Taibu hopes for a better showing
When the itinerary was drawn up for Zimbabwe's two-Test tour of South Africa, there had originally been just a two-day gap scheduled between last week's Cape Town Test and the Centurion match, which gets underway tomorrow morning (Friday). But, thanks to South Africa's ludicrously facile two-day victory at Newlands, the two sides have been given the best part of a week to prepare for the rematch, or rather, the mismatch Part Two.
There really isn't a lot that can be said about this fixture. Amid the outrage that greeted the result of the first Test, in which South Africa bowled Zimbabwe out for 54 before romping to 340 for 3 by the close of the first day, there were renewed calls for Zimbabwe's Test status to be reviewed, and not even the return of their former captain, Heath Streak, was able to increase the team's competitiveness.
Nobody in their right mind expects Zimbabwe to bounce back from such a humiliation, least of all the CEO of the Nashua Titans franchise, Elise Lombard, who warned last week that another two-day finish could cost the Centurion authorities a small fortune in lost revenue. But Zimbabwe can at least console themselves that things surely cannot get any worse.
Their captain, Tatenda Taibu, remained defiant however, arguing that his team had learned a great deal from their Newlands humiliation. "We learnt how important it was to bat for long periods and we also learnt that there is no margin for error on the South African grounds," Taibu told the SAPA news agency. "We've all learnt a lot and we need to go back and put what we've learnt into practice."
The only bright spot for Zimbabwe came on the second day, when, with South Africa's intensity understandably reduced, they kept the match alive until after tea, thanks in particular to a storming innings from the returning Andy Blignaut, who cracked 61 from 58 balls, including six sixes.
"The boys weren't destroyed by the loss because we fought back well," said Taibu, adding that the likes of Blignaut and Streak were not yet match-fit after spending a long time on the sidelines during their dispute with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.
With a major tour of the Caribbean looming at the end of the month, South Africa have chosen to rest their established new-ball pairing of Makhaya Ntini - who hasn't missed a game for 36 matches and three years - and Shaun Pollock, who has a long-term ankle injury. But South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, warned Zimbabwe that there would be no let-up at Centurion.
"It would be difficult to re-enact the two-day Test," Smith told SAPA, "but certainly we'll be playing with the same intensity, the will to win and the will to be ruthless that we had at Newlands." Into Pollock and Ntini's places come Monde Zondeki and Andre Nel, and Smith expects great things of the pair.
"They are all different kinds of bowlers with their own special talents," he said of his attack, which also includes Charl Langeveldt, who ripped through England in the Cape Town Test in January. "Nella's big and strong, and he gets good pace and bounce, and he gets good shape. We want to see him bowl the way we know he can.
"I want to see Monde run in, get pace, hit good areas and create chances," added Smith. "Although Langes doesn't have the same pace, he is a guy that gets good swing. We want to see them work together as a trio and build the pressure. That's what our four seam bowlers did for us in Cape Town."
South Africa 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 AB de Villiers, 3 Jacques Rudolph, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Herschelle Gibbs, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Nicky Boje, 9 Monde Zondeki, 10 Charl Langeveldt, 11 Andre Nel.
Zimbabwe (from) Stuart Matsikenyeri, Barney Rogers, Hamilton Masakadza, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Williams, Tatenda Taibu (capt and wk), Alester Maregwede, Heath Streak, Andy Blignaut, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya, Twanda Mupariwa, Christopher Mpofu, Douglas Hondo.