Centuries by David Miller and JP Duminy secured a 62-run victory for the Proteas against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
The Proteas have begun their World Cup campaign with a positive result. They should be pleased that two of their batsmen performed in what were trying circumstances and conditions. And yet, there is also reason to be concerned, as the bowling unit turned in an inconsistent and largely impotent showing.
The odds were against a limited Zimbabwe side chasing down a target of 340. The minnows surprised with a sustained assault in the early overs. They remained in the contest throughout the innings. They never gave up.
Predictably, they lost wickets at regular intervals in the last 10 overs as they attempted to lift their run rate. But if there was any pressure on Zimbabwe, it came from the scoreboard.
If Miller and Duminy had not performed to such an emphatic extent in the first innings, South Africa may have lost this match. Indeed, the ease with which Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, and Brendan Taylor dispatched the South African bowlers suggests that a target of 280 or even 300 would have been within Zimbabwe’s reach.
Fortunately for the Proteas, two members of that much vaunted top six fired in the first innings. The temperament exhibited by Miller and Duminy for the better part of 30 overs was nothing short of outstanding. They came together when South Africa were under pressure at 83-4. At that point, Zimbabwe had their collective hands on the Proteas’ throat, and were applying a slow but steady squeeze.
Crucially, Miller and Duminy did not panic. They tempered their natural instincts to counter-attack, taking their time to adjust to what was a slow and two-paced Seddon Park pitch. They waited until the 35th over, when the platform had been set, before taking the fight to the Zimbabwean attack.
South Africa added 188 runs in the final 15 overs. Having begun in a relatively circumspect manner, Miller shifted gears from fourth to fifth, reaching his second ODI century in just 81 balls. He slipped into sixth as the innings approached a climax, clearing the boundary at will and at one stage hitting a Solomon Hire delivery into downtown Hamilton.
Duminy played the anchor role for much of the 256-run partnership (a ODI world record for the fifth wicket). Later on, he accelerated to score a well deserved century.
If not for the temperament displayed by this pair in the middle overs, South Africa may not have reached 250, let alone 339. If Miller and Duminy failed, the Proteas may well have suffered an embarrassing defeat. There is plenty to rectify before the crunch game against India next Sunday.
Zimbabwe will regret their own bowling performance at the death of the South African innings, but will take heart from their batsmen’s efforts. They may yet score an upset over one of the big Test playing nations in Pool B.
SA 339-4 in 50 overs (David Miller 138 not out, JP Duminy 115 not out)
Zimbabwe 277 all out in 48.2 overs (Hamilton Masakadza 80, Chamu Chibhabha 64, Imran Tahir 3-36, Vernon Philander 2-30)
South Africa won by 62 runs