The recently concluded series between Zimbabwe A and SA A was exactly what the doctor ordered for both teams.
The matches would have given the selectors some sort of idea as to what to expect for the season, though SA A would have preferred to have had two wins, which in truth, most people expected from the start.
The visitors dominated 90% of the first four-day match in Harare, before opting to bat for a second time, when they should have gone for the jugular and enforced the follow-on after posting what should have been a match winning total of 445-6 declared.
The smattering of supporters who defied the increasing unease in Harare were treated to four days of good old-fashioned first-class cricket, which was mainly due to a sluggish and unresponsive pitch at the Harare Sports Club, which made run-scoring difficult, and the seamers found very little response on a pitch which in years gone by would have been an absolute playground for the likes of Vernon Philander, who was unable to extract any of the usual swing and seam.
However, the big seamer will be licking his lips in anticipation for the trip to Australia, which will probably give the South African think-tank a fairer idea as to which of the players are in form, and which of the older players will have to resign themselves to the fact that they will be spending their final few seasons travelling from the Highveld to the fairest of Capes, doing franchise duty.
Some of the younger players who impressed were all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius, whose lively medium pace and lower-order belligerence may quite possibly be the missing ingredient the Proteas have been looking for, while the Cape Cobras pairing of Stiaan van Zyl and the highly rated Omphile Ramela went about their business in a mature manner, which will surely have the selectors sitting up and paying close attention.
Although Zimbabwe were soundly thrashed in the second match in Bulawayo, and never put their counterparts under any pressure, they too have a few positives to take from the series ahead of the New Zealand Black Caps tour, which will be played in Bulawayo.
Their top-order batsmen were reasonably sound against the new ball, and No 3 batsman Prince Masvaure gave a good account of himself with scores of 87 not out in the second innings of the first match, which ended in a draw, and 147 in the first innings of the second match. He’s certainly put his hand up for selection, and batting depth will be extremely useful to the Zimbabweans.
Written by Dean du Plessis. Du Plessis is a Zimbabwe-based freelance cricket journalist and the world’s first and only blind cricket commentator.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images