Outclassed Zimbabwe hung out to dry
South Africa 340 for 3 (Smith 131, de Villiers 98, Kallis 54) lead Zimbabwe 54 (Kallis 4-13, Pollock 3-9, Ntini 3-23) by 286 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Zimbabwe were routed for 54 in a little over a session on the opening day of the first Test at Newlands, nine runs short of their previous-lowest score in Tests, 63 against West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1999-2000. The pitch held few demons, and as if to underline the point, South Africa raced to 340 for 3 by the close. Their lead of 286 is the highest that a side batting second has established by the end of the first day in any Test.
In the history of Test cricket there can rarely have been a day as obscenely one-sided as this. Zimbabwe had the look of a very average club side, and by and large the technique to match it. The wickets which they claimed both owed more to boredom on the part of the batsmen - all three fell trying to hammer the hapless Graeme Cremer over Table Mountain - than any cunning plan. If the first session was depressing as Zimbabwe's batsmen succumbed, the last was embarrassing, as AB de Villiers, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis hit boundaries at will - in all South Africa piled on 249 runs in 33 overs after tea.
Although South Africa's seamers bowled well in the morning, the batsmen's techniques were largely to blame for the humiliation. This was Test cricket in name only. The paltry crowd - some 1600 imported schoolchildren more than doubled the attendance - showed that the locals knew that this was always likely to be a one-sided encounter. But even they must have been surprised and ultimately depressed at what they saw.
On a hot and sunny day, Tatenda Taibu won the toss and batted on a pitch which appeared to offer little to the bowlers apart from a hint of early moisture. But so fundamental were the flaws in his players' techniques that the bowlers had to do little more than put the ball on the spot and wait. The muted celebrations - only Makhaya Ntini's 200th Test wicket produced anything resembling delight - underlined that the South Africans knew the value of their achievements. Ntini, Kallis and Shaun Pollock took some of the easiest Test wickets they will ever collect. As if to underline the unevenness of the contest, Kallis, usually reluctant to bowl these days, has rarely been so keen.
Heath Streak briefly showed that he was not out of his depth, one cracking cover-drive merely emphasising the inadequacies of what had gone before. But even other more experienced colleagues, such as Dion Ebrahim, were all at sea.
Pollock started the rot when he turned Barney Rogers square and had him caught behind, and thereafter it was a procession. Ntini claimed two in his opening eight-over burst, Stuart Matsikenyeri fending to third slip (20 for 3) and Mark Boucher taking his 300th Test dismissal when he caught Brendan Taylor (22 for 4). Kallis snapped up 4 for 13 with no more than gentle outswing which was still too good for the middle order.
In comparison with what was to follow, South Africa started sedately, as Smith and de Villiers saw off the new ball and Streak, the only bowler who asked any serious questions. Smith twice drove loosely, edges narrowly missing his off stump, but that was as close as Zimbabwe got to the breakthrough.
After tea, the floodgates opened and dot-balls became rarer than boundaries. Smith brought up his eighth Test hundred and look set to fill his boots before he wearily skyed Cremer to Hamilton Mazakadza for 131. de Villiers was also left ruing a missed opportunity when, two short of what would have been his second successive Test hundred, he tried to drive Cremer against the spin and lofted to Andy Blignaut in the covers.
Kallis and Jacques Rudolph set off with all the gusto of children let loose in the sweet shop but who feared teacher would come in to spoil their fun at any moment. Kallis hammered three successive sixes off Cremer, and the usually circumspect Rudolph cracked four fours in five balls off Elton Chigumbura. Even Streak, was savaged and Taibu looked bewildered as he ran out of bowlers to stem the flow, or fielders to plug the gaps.
Kallis's fifth six brought up his fifty in 24 balls - the fastest-known in Test history - before he became Cremer's third wicket, again courtesy of a top-edge attempting an even bigger hit. Cremer ended the day with the remarkable figures of 9-0-86-3.
Kallis departed into the lengthening shadows. The integrity of Test cricket had disappeared some time before that.
Martin Williamson is the managing editor of Cricinfo.