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Steyn's all-round show, Tahir hat-trick flatten Zimbabwe

South Africa 198 (Steyn 60, Markram 35, Chatara 3-42) beat Zimbabwe 78 (Hamilton Masakadza 27, Tahir 6-24, Steyn 2-19) by 120 runs

Imran Tahir became the fourth South African bowler to take a one-day international hat-trick as Zimbabwe folded for just 78 in the second ODI in Bloemfontein. Tahir removed Sean Williams, Peter Moor and Brandon Mavuta with successive deliveries over two overs to derail Zimbabwe's chase and finished with a 6 for 24, taking full advantage of a batting line-up softened up by the alarmingly variable bounce extracted by Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi earlier in the evening. Steyn provided a particular fearsome challenge, bowling well above 140kph to rattle the top order. He picked up 2 for 19 on his return to ODI cricket, capping a day in which he also top scored with a career-best 60 to boost South Africa to a total of 198.

That already looked like it could be enough when Tahir was brought on in the 14th over, thanks in large part to a pitch that misbehaved all day and became particularly capricious when Dale Steyn opened the bowling under lights. The Willow End, in particular, exhibited variable bounce that made the prospect of chasing look very difficult.

Craig Ervine was struck on the glove and the grille by consecutive deliveries from Steyn, while both Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza were made to fend at brutal lifters that reared off a length. With Solomon Mire undone third ball by a full one from Steyn, none of the rest of the top were able to build partnerships and Zimbabwe entered the Powerplay teetering at 28 for 2. The visitors' last hopes evaporated when Masakadza fell for 27, indecision sewn by the irregular bounce bringing a flat-footed poke to slip off Ngidi.

Tahir had, by this point, already started to weave his magic at the other end. Taylor swept a four but then misread a googly to be lbw for 10, Tahir setting off in celebration even as he turned to appeal the wicket. From then on, although the pitch levelled out, Tahir's variations simply proved too much for Zimbabwe. Williams was drawn out of his crease by one that spun away from him to be stumped off the last ball of Tahir's third over, while Moor played outside a slider to be lbw to the first of his fourth. The next ball zipped in off a length, right between Mavuta's bat and pad to spark Tahir's trademark celebration.

Zimbabwe slumped to 59 for 8 with the hat-trick, and the result was now a foregone conclusion. Jarvis slogged across the line at another googly to be bowled for 1, and fittingly it was Steyn who held the final catch to bring the game to an end when Chatara heaved a slider into the deep.

The catch completed an almost perfect comeback for Steyn, whose two wickets came after his maiden ODI fifty had carried South Africa out of the depths of 101 for 7. South Africa picked him to bowl, but in his first one-day international in almost two years Steyn's plucky batting rescued his team. Thirteen years since his ODI debut, and batting for the 48th time in the format, Steyn put on 75 with Andile Phehlukwayo, a new South African record for the eighth wicket against Zimbabwe.

South Africa were tottering when Steyn got to the crease, but the mantra being drilled into them is to play positive cricket regardless of the situation and the shots kept coming. Steyn was off the mark with an edge through the vacant second slip, and while he swung merrily Phehlukwayo shrugged off a strong lbw shout to drill Williams over long on for six.

An outside edge over slip took Steyn to his highest score in ODIs, and he motored into the 40s with a heave to midwicket - his seventh four. He had scored the bulk of the eighth-wicket stand that rebuilt South Africa's innings when Zimbabwe finally broke through, Chatara strangling Phehlukwayo down the leg side.

Steyn brought up his fifty with a crisp strike down the ground for six off Donald Tiripano, becoming the fourth South African after Lance Klusener, Andrew Hall and Richard Snell to score an ODI half century from no. 9. It was an effort that was desperately needed after three of the top five fell for single figures.

Zimbabwe, too, had had some assistance from a pitch that captain Masakadza described as "up and down", but they had also been rewarded for disciplined application with the ball. The wickets were shared around by their seamers and spinners and Jarvis was particularly probing in his opening spell. Once again, South Africa's unproven top order stumbled under pressure, and it was left to the two of the oldest men on the field - Steyn and Tahir - to secure the match and the series.