- Zimbabwe v South Africa, T20 tri-series, Harare
Zimbabwe stun South Africa
So-called small-fry teams tend to up to their game when doing battle against their big brothers and Zimbabwe did it in a big way. They turned a series that was expected to be completely dominated by South Africa into a contest, with an unlikely but clinical victory over their neighbours.
Zimbabwe seemed to surprise even themselves with an effort that started with a century stand between Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza, and ended with superb bowling from the senior statesman Chris Mpofu, legspinner Graeme Cremer and newcomer Richard Muzhange. South Africa's attack, as they did on Tuesday, failed to take early wickets or find the right lengths on a slow surface. Unlike the match against Bangladesh, their batting was also sub-standard. They succumbed in the chase to a bowling pack that understood their own conditions and were able to restrict runs, create pressure and bowl out a line-up that was expected to produce much more.
After allowing Zimbabwe to reach an above-par score, South Africa's batting line-up had a fairly tough task on a pitch that is known to get slower as the day goes on. Senior paceman Chris Mpofu immediately found the right tempo but Kyle Jarvis was unable to do the same from the other side. He bowled too wide of offstump, allowing both Hashim Amla and Richard Levi to find the boundary.
Mpofu made up for Jarvis' early blunders when he removed Amla with a slower ball that was mis-timed to Masakadza at mid-on. He would have had Colin Ingram out as well, but Vusi Sibanda spilled a catch at fine leg.
Ingram went on to make Zimbabwe pay and was South Africa's top-scorer with his 48, an innings that was built on the cut shot. While Levi was with him, South Africa seemed in control. Jarvis fed Levi sumptuous full tosses while Ingram moved his feet well against the spinners. Prosper Utseya put the brakes on their charge when he had Levi caught at deep midwicket by Craig Ervine, as the batsman attempted to clear the rope.
South Africa's middle-order was exposed and they did not cover themselves in glory. Justin Ontong gifted a catch to Utseya in the covers off Cremer, before the googly accounted for both Dane Vilas, who was bowled, and JP Duminy, who was stumped. South Africa teetered at 91 for 5 and it was up to Albie Morkel to haul them back.
He clubbed a six off Cremer's last over but again did not produce the expected fireworks. Muzhange removed Morkel by inviting him to chase a wide and having him caught behind. Robin Peterson and Ingram both skied desperate shots off Mpofu's final over and all that was left for Zimbabwe to do was nip out the tail. Jarvis bowled Tsotsobe to earn some redemption and a memorable victory for his team, which excelled in all disciplines.
With the bat, Masakadza and Sibanda gave Zimbabwe a dream start. Boundaries were not the hallmark of the duo's stand, although when they found them, they found them well. Sibanda signalled their intent when he slog-swept Lonwabo Tsotsobe over backward-square leg at the end of the second over.
The pair ran well between the wickets and did not allow the run-rate to stagnate when South Africa's spinners came on after the Powerplay. Although JP Duminy and Peterson had more success in controlling proceedings, Zimbabwe's rotation of strike ensured they continued to build. Once comfortable, the batsmen even took on the spinners. Sibanda hit Peterson onto the roof of Harare Sports Club while Masakadza brought up his 50 with a meaty blow over long-on off Justin Ontong.
Masakadza was out shortly afterwards as South Africa's first success came in the 14th over. He attempted the slog-sweep but top-edged to deep midwicket. Sibanda was dropped off the first ball of Parnell's second over, when he swung to Richard Levi at long-on, but the mistake was not too costly. After one more pull shot, which went for four, Sibanda swung hard and offered Tsotsobe a catch at third man.
Elton Chigumbura, who was moved up the order to No. 3, holed out to the first ball he faced but Zimbabwe rebuilt well. Brendan Taylor withstood a barrage of slower bouncers from Morkel and eventually lashed out. His slog sweep to long-on would have been caught had Ontong held on, but he palmed it over for six. Taylor launched an assault on Parnell and took 17 runs off the left-armer's third over, which proved a major part of the difference between the two sides.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent