After two low-scoring matches, the third and final ODI between South Africa and Zimbabwe promises to offer a far better track for run-scoring and the Proteas batsmen need to take full advantage, writes SIMON LEWIS.
The sad story of the first two ODIs has been of a vastly superior South African bowling attack overpowering a gutsy Zimbabwe. The low-key series was viewed as an opportunity for some of the Proteas’ fringe players to grab the opportunity to show what they can do, but a mixture of tough pitch conditions and perhaps some ill-advised batting conspired against them.
With the series won (as was expected by all but a handful of romantics), the third ODI in Paarl presents the ideal chance for these players to finally shine. Many fans might have written them off already, but that would be both unwise and unfair. The weather and the pitch should all play well on Saturday, and what better test for these fringe players than to bounce back from failure, which is the ultimate test of character for a batsman.
While it was great leadership for JP Duminy to move down the order in Bloemfontein to give the inexperienced middle order a chance to show what they can do under pressure, perhaps it will be better in Paarl if Faf du Plessis and Duminy are on hand to shepherd their teammates from the other end.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers have given the Proteas something to think about in both matches, and if their batsmen had been able to fire then the series might only have been decided on Saturday. On a better wicket, there is every chance Zimbabwe could put a reasonable total on the board, but the Proteas will hope to win the toss to give themselves as much batting practice as possible and to set Zimbabwe a huge target.
Let’s remember, of course, that with the series lost, Zimbabwe have nothing to lose and, as a proud cricketing nation, they might just give the Proteas a very competitive match if the pitch plays true.
Aiden Markram’s brilliant debut season has been followed by a frustrating time in Sri Lanka and now against Zimbabwe. In a low-scoring series, he is the leading run-scorer with 62 runs (ave 31.00), and some of his strokeplay has been beautiful, but he desperately needs to put another substantial innings under his belt. Markram could make a major impression on the World Cup in 2019 … but he first needs to do whatever it takes on Saturday to get himself back in the runs and causing the Zimbabwe bowlers’ shoulders to droop.
Zimbabwe’s 27-year-old Tendai Chatara kept the Proteas in check during the previous two matches, taking the second most wickets (five) behind Imran Tahir (eight), and returning figures of 2-12 and 3-42. With an average of 10.80 runs per wicket at a strike rate of a wicket every 18 balls (and an economy rate of 3.60) in the series, Chatara has certainly proved his international class and will offer the Proteas another good challenge in Paarl.
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Khaya Zondo, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klassen, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Ryan Murray, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza, Kyle Jarvis.
Photo: Wikus de Wet/AFP/Getty Images