Test Match

Zimbabwe v South Africa 1999-2000

Geoffrey Dean

At Harare, November 11, 12, 13, 14. South Africa won by an innings and 219 runs. Toss: South Africa.

Zimbabwe suffered their heaviest defeat in seven years of Test cricket, giving South Africa their biggest-ever victory. The previous records for both countries had involved Sri Lanka, beaten by South Africa by an innings and 208 runs at Colombo in 1993-94 but winners over Zimbabwe by an innings and 77 runs, also at Colombo, in 1996-97.

The omens for Zimbabwe had not been good in the lead-up to the match. Campbell unexpectedly resigned as captain 48 hours before the start, to be replaced by Andy Flower, his predecessor; the attack was still severely weakened by the absence through injury of Streak and Paul Strang, as well as by Johnson being unfit to bowl; confidence was low after the two crushing losses, to Australia and South Africa, of the past month; and an unresolved pay dispute with their Board had badly affected morale, according to one senior player. It was a burden Zimbabwe could not carry.

Had Zimbabwe been able to bowl first, in conditions overwhelmingly favouring the bowlers, the game might have been more evenly contested. On a truncated first day, when only 23 overs were possible because of rain, South Africa, notably Donald, bowled erratically yet claimed three wickets, thanks partly to poor batting. On the second morning, the result was effectively decided. More injudicious strokes against persistent bowling on a helpful pitch saw Zimbabwe bowled out before lunch for 102, then their lowest Test total. Only Johnson, the victim of a poor decision, offered protracted resistance, surviving 99 minutes for 20. Pollock, swinging the ball out on a good line, was the pick of the bowlers, while Cronje returned Test-best figures of three for 14. Klusener claimed his 50th Test wicket when he dismissed Whittall, who fell to the best of five good slip catches. South Africa dropped nothing.

Although the well-grassed pitch still offered assistance in the first few hours of the South African innings, the Zimbabwean seamers' inability to hit it as hard, or bowl with the same discipline, as South Africa's bowlers proved all-important. Kallis's defence was watertight, his attacking strokes well selected and executed as he compiled a masterly 115 in five hours 39 minutes, with 13 fours and three sixes, his fifth Test hundred. A less fluent Cronje helped him add 100 in 38 overs. By the third morning the pitch had flattened out, an important factor in Boucher and Pollock's South African eighth-wicket record of 148 in 37 overs. Boucher went on to record not only his second Test hundred of the year but also the highest Test score by a night-watchman, 125 in 322 minutes with 18 fours, most of which came from cuts and drives. It was a chanceless innings, a personal best, and he could not hide his disappointment when he mis-hit to mid-on to give part-time off-spinner Gripper his first Test wicket.

With two days in which to save the match, following Cronje's declaration at South Africa's overnight score, Zimbabwe succumbed in less than three and a half hours. An improved Donald removed Grant Flower with the second ball of the innings, a near unplayable delivery, and returned to bowl brother Andy with another rapid off-cutter. Pollock was again impressive, but the dispirited and inept Zimbabwean batting showed no backbone whatever.

Men of the Match: M. V. Boucher and S. M. Pollock.

© John Wisden & Co