Taylor 93 leads Zimbabwe's fight
Zimbabwe 248 for 9 (Taylor 93, Steyn 4-45, Piedt 4-90) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Zimbabwe had hoped to negate Dale Steyn and co by providing one of the drier surfaces at Harare Sports Club but the conditions ended up assisting debutant offspinner Dane Piedt, who became the 19th bowler in Tests to strike off his first delivery. Replacing Imran Tahir, he derived turn and bounce to pose a consistent threat and possibly offer South Africa what they want - a spinner who can control an end. But Brendan Taylor, for over four hours, was the bulk of Zimbabwe's resistance and ensured honours were even at stumps.
A lacklustre start had prompted him to wait with his full gear in the dressing room as early as the 10th over. His determination helped blunt Steyn's reverse swing, Morne Morkel's bouncers and Piedt's probing to drag his flagging side to end the day on a respectable note. Fearing that he would run out of partners, his scavenging for quick runs robbed him of a well-deserved century. Harare agreed, returning their captain to the dressing room with warm applause and hooting of horns. The Zimbabwean tail mustered some fight, had a little fun along the way with Tendai Chatara spanking 22 off 26 balls, and reached stumps with one wicket standing.
Zimbabwe had opted to bat and had looked uncertain against the new ball and lost Vusi Sibanda in the third over to Steyn. The wobble seemed at its end when Hashim Amla tossed the ball to the spinner in the 16th over and Piedt outwitted Mark Vermeulen with alarming turn. Vermeulen was putting behind a 10-year hiatus from Test cricket, slowly reacquainting himself with his off stump after playing and missing. He began to look confident, especially off the back foot, but that became his undoing as the offspinner got one to rip back in to strike the pads and surprise the batsman.
It wasn't the only time Piedt surprised a batsman. Hamilton Masakadza had bedded himself in during the morning session and began taking advantage after lunch. He struck two fours in the first three overs after lunch to enable the hosts to race along at five per over but his scrapping came to an end when Piedt, going around the wicket, looped one across on off stump and jagged it back between bat and pad. Though his celebrations did pale to Tahir's, his bowling was a marked improvement. He did get another opportunity to work on his fist-pumping technique when Regis Chakabva tamely chipped to short midwicket in the same over and Zimbabwe were back in a rut again.
Taylor would not let Piedt have his way for too long, and scored 41 runs in 61 balls. He hugged the crease against balls that weren't tossed up and clipped him behind square leg and when he saw some flight, he lunged forward and swept. However, as soon as that challenge was done Steyn steamed in and discovered reverse swing. It was the 41st over of the match and the impact was almost immediate with Sean Williams sucked into a full awayswinger to go past Malcolm Marshall's 376 wickets. Williams looked peeved when the umpire judged him caught behind, believing he had not nicked it. But the one-off Test did not have DRS.
Yet Taylor was resolute. He was part of the first fifty partnership of the innings with Masakadza and led another one with Richmond Mutumbami. Both batsmen were peppered with the short ball by Morkel and Mutumbami was put under particular duress, with one zipping past his chest while he tried to fend in the 55th over. But the sixth-wicket pair - the last recognised batting pair - was game for a fight, lasting more than 22 overs. Steyn's pace and reverse swing broke through the resistance, however the umpire had failed to spot an inside edge when he judged Mutumbami lbw.
Taylor realised he would not have company for too long and began farming the strike. He cut Piedt to the point boundary in the 64th over, drilled Steyn through the covers and upper cut him in the next to demonstrate the home side still had a pulse. That suffered somewhat when he slogged JP Duminy to deep midwicket but debutant Donald Tiripano, who has a first-class century, and Chatara added 26 in 33 balls for the ninth wicket. Chatara was out caught behind off Steyn and it was a beauty - angled in, veered away, squared the batsman up but did not take the edge, as the umpire had thought.
South Africa tried everything - Steyn bowled from wide of the crease and to add further threat to his awayswingers but the outside edge, when found, did not carry or squirted wide of the cordon. Vernon Philander teased outside off, Piedt had a chance to claim a five-for but he fluffed a return catch from Tiripano. However, Tiripano and John Nyumbu, the third man playing a first Test, survived to keep the No.1-ranked Test side, with, the no.1 batsman, bowler and allrounder, waiting on the no. 9-ranked side.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo