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Bulawayo Test crawls towards a draw

South Africa plodded through the fourth day of the Bulawayo Test against Zimbabwe to finish with 300 on the board for the loss of just two wickets. A toothless attack on a placid pitch was met by ponderous batting, and although South Africa's first four batsmen all scored fifties, they still finished the day 119 runs behind Zimbabwe in a match almost certainly doomed to be the dullest of draws.

It was a day without pressure for either side: Zimbabwe's bowlers were unable to exert any real pressure on the South African batsmen, who in turn were content to take things as they came rather than attempt to pressurize the home side.

Heath Streak's tactics at the start of play were open to question, as he chose to begin with the seamers of himself and Travis Friend. Streak on current form is no longer a great bowler, and on this benign pitch both were predictably innocuous.

Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten appeared completely at ease and had certainly played themselves in well by the time Streak finally resorted to left-arm spinner Raymond Price at one end. With the ball often turning sharply, many felt there should have been spin from at least one end from the start.

Gibbs ran to his fifty, off 91 balls, with three boundaries in an over off the wayward Friend, together with four leg-byes. This finally persuaded Streak to resort to Paul Strang, whom many had considered to be his trump card, for the 20th over of the day.

With his second ball Strang made a gallant effort to catch a ferocious straight drive by Gibbs and damaged a finger so badly that he had to leave the field, unable to grip the ball. Fortunately it was no more than badly bruised and he returned to the field just before lunch.

Gibbs brought up the hundred for South Africa with a drive for six off Price; he was scoring at about twice the rate of his partner. The pair added 117 before Gibbs (74) played forward to a turning ball from Price and edged a catch to the keeper. To his credit, he walked without waiting for the umpire's decision.

Kirsten batted with such skill and apparent ease that it came as a surprise when he was dismissed for 65 after lunch. He moved down the pitch to Price who, perhaps seeing him coming, tossed the ball wider and Andy Flower easily stumped him. South Africa were 162 for two.

The scoring rate slowed to about two an over as Neil McKenzie joined Kallis. Strang was unable to bowl much with his sore finger, and Price kept the batsmen wary with the occasional dangerous ball. Throughout the match it was clear that the older the ball became, the harder it was for the batsmen to score.

Kallis reached a rather laborious fifty off 158 balls shortly after tea, immediately after the token target to save the follow-on had been reached.

McKenzie was a little faster, but there appeared to be no effort to win the match, which was still possible for South Africa had they scored quickly and put Zimbabwe in again in the hope that they would collapse - as Australia would probably have done.

Long dull spells were broken by occasional quality strokes, and both batsmen were unbeaten by the close, Kallis with 81 and McKenzie 74. Perhaps a token attempt will be made to liven up the match on the final day, but it seems that everybody has by now understandably lost interest.