Eagles v Zimbabweans, Twenty20, Kimberley September 13, 2006

Zimbabwe tour begins with heavy defeat

Liam Brickhill at Kimberley

Eagles 104 for 1 (Jacobs 53*, Rudolph 22*) beat Zimbabweans 103 (Duffin 40, Tshabalala 3-15) by nine wickets

The Eagles crushed the Zimbabweans by nine wickets at Kimberley in the opening match, a Twenty20, of their South African tour. Though the margin of victory was vast, the South Africa coach, Mickey Arthur, pointed out today's match was Zimbabwe's first Twenty20 encounter.

Despite Arthur's eagerness not to highlight the weakness of the tourists, the reality was that it took the home side only 11.4 overs to knock off the required 104 runs, losing just the one wicket - Loots Bosman for 23 - on the way.

Davey Jacobs, the 23-year-old right-hander, took the attack to Zimbabwe, crashing three fours and three towering sixes in his unbeaten 53. His 55-run partnership with Jacques Rudolph, who guided 22 from 18 balls, came from just 37 balls as Zimbabwe were beaten with 50 balls remaining.

It was a poor warm-up for Zimbabwe who now face South Africa for three one-dayers, the first of which is at Bloemfontein on Friday. Arthur, while pleased with the Eagles' performance, added a note of a caution about the Zimbabweans which seemed rather out of place. "They have come off a good win against Bangladesh in the 50-overs version of the game," he said, "and they are obviously more used to playing the longer form of cricket. I expect them to put up a better performance on Friday."

Zimbabwe had some solace in the way they started their innings. Terry Duffin batted intelligently to reach 40 from 38 balls, taking his side to 79 for 1 before he was bowled by Victor Mpitsang. That opened the floodgates as a procession of batsmen succumbed to the desire to thrash every ball out of the ground. Elton Chigumbura lasted just two balls before he swished wildly at a full ball from Victor Mpitsang and had his off stump flattened. Thandi Tshabala held on to a stinging return catch to get rid of Stuart Matsikenyeri, and after his dismissal Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza fell to identical heaves that failed to clear midwicket. With the tailenders exposed, the spectators were treated to the bizarre sight of a slip cordon being brought in for the closing overs of a Twenty20 game, and Zimbabwe's innings whimpered to a close in the 19th over. Tshabalala, Mpitsang and Roger Telemachus each took three apiece as Zimbabwe lost their last nine wickets for 24 in just 7.1 overs.

While their bowling performance was marginally more professional than their batting, with such a small total to defend Zimbabwe never had the Eagles batsmen under any sort of pressure. Ed Rainsford worked up some pace and movement, but was no match for Jacobs or Bosman. Anthony Ireland, the medium-pace opener, appeared woefully out of his depth against batsmen with plentiful experience in this form of the game and was taken out of the attack after only one over. Tafadzwa Kamungozi and Timycen Maruma, both under 20 and both making their Zimbabwe debuts, were brought into the attack and as expected neither were any match for the batsmen.

As Arthur said, this was Zimbabwe's first exposure to this format at any level, and they were playing against a championship-winning side who have eight international players in their squad. At the same time, the extent to which the Zimbabweans were outclassed cannot be ignored. On the plus side, these games are mercifully short. Compared to this match, their one-day series against the full South African side will be like Chinese water torture for Zimbabwe fans.