Tahir takes three as South Africa win easily

South Africa 153 for 2 (Kallis 49*, Price 1-19) beat Zimbabwe 152 (Taylor 40, Morkel 3-16) by eight wickets

A commanding performance by South Africa’s spin bowlers, bounce from Morne Morkel and a clinical showing with the bat gave them a convincing victory over Zimbabwe in their first warm-up match in Chennai.

South Africa had what Zimbabwean coach Alan Butcher called an “inadequate total” to chase and went about it in authoritative fashion. They reached the target of 153 inside 24 overs and only lost two wickets in the process. Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith laid the platform with a first wicket partnership of 69.

Amla reverted back to the wild side of himself that he displayed in the first few ODIs against India in January, even though he previously indicated that he would steer away from such extravagant play. His first boundary came off the first ball, a flashy shot that Brendan Taylor should have caught at first slip but let through. That served only to spur Amla on and he played some flashy shots to complement a few beautiful boundaries in his 45. He became South African’s first wicket, falling to Ray Price.

Smith was far more controlled and made particularly good use of the cut shot in his 41. South Africa’s standout batsman was Jacques Kallis, who looked in dangerous form in his first innings since returning from injury. Kallis has been out of action for six weeks but returned looking as good as ever. “It was a nice knock for him and will be good for his confidence,” Smith said. “Now we will look to build him up to the next stage, which will be bowling.” Kallis played no part with the ball, although he did field.

Zimbabwe’s bowlers were taken apart but Butcher was satisfied that they “did an okay job.” They used three spinners, including Prosper Utseya, who they opened with, and Butcher said that the strategy of opening with a spinner is one they will in all likelihood continue with. “Our spinners have been out best bowlers over the last year or so and in these conditions it will suit us to open with a spinner, as we have been doing. I’ll be surprised if other sides don’t do the same at some stage in the World Cup.”

Zimbabwe’s woes were more about their batting than their bowling and they were bundled out for 152 by a rampant South African outfit. Their opening partnership puzzle looks to be solved with Taylor and Charles Coventry putting on a solid 49 for the first wicket. Captain Elton Chigumbura was disappointed that the team could not build on that “good start.”

Morne Morkel removed Coventry and Tatenda Taibu with successive balls to start the Zimbabwean collapse. Morkel was the only South African seamer to take wickets and Smith was particularly impressed with his performance. “Even on a slow, dead wicket, he was still hitting us pretty hard in the slips. He has some good performances back home and it’s nice to see him being consistent.”

Dale Steyn was unconvincing in his first spell, bowling slower than usual while not receiving any assistance from the track. Lonwabo Tsotsobe was injured after bowling just two overs. He suffered a mild sprain to his right knee while fielding at fine leg. Team manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee said they “didn’t want to risk using him” in the rest of that match and he will be reassessed on Sunday morning.

South Africa’s spinners did the rest of the damage, with Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson introduced in successive overs. Tahir’s appearance on the international stage was widely anticipated and when he came on in the 14th over, he was met by a loud cheer from the local crowd. He went wicketless for four overs, while Robin Peterson was the man succeeding at the other end.

Petersen removed Greg Lamb and Elton Chigumbura with the second and fifth balls of his second over while Brendan Taylor weathered the storm with confidence. He became the first of Tahir’s three victims. Butcher said believes Tahir will “have an impact” in the tournament and Chigumbura praised his “good lines and good areas.”

With Zimbabwe at 95 for 6, South Africa should have wrapped up the tail quickly but Sean Williams and Regis Chakabva resisted for a while. Morne Morkel broke their partnership while Tahir mopped up the bottom order. “He was a little bit excitable upfront, but then he calmed down and got some wickets,” Smith said.

Both captains were surprised by the pitch, with Chigumbura saying his batsmen “expected it to turn more and played the wrong lines.” Smith said “it was not a great wicket and a bit underprepared” but he expects it to be ready for the main tournament.

Chennai’s first match of the tournament is in eight days time but it will play host to a warm-up game between India and New Zealand on Wednesday. South Africa’s play their second warm-up game in Bangalore on Tuesday and Zimbabwe take on Ireland in Nagpur on the same day.


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