South Africa v Zimbabwe, 2nd Test, Centurion, 1st day March 11, 2005

Putting them out of their misery



Jacques Kallis: killer instinct © Getty Images

After the brutality with which South Africa routed Zimbabwe in last week's first Test, Graeme Smith admitted in the build-up to this match that it might be hard to recreate the same sort of intensity that was generated at Cape Town. He was not wrong either. Today's South African performance was as flat as a pancake, and yet it was still sufficient to set them on their way towards another comprehensive victory. If there has been a more lacklustre opening day to a Test match, I am glad I was not around to witness it.

For future reference, a five-seamer handicap seems the prerequisite for a decent Zimbabwean performance. Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini were already missing and Jacques Kallis, Andre Nel and Charl Langeveldt soon joined them for a variety of injury reasons, leaving Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut to take advantage. It is a sad indictment of Zimbabwe's situation that their new-ball pairing also happen to be their best batsmen as well, but by larrupping a selection of pies from the likes of Jacques Rudolph and AB de Villiers, they at least gave themselves a total to defend.

The entire day touched on the surreal, not least for de Villiers, who has now gone from opening batsman to stock bowler - via the wicketkeeping duties - in just seven puzzling performances. The sight of South Africa's fitness trainer, Adrian le Roux, carrying out the 12th man duties added to the feeling that a mockery was taking place in front of our eyes. As if to emphasise the point, the highlight of the day was Jacques Kallis's stunning inswinger to remove Brendan Taylor. As skilful a bowler as Kallis is, however, it is hard to ignore his penchant for easy pickings - in eight Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, he now averages 278.33 with the bat, and 14.77 with the ball.

Kallis aside, at one stage during today's play, there was allegedly another killer roaming loose on the outfield. As an impassioned letter to today's Zimbabwe Independent reveals, one of Zimbabwe's number stands accused of the brutal murder of a little fluffy pet duiker - a miniature version of an antelope (or a bok, if you prefer). The incident, the writer reveals, took place "at a private estate in the wealthy Harare suburb of Chisipite", and "the name of the kicker is well-known to those who have heard, and related the story."

Personally, I don't have much of an objection to blood sports - give me a Newlands-style turkey-shoot over this sort of namby-pamby performance any day. So it is strangely heartening to learn that the Zimbabweans are capable of kicking poor defenceless animals when they are down. If only the South Africans could have been similarly cruel today. Sometimes, the only right thing is to put such creatures out of their misery.