Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 2nd day August 10, 2014

Du Plessis fifty marks slow South Africa progress

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South Africa 201 for 4 (Du Plessis 69*, Elgar 61) trail Zimbabwe 256 (Taylor 93, Steyn 5-46, Piedt 4-90) by 55 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Much like the hosts, South Africa clung to caution as their default approach. The spinners found the pitch responsive and the seamers were largely disciplined and the safety-first approach was forced on them through the day despite half-centuries from opener Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis.

Zimbabwe had been scrappy throughout the Test. John Nyumbu, on debut, was generous with his flight, Tinashe Panyangara's lines and lengths were impeccable as figures of 16-7-18-0 suggest and Tendai Chatara offered stiff competition with 15-9-17-1 and constantly tempted the batsmen outside the off stump. The day petered down to a game of 'who would blink first' and when Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers fell within 11 runs of each other, Zimbabwe had reason to celebrate. Nyumbu was well aware as he did a jig on the field.

Even the two half-centurions faced stern examinations. Elgar faced 48 balls from Panyangara for only seven runs. Donald Tiripano jagged a fuller delivery back but not quite enough to rattle off stump as the batsman left. Elgar's nerves were apparent when he flashed at the next ball which was angled across him. A thick edge flew over the yawning gap at third slip. However, he was allowed enough releases. His patience and temperament are suited for the long innings but Elgar fished at a delivery that didn't have as much width as he thought and keeper Richmond Mutumbami dived to his left to reward Tiripano with a maiden Test wicket.

Faf du Plessis, at No. 3, had to brace against the turning ball and his own fitness, to remain unbeaten. His hamstring needed attention, he needed pills many times, he stagnated for 30 balls on 48 before reaching a sixth Test fifty but his resolve never wavered.

Du Plessis might have been run-out with only six balls faced had short leg found the target. He found comfort soon enough and South Africa enjoyed a brief spurt of runs with four fours in seven balls. But Elgar's wicket in the 48th over made du Plessis throw run-making out the window.

Amla and de Villiers - the only member of the side to have faced Zimbabwe before - were comparatively lax. Chatara got the South Africa captain driving to cover and Nyumbu's delight was unrestrained when he had de Villiers caught at short midwicket. The two biggest threats gone for single-figures during a 15-over spell that fetched only 20 runs. South Africa could have been jolted further when Quinton de Kock edged a cut to slip but Brendan Taylor could not snap it up, in the penultimate over of the day.

The Zimbabwe bowlers asked questions, but only few of them were tricky. The seamers' threat perhaps might have increased had Panyangara, Tiripano or Chatara summoned some inswing. But the outside-off ploy did keep a lid on the scoring. Part-time left-arm spinner Sean Williams occasionally made the ball grip and turn but lacked control, gifting too much flight or forgetting to do so entirely. But South Africa were content to accumulate.

If the scoring rate did not concern the visitors, Alviro Petersen's form would. The opener has averaged an underwhelming 27.40 since January 2013 and South Africa have had only two century stands in the last 12 months and none since Graeme Smith's retirement.

Petersen, having gotten over early nerves, had reverse swept Nyumbu's second ball and launched the offspinner over long-on, but when searching for a sweep he offered a thin edge to Mutumbami, who parried the ball up and dove full-length to his right to hand Nyumbu his first Test wicket minutes before lunch. In his last 23 Tests, Petersen has 15 scores below 30 and this time he was out after barely tipping over.

Tiripano and Nyumbu had been useful with the bat as well, lasting 10 overs since last evening until Dale Steyn sawed their union to end Zimbabwe's innings at 256 and go past Dennis Lillee with his 24th five-wicket haul.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • London_Meistry on August 11, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    If this Test match was staged in SA at either the Wanderers or Supersport Park, I am pretty sure that the score board would be different. There was gonna be bounce and carry, flat and offering even contest between bat and ball. But that's the whole point, using the home conditions to suite your style of play or your strategy. Zim has done well in that but im afraid they have come up against the best adaptors in World Test Cricket, they will come up 2nd!!!

  • TommytuckerSaffa on August 11, 2014, 9:07 GMT

    Been watching for the last 7 overs now and already this pitch is acting up. About 6 deliveries have kept lower than Trevor Chappels under-arm delivery in the Benson & Hedges Cup final. SA do not want to be batting last on this wicket, thats for sure!!

  • shane-oh on August 11, 2014, 9:02 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx - but they are the number 1 side.

  • Greatest_Game on August 11, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    @ Jamie Moneghan writes "SA are just small fish in the big pond as what have you ever won? I still smirk over the 1999 World Cup semi final do you?"

    We don't smirk, which is defined as to "smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way." We smile in fond memory.

    We smile about winning the greatest ODI game, chasing down the 1st 400 plus score of 434 - a record Aus held for 3 hours. Then we took it away, scoring 438. In the ODI with the highest match aggregate, 872 runs, we left Aus gasping in disbelief at the highest run chase in ODI history. Now THAT really IS something to smile about!

    We smile about chasing down 414, losing only 4 wickets in the 2nd highest Test run chase. It could have been the highest if Aus managed 5 more runs in their 2nd innings of 319, but they couldn't. The highest chase of 418 was also conceded by Aus.

    We smile when the little fish take down big whales!! We smile in good spirit, for good, sporting reasons!

  • Kingman75 on August 11, 2014, 8:44 GMT

    The genuine greatest sides of the past were either undefeated for a long period of times (West Indies for 15 years) in all conditions home and away or had remarkable win to non win ratios (1948 invincibles, Australia in the 1990s until 2006). South Africa had the potential to be one of the greatest sides of all time, but lost recently and their win to non win ratio is pretty bad. They remain a good side, but there have been plenty of good teams in the past.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on August 11, 2014, 8:32 GMT

    Having watched the game ball by ball, I have to say Zim are playing really well - bowling very accurately. They are using home conditions to their best advantage. I think Zim steps up their game when playing against SA, its like big brother vs little brother. Similarities to NZ vs Aus, Kiwis definitely up their game when playing Ozzy.

  • espncricinfomobile on August 11, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    @Steven. The reason there is people on here from other countries is because this is a cricket forum on a cricket website, SA fans are always on Australia's pages commenting particularly during and after the recent Ashes as I can name quite a few of you on here! Along with of plenty on Indians , English etc. So just get on with it as it's just some fun banter between fans @Greatest_Game enjoy your posts and Tommytuckersaffa you too.

  • dummy4fb on August 11, 2014, 7:40 GMT

    After reading most of the comments its like the fans want to get the edge on the rankings by writing drivel. This wicket is very slow, but SA are batting themselves into a position that can potentially be a winning one. No use you blast away and end up loosing the game. To be fair aus and SA are the best two sides on fast pitches, but when playing on slow and low wickets SA are ahead of Australia. SA won a fair number of test matches in the sub continent. Never have they lost 3-0 or 4-0. Sa adapts to foreign conditions better than all the teams in the world which is also the reason for their consistency. How fast did SA bat in Australia in the last test when smith, Amla and AB took the game away from Australia after being put under the pump in the previous match. I think SA plays the match situation better than the others.

  • espncricinfomobile on August 11, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    SA is the best most talented test team at the moment and have been for a long while now. There is no bias, just as AUS was the best back in 90s it is all based on results.Deep down everyone knows this and that's why non SA/ZIM fans are here commenting. ZIM has prepared a pitch and are employing tactics that they believe gives them the best chance to win. This is what home teams do and have done for the past eight years when SA have not lost a series. Here's the logic I hear, SA is not a great team, just a team that gets great results.lol

  • dummy4fb on August 11, 2014, 6:53 GMT

    To all those rattling on about the scoring rate, are you watching the game? Or are you relying on cricinfo stats?

    Two factors - This pitch is low, slow and crumbling. To compare it to a slower Cape Town pitch is just dumb. - You cant compare Taylors scoring rate because SA bowlers were not trying to contain/ They were trying to get wickets - Zimbabwe are bowling 3 medium paces and 2 spinners just outside off stump (about 25cm outside) to an off side field - These 2 factors together mean you cant score fast without giving up your wicket.

    Assess the position. The pitch will get worse. If SA can get 100 ahead by say tea then Zimbabwe will have to bat very well to set a low target. Reverse it. If SA dont have a real lead then Zimbabwe can bat aggressively because on Day 5 the pitch will be even worse.

    I cannot believe the dumb comaprisons people are making.

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