Zimbabwe v South Africa, Tri-series, Harare September 4, 2014

Du Plessis' third century puts South Africa in final

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South Africa 271 for 6 (du Plessis 121, Duminy 51) beat Zimbabwe 208 (Taylor 79, Duminy 3-35) by 63 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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South Africa secured their place in the triangular series final against Australia thanks to a third century in the competition from Faf du Plessis, which formed the spine of a target too tall for Zimbabwe to chase. Du Plessis shared a 103-run stand with JP Duminy for the fifth wicket and led the final assault which helped South Africa take 61 runs off the last five overs to put a place in the final beyond Zimbabwe's reach.

The hosts had to reach the score in 25.2 overs to earn a bonus point and improve their run-rate enough to leapfrog South Africa but at a required run-rate of 10.83 to the over that was always going to be a tough ask. Zimbabwe have only managed over 200 once in the five ODIs they played before this one and, although they crossed the mark again this time, their batting let them down again. Aside from a welcome return to form for Brendan Taylor, who scored his first-half century in six innings, no one else managed to stay at the crease for longer than 41 minutes or score more than 29 runs.

This was the last of five ODIs played between South Africa and Zimbabwe over the past three weeks and it was a microcosm of all of them. Zimbabwe were disciplined in the field, after Elton Chigumbura asked South Africa to bat first. Their spinners enforced a stranglehold which kept South Africa quiet for most of the first 45 overs of their innings but, because they lacked the incisiveness to keep taking wickets, one batsman anchored and set up for a final assault. Du Plessis was that that man.

As soon as the score moved beyond 220, Zimbabwe's chances of winning, not in the overs they needed to get to the final, but overall, were dimmed. Their opening partnership remains brittle, their middle-order soft and their tail brave but inadequate even against a South African attack that was a man short.

After a collapse against Australia in their previous match, South Africa chose to bulk up the batting by adding Rilee Rossouw to the XI and had to bench a bowler. Imran Tahir missed out to leave South Africa with just one specialist spinner in Aaron Phangiso. Had Zimbabwe found a partnership as stubborn as the du Plessis-Duminy one, South Africa may have been found wanting but poor shot selection and wavering temperament continue to stunt their progress.

They can look to South Africa's approach as inspiration. When the openers were dismissed in the first eight overs, there was no panic despite the inexperienced player at No.4. Rossouw had two first-ball ducks to his name before this and Zimbabwe could have got through him and into the middle order but he showed more composure this time, particularly against spin.

Rossouw used his feet fairly well, brought out the sweep and reverse sweep and left du Plessis to be the aggressor. For all Rossouw's caution, he could do nothing about the Sean Williams delivery that turned into him as he went back to cut and bowled him but he had acquitted himself well enough to show his promise.

De Villiers was run-out cheaply at the non-strikers' end to give Zimbabwe another chance to take control but Duminy denied them that. He played a Test-match style innings with du Plessis which focused on finding gaps and rotating strike rather than muscling through. They did not breach the boundary for nine overs, including during the Powerplay but importantly, did not lose a wicket in that period either to ensue the foundation was laid.

Du Plessis eventually broke the drought in the 43rd over when he creamed Malcolm Waller through the offside and then slammed Nyumbu for six over long-on. As his century approached, fatigue shrouded du Plessis but he knew he needed to provide impetus at the end. Duminy was equally aware of the task.

In one eventful Madziva over, Duminy swatted one to the square leg boundary and then recorded his first half-century of the series, then top-edged and was dismissed, du Plessis inside-edged a ball for four to register a hundred in 135 balls and hammered the bowler for six over long-off. South Africa had the freedom to hit out at the end and ended up with a comfortable score on a sluggish surface.

Zimbabwe had prepared for a speedy start by inserting Vusi Sibanda in at the top but in his haste he was run out. Sikandar Raza threatened for the umpteenth time and then thew it away while Hamilton Masakadza also got a start he should have turned into something more significant.

Taylor was the only one to demonstrate an understanding of the approach required on this pitch with a patient start and careful application of when to attack. Taylor was composed but with Phangiso and Duminy turning the ball and the fear factor of Dale Steyn, Zimbabwe's middle-order crumbled and with it, their chance to cause another upset.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Greatest_Game on September 5, 2014, 17:36 GMT

    @ dunger.bob commented "These are not light weight teams there're up against. These are two of the toughest in the world and Zimbabwe has definitely exceeded my expectations."

    Dead on Bob. Zim definitely punches way above the weight that the rankings suggest they would. The talent is there - they just need the financial support & training infrastructure to leapfrog a number of teams, and be real contenders.

    I have to take issue with part of your comment: SA & Aus are not "two of the toughest," they are THE two toughest teams in the world. And, quite frankly, Zim are not far behind in "toughness." It is a southern hemisphere quality - the Kiwis are a nuggety bunch too.

    Time for a "Southern Hemisphere Quadrangular." Let's have a tournament where men are men, and the sheep are nervous ;))))

  • Amol_Gh on September 5, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    Now SA must consider this as six golden opportunities to fine-tune their performances against a top team like AUS, just before the World-Cup. Every player with a potential should get a chance to prove himself in the next six matches vs AUS. To start with, SA has to win this final.

  • DeanAmbroseFanatic on September 5, 2014, 7:46 GMT

    Well played Faf..Kallis cant be replaced overnight..but Faf has been quite a replacement

  • PPL11 on September 5, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    All i can Say is Well Played Zim, a bit more application in batting area could of achieved you much batter results, but at least they made both top sides run for their win.

  • xtrafalgarx on September 5, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    @Diane Skinner: Smith's bowling isn't good enough to be relied upon. He is only bowled when we have nothing to lose or are completely out of options. If our frontline bowlers aren't cutting it, Smith won't.

  • dummy4fb on September 5, 2014, 6:22 GMT

    aus is going to have it's work cut out in the final..especially if the wicket is slow. All the more reason they should have given smith a couple of overs to see how he's going. our bowlers struggled to get zimbabwe out good luck with the saffas!

  • espncricinfomobile on September 5, 2014, 5:48 GMT

    Did Faf not get a 98 in this series too? So he could already have 4 tons which is pretty amazing considering it's not been out and out batting conditions. Looking forward to the final so let's hope Australia can actually get Faf out for a change!

  • anver777 on September 5, 2014, 4:31 GMT

    FAF is in dream form in this Tri-Series.... wish he continue the same form in the Final against AUS !!!! GOOD LUCK !!!!

  • gibbs.175 on September 5, 2014, 4:31 GMT

    It was a good ,but SA lost last match to Aus ,that is not except able. So SA must win the finale against Aus to keep the head high and that wil be a good sign to make real preparation for the World Cup in Australia .......good luck .....come on D.Kock ....do it

  • xtrafalgarx on September 5, 2014, 3:43 GMT

    Du Plessis is very, very interesting. I haven't rated him ever since he came into international cricket to be honest. His FC average was 36 after over 70/80 games with about 7 or 8 FC hundreds, so I assumed he was lucky all this time. But he has shown that he is very mentally strong and can bat all day without giving his wicket away as well as put the gas on when needed.

    It goes to show that a lot of the game is played inbetween the ears, lets hope someone like Doolan who has a similar record to when Du Plessis started can do the same, even though he isn't as strong mentally from the looks of things.

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