First Test

South Africa v Zimbabwe

At Cape Town, March 4, 5, 2005. South Africa won by an innings and 21 runs. Toss: Zimbabwe.

Those who hoped Zimbabwe would rediscover some cohesion, following the return of senior all-rounders Streak and Blignaut, were shocked by the team's performance here. Those expecting the worst were equally shocked: they had had no idea how bad the worst could be. Zimbabwe lurched into lunch on the first day at 37 for seven and were dismissed for 54 - their lowest Test total - barely five overs later. The spectacle grew even more horrific when they had to bowl, and the squeamish had to avert their gaze. Zimbabwe succumbed inside two days.

Only Matsikenyeri reached double figures in their first innings, and only Masakadza of the top-order batsmen displayed much technique, surviving longer than anyone else - 38 balls, for six runs. Eight men were caught in the arc between keeper and gully, completely unable to cope with the pace of Ntini and the outswing of Kallis and Pollock. Folding inside 32 overs was just the beginning of Zimbabwe's humiliation. It took South African openers Smith and de Villiers only 33 overs to reach 200, with Smith helping himself to a run-a-ball century. It ended only when he suffered a guilt attack and slogged 18-year-old leg-spinner Cremer up into the air to give the others a chance. De Villiers followed his example three overs later, two short of an equally gratuitous hundred.

Kallis, freshly ranked as the world's best batsman but never noted for fast scoring, walked out at 234 for two in the 38th over. What would he do? The answer was to beat Ian Botham's 23-year-old record for the fastest Test fifty in terms of balls. Botham got there in 26 against India at Delhi in December 1981; Kallis was two balls quicker. Afterwards, he said it was not premeditated, until he struck three sixes off successive balls from Cremer. A few minutes later, he called for new gloves and asked the twelfth man to check the record; told it was within reach, he thought "why not?" He passed 50 with his fifth six, then slogged his 25th ball to short fine leg. That was Cremer's third wicket, and he celebrated them as joyous, isolated moments of triumph, apparently indifferent to the fact that he was conceding ten runs an over. South Africa's scoringrate of 6.80 an over was the highest for any Test innings of 150 or more.

Smith declared overnight with a lead of 286, true to his pre-series promise to "win quickly rather than hugely". Despite his urgings, however, the second day was a holiday, and everyone knew it. Boje bowled his left-arm spin for a third of the innings; Blignaut hit him for six sixes, reaching his own fifty in 39 balls, before providing Boje with his fourth and final wicket. Zimbabwe made 265 before succumbing by an innings, but it should be recorded that South Africa's players had instinctively taken pity and backed off from the kill. Self-proclaimed hard man Boucher said: "It's not nice to see young guys being belted all over the ground and being bowled out for 50. Maybe we can have a beer and a chat with them afterwards, help them out a bit."

Boucher had become only the third wicket-keeper to make 300 Test dismissals, after Australians Ian Healy and Rod Marsh, on the first day, when Ntini was the third South African after Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald to reach 200 wickets. At 940 deliveries, this was the 11th-shortest completed Test in history but, given that conditions were faultless and there were no illnesses or injuries, surely it was the most one-sided of all.

Man of the Match: J. H. Kallis. Attendance: 5,544.

© John Wisden & co.