Nairobi - South Africa in their first match against Zimbabwe since the World Cup defeat at Chelmsford beat a gallant Zimbabwean team at the Nairobi Gymkhana Club Ground by 9 wickets. With Lance Klusener scoring his second one-day international century and ably assisted by first Herschelle Gibbs and the Jacques Kallis the South Africans reached the 217 run target with 15 overs to spare.
South Africa coming into this match sitting at the bottom of the log started the overcast morning well by winning the toss and electing to field. Using a rotation basis for selection. Alan Dawson came in for Steve Elworthy, who bowled well against India, and Boeta Dippenaar made way for Paul Adams.
A solid first over start by Shaun Pollock, moving the ball both ways and getting some nice bounce, saw Alan Dawson give away the first boundary to Grant Flower with a leg side ball in the second over.
Neil Johnson, who was the thorn in the RSA flesh during the World Cup, lashed out at Pollock in the fifth over sending him to the boundary on two occasions. Flower finished Dawson's fifth over with a great well timed cover drive, beating the off side field.
The customary Hansie Cronje bowling change came after the 12 th over with Jacques Kallis replacing Pollock from the City end. Kallis started off well enough but straying slightly onto the leg stump with his fifth ball saw Flower flick the ball high and handsomely over the mid wicket fence for the maximum.
As they did at Chelmsford in the World Cup, the Zimbabwe batsmen continued to frustrate the South Africans. The predicted "revenge attack" was not going according to plan for Cronje and his team.
During the 15 th over, Kallis clipped Johnson's pads and then flicked the off stump without the bail being dislodged.
With Johnson and Flower passing Zimbabwe's previous highest first wicket stand against South Africa, Cronje brought on Derek Crookes who with his second ball fed Johnson with a leg side full toss and was lucky to only give away a four.
Flower had a lucky escape in Crookes second over. Attempting to play a reverse sweep he got a top edge and just managed to clear the fingers of the backward point. Johnson showed him how to play the shot by playing with the spin and lofting the next ball for a four to the mid wicket fence.
Flower went to his 23 rd, and well deserved half century in over 21, having faced 71 balls including seven fours and a six.
South Africa eventually got the breakthrough when Crookes induced Johnson into a cut, that may have been too close to the body, and bottom edge the ball into the stumps. This time the bails did come off. Johnson who had played a very patient innings ended with 35 off 59 balls including four boundaries.
A good foundation had been set with Zimbabwe at 99/1
Paul Adams, who had not played for South Africa since the 97/98 season, was brought into the attack in the 26 th over and immediately helped increase the Zimbabwe run rate by giving away eight runs in his first over.
Christmas came early for Klusener who got a gift of a wicket from Campbell. At the start of the 27 th over the captain tried to smash the bowler over mid-wicket only to sky the mistimed slog to Gibbs, taking a good catch, running backwards at extra cover. A poor shot for this stage of the game and Campbell was on his way for seven off 14 balls with one boundary.
Murray Goodwin, showing a lot more discipline than his captain, together with Flower pushed the ball into the gaps and with good running kept the board ticking over.
Flower, on 73*, was the next to escape when smashing a full toss from Adams straight at Rhodes only to see the little man put the ball down. A catch that Rhodes would normally take 99% of the time.
Klusener, still celebrating Christmas, decided to bounce Goodwin who played a great hook over the square leg boundary for the maximum.
Zimbabwe having not been under any pressure, continued to push the score along with well placed singles and dispatching the lose deliveries to and over the fence. Boundary balls were sent down by all the bowlers making it very easy for the batsmen to pick them off.
With the final 15 overs to come, Goodwin, looking in total control against spin and pace, started using his feet to the bowlers driving forcefully through the covers. The only factor in South Africa's favour, with the help of a good comeback by Pollock, was that the run rate was being kept to under five runs per over. The decision to field first must however be in question.
Dawson replaced Adams in the 38 th over and Kallis took over from Pollock in the 39 th...
The changes worked well for Cronje as first Kallis taking a low return catch dismissed Flower for 91 off 120 balls (11*4, 1*6). Flower had in the process made the highest individual score by a Zimbabwean against South Africa. Dawson followed this in the next over by getting the wicket of Goodwin edging to Boucher for 27 off 45 balls including two fours and a six.
Flower, unlike his brother, lasted six balls before inside edging a Dawson ball from just outside off into the stumps for six including a edged four past the slips. Stuart Carlisle came to the wicket and left as he edged the next ball to Boucher. 173/3 had become 186/5. Guy Whittall avoided the hatrick.
Cronje then brought back Adams to bowl at the tail, a surprise move after the pace bowlers had made the breakthrough. The change again worked for him as Whittall lofted a return catch to Adams to leave the arena for 10 off 12 balls including a lofted drive to the long off fence.
Adams was not finished, as he tempted Strang to pull/sweep to the on side, only to top edge a looping catch to Boucher behind the wickets. Strang had left after five balls without troubling the scorers and were Zimbabwe 207/8.
Andy Whittall also did not last long, scoring one run off three balls, before being clean bowled by Pollock. The Zimbabwean collapse continued to 213/9 .
Rennie still at the crease was joined by David Mutendera who now had the task of batting out the 50 overs. This was not to be as Mutendera playing across the line gave Adams his third wicket. He was out for two from five balls and Zimbabwe kicking themselves for losing 8 wickets for 56 runs and be bowled out for 216 in 47.4 overs.
Adams will feel lucky in ending the day with 3/44 while Dawson bowled well enough for his 3/36
South Africa asked to make 217 in 50 overs at a rate of 4.34 made a good start to their innings. Chasing the highest score of the tournament so far, South Africa realised the importance of the match with the winners most probably playing in the final. There was also the Zimbabwe victory in the World Cup, that may have cost the South African's an easier ride to that final, to be avenged.
Herschelle Gibbs and Lance Klusener, a slight surprise, opened the innings for South Africa with Neil Johnson and David Mutendera taking the new ball for Zimbabwe. Johnson guilty of a wayward first over which included 4 wides, a no ball, and a cracking lofted cover drive for four from Gibbs. Mutendera used the new ball well to only concede 1 run in his first over.
In Johnson's next over Klusener, slashing at wide ball outside the off, was lucky to get a thick edge just past Campbell at slip for a four to third man. Any notion of footwork from Klusener was not evident. He got it all in the correct place the next over to send the ball racing across the outfield to the wide long on fence.
At the start of the sixth over Campbell replaced the young Mutendera with the off spinner Andy Whittall who bowled a tidy first over beating Klusener with a beauty that drew him forward and turned across him.
Johnson continuing was again smashed past mid on by Klusener, but came back to beat him outside the off stump. Gibbs in the meantime dispatched a Whittall long hop to the square leg fence before just pushing a ball past Murray Goodwin at silly mid off.
Mutendera came back, replacing Johnson, and tasted the weight of Klusener's heavy bat with two consecutive hard hit fours on either side of the wicket.
Grant Flower was the next spinner to be brought on for Mutendera. This did not deter Klusener who dispatched him for two towering straight sixes to record South Africa's highest first wicket partnership against Zimbabwe. Whittall at the other end was similarly being dealt with.
Gibbs decided that Klusener was getting a bit ahead of him and attacked Whittall for 10 runs in the 14 th over with two fours.
Klusener brought up his 50, in 46 balls (7 * 4, 3 * 6) with a six off Paul Strang's first ball. It did not end there. The next five balls went for four, six, dot, four, dot, to take South Africa to 101/0 after 15 overs.
Strang was next to feel the wrath of Gibbs who dispatched him with a neat nudge past the keeper for four and followed it with a six over mid wicket.
At 125/0, and in the 19 th over Gibbs had a problem with his one boots, and after trying on a few shoes and a visit from the physiotherapist Craig Smith limped off the field with 48 from 55 balls and what appeared to be a foot injury. It was later diagnosed as a tendon strain. He was replaced by Jacques Kallis.
With a slight lull in the run rate Kallis decided that it was his turn to get in on the action, this time sending Andy Flower over the ropes at long on and then long off in consecutive balls.
Guy Whittall, the best of the Zimbabwe bowlers on display at last got his just reward, when in the 28 th over he drew Kallis forward, got the ball to nip back sharply between bat and pad to have him bowled for 25 off 30 balls which included 2 sixes. South Africa had lost their first wicket at 174.
Captain Hansie Cronje, who needed some time in the middle, came out to join Klusener.
South Africans plans became evident in the 31 st over when it was Cronje's turn to loft a ball from Andy Whittall over the long off fence. Unlike the way they let the India bowlers dictate, the South Africans had, from the first ball, taken the attack to the Zimbabwean bowlers.
Cronje took a second six off Andy Whittall in his next over to bring up the 200 in the 33 rd over. He then smashed Mutendera, who was brought back, straight back past the stumps for four.
Lance Klusener's second one-day-international came up in the 34 th over off 104 balls, with a lucky thick edge to the deep backward point fence.
Cronje made the winning runs with first a reverse sweep for four and then a single pushed to long off for South Africa to win by 9 wickets and 15 overs to spare. A win they would swap with the loss at Chelmsford four and a half months ago.