair passed the 250 mark before Steyn claimed his fifth wicket of the innings, his 24th five-for in Tests, to wrap things up for 256 in the 93rd over.
Elgar and Petersen walked out to open South Africa’s innings. They dealt with the new ball threat of Tinashe Panyangara and Tiripano without alarm, reaching 24 without loss after 11 overs.
Nyumbu then came into the attack to bowl his first spell in Test cricket. Petersen immediately put the pressure on the off-spinner, powerfully reverse-sweeping his second delivery to the boundary.
The opening pair achieved their first goal by reaching the drinks breaks break on 33-0. They had done the hard work of seeing off the new ball and went about targeting the change bowlers.
Petersen was particularly severe on the debutant and smashed the spinner over long-on for the first six of the innings. His aggression caused his downfall as he tried to paddle Nyumbu, but didn’t get enough bat on it and was caught behind by Richmond Mutumbami for 32. Nyumbu’s first Test wicket left South Africa on 57-1 as du Plessis joined Elgar in the middle. They negotiated the last five minutes before lunch and went into the break on 62-1 with Elgar and du Plessis on 25 and five respectively.
Report compiled by Gareth Stevens.