Zimbabwe A v South Africa A, Bulawayo, 2nd day August 13, 2004

Zimbabwe A fightback leaves game evenly poised

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Zimbabwe A 186 (Vermeulen 62, Adams 5-51) and 126 for 0 (Matsikenyeri 59*, Taylor 50*) lead South Africa A 307 (de Villiers 91, Morkel 76, Kruger 55*, Rainsford 6-67) by 5 runs

After two days of keenly contested cricket, Zimbabwe A mustered up some batting courage to go five runs ahead in their second innings with all ten wickets intact. Brendan Taylor and Stuart Matsikenyeri scored half-centuries in an unbeaten 126-run stand as Zimbabwe A cleared a 121-run first-innings deficit. South Africa A had earlier made 307, a score that looked unlikely given the precarious position they were in midway through their innings.

On the first day, Zimbabwe were in deep trouble. They had been bowled out cheaply, with Paul Adams and Albie Morkel eking out eight wickets. To make matters worse, the South Africans notched up 88 runs pretty quickly. Only Mark Vermuelen and Edward Rainsford stood their ground, but even their contributions were quickly beginning to pale with this overpowering South African display.

But on the second next morning, Rainsford ransacked the batsmen. An overnight score of 88 for 1 became 115 for 6, and Rainsford had his hand in four of those dismissals. Abraham de Villiers scored 91, but the middle order couldn't take the heat. The Zimbabweans were well and truly back, but not for the last time, the game turned. Morkel (76), Adams (35) and Garnett Kruger (55) took the team past 300. The last four wickets added nearly 200 runs.

You'd expect the Zimbabweans to crash after such an energy-sapping time in the field. To their credit, they shrugged off the setback and went about building their innings and tried to put themselves in a position to win the game. This game has already had plenty of excitement, and the next two days will probably make for decent viewing.