Zimbabwe look for consolation win
Friday, October 22, Benoni
Start time 2:30pm (1230 GMT)
The Big Picture
Zimbabwe's wait to beat South Africa in their own backyard in an ODI in a bilateral series continues, with Friday's encounter providing their last chance on this tour. It has nevertheless been an encouraging performance from the visitors, despite their failure to win a game. They have performed decently with the bat, and Brendan Taylor's unbeaten 145 in the first ODI must rank as one of the finest innings in unsuccessful chases. However, despite Zimbabwe proving to be much more than season-opening sparring partners for South Africa, there has been a sense of inevitability about the results.
The Zimbabwe bowling has been a huge letdown - in fact it's been little more than fodder for Hashim Amla and company, who have twice reached 200 for the loss of only one wicket. It's not that Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain, hasn't tried. He's shuffled his attack around, using eight bowlers in both matches, and even opened with offspinner Prosper Utseya, but South Africa haven't looked in the remotest of discomfort. A four-day break would have given Chigumbura more time to mull over his options, considering this is Zimbabwe's last ODI before the World Cup. He would also like his batsmen, including himself, to capitalise on the numerous starts they have managed, and support Taylor and Tatenda Taibu.
Graeme Smith's concerns are different. Not satisfied with winning the series, he wants his bowlers and fielders to take care of the "little things" ahead of tougher challenges against Pakistan and India. Tomorrow is another opportunity for his back-up bowlers to stake claims for World Cup spots before the regulars come back.
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Hashim Amla, averaging a staggering 82.55 in ODIs this year with four hundreds in nine matches, has been almost impossible to dislodge. He's hammered length deliveries on the up through the off side, he's been graceful as ever off his pads, and he's even flicked deliveries from two feet outside off stump backward of square. What will the man do next, and more importantly, how can Zimbabwe stop him?
It's been anything but a memorable return to international cricket for Grant Flower. He looked to be regaining his touch in the previous match, before throwing it away against the gentle offspin of JP Duminy. Flower, also Zimbabwe's batting coach, has said before that his position could get awkward if he can't perform as a player. Though it's only his third ODI after six years, he wouldn't want to end his comeback series with a third consecutive failure.
South Africa swapped Twenty20 captain Johan Botha and Albie Morkel for left-arm spinner Robin Peterson - who had last played an ODI in April 2007 - and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in Potchefstroom. Both Botha and Morkel could return to the XI in Benoni.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Rusty Theron 11 Charl Langeveldt
Hamilton Masakadza could play in place of Sean Williams, who has made 10 runs in two games.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Brendan Taylor, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Chamu Chibhabha, 4 Grant Flower, 5 Tatenda Taibu (wk), 6 Craig Ervine, 7 Elton Chigumbura (capt), 8 Keith Dabengwa, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Shingirai Masakadza, 11 Graeme Cremer/Chris Mpofu/Ed Rainsford
Stats and trivia
- Taylor's unbeaten 145 in Bloemfontein is the fourth-highest individual score in a lost chase, and the highest outside India
- Zimbabwe have beaten the hosts only once in South Africa, in a league match of the Standard Bank Triangular Tournament in 2000
"Our batting has been consistent especially against such a big team like South Africa. We're going in the right direction, but our bowlers need a lot more practice and need to gain more control."
Elton Chigumbura knows where Zimbabwe's problems lie
"We're under no illusion that we're suddenly world-beaters after winning the series against Zimbabwe."
Hashim Amla puts South Africa's performance in perspective
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo