Big Picture

South Africa have walked a narrow line between tryouts and continuity in this series, and they are clearly still in phase one of Vision 2019 : experimentation. The first two ODIs against Zimbabwe saw new players in pivotal positions and old players trialled in unfamiliar ones.

In both games, stand-in captain JP Duminy had dropped down the order to offer the more inexperienced batsmen in the squad the chance to close games out themselves. Neither opportunity was taken, however, and the hosts slipped to 96 for 5 in the first match and 101 for 7 in the second as the visiting Zimbabwe bowlers exploited conditions heavily weighted in favour of the ball.

The early-season pitches have played wildly out of character and this hasn't been a profitable series for batsmen. Steyn's fifty is the only one to have been scored from either side, and the South African bowling attack has flattened Zimbabwe's batsmen in both games, bowling them out for 117 and 78.

Steyn has shown he still has serious pace, topping out at around 145kph in the second game - a number all the more terrifying given how badly the pitch was behaving - and Imran Tahir's series strike rate is an eye-watering 8.2. Add Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo to the mix, and it will be an achievement if Zimbabwe are even able to last 50 overs on Saturday, given their struggles.

South Africa's attack is settled, and it's the batting that has yet to come to grips with Vision 2019. South Africa made have it clear all along that they were willing, if a little reluctantly, to sacrifice results for this vision but time is running out for the likes of Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks and Khaya Zondo to make their mark, especially now that Faf du Plessis has recovered from the shoulder injury that had kept him out of the first two games. They should at least have a more placid track on which to stage their third audition of the series.

Zimbabwe will be hoping that the pressure to perform continues to tell on South Africa's middle order. They are on a nine-game losing streak, and while their bowlers have been able to put them in strong positions in the last two games, their batting has failed completely.

Form guide

South Africa: WWLLW (Last five completed matches, most recent first)

Zimbabwe: LLLLL

In the spotlight

South Africa's batting tyros have one more chance to get things right before the series switches format and the hosts settle on their personnel for the trip to Australia at the end of the month. Aiden Markram has got himself in, and then out, in both games and though everyone has shown positive intent, stickability has generally been lacking.

Zimbabwe's batting engine room has completely failed to fire so far. The visitors tend to do well with the bat when the middle order has a cushion, but Solomon Mire has struggled since his return from injury and captain Hamilton Masakadza, like Markram, has done the hard work against the new ball only to give it away. If Masakadza and Mire can lay a platform, the job becomes much easier for everyone following them.

Team news

Tabraiz Shamsi is the only member of South Africa's squad not to have played a game so far, so he could well slot in to the XI along with the returning du Plessis. Imran Tahir has spoken about his excitement at the possibility of playing alongside Shamsi, but conditions will likely impact whether South Africa see fit to pick both wristspinners.

South Africa (possible): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Reeza Hendricks/Khaya Zondo, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6 JP Duminy (capt), 7 Christiaan Jonker, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Zimbabwe may well give a game to Ryan Murray, who was part of the squad sent to the Africa T20 last month and showed some form with 46 against Northerns and 77 against South West Districts. They, too, may also consider bringing left-arm spinner Wellington Masakadza back into the XI, depending on conditions.

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Hamilton Masakadza (capt), 2 Solomon Mire, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Brendan Taylor(wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Ryan Murray, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Wellington Masakadza/Donald Tiripano, 9 Brandon Mavuta, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Tendai Chatara

Pitch and conditions

Paarl is about 50 kilometres from the coast, and South Africa's coastal grounds are not affected by the winter break as those inland are, so the Boland Park strip should be a good one. Winters are wet in the Western Cape and the early-season pitches can hold together a little better. Furthermore, Boland Cricket chief executive James Fortuin has promised a "run-fest" for this game after two low-scoring matches, and the ground has already been used this season for the Africa T20. Those results suggest a good pitch, with the possibility that spin could be important: several teams in the Africa T20 chose to open the bowling with spin at one end when playing in Paarl.

Though there has been some rain - and even snow - around in the mountains of the Cape, summer is starting to arrive and Saturday should be warm and dry.

Stats and trivia

  • Boland Park in Paarl was the ground at which Wasim Akram became the first man to take 500 ODI wickets.
  • The last time South Africa played here, AB de Villers smashed 176 (his 25th and final ODI ton) and they amassed 353 for 6 against Bangladesh, the highest score on this ground.
  • While there have been three 300-plus scores at this ground, it has also seen spectacular batting collapses. Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 43, pursuing South Africa's 301 for 8, in 2012, while in 2003 Canada were bowled out for 36 by Sri Lanka, the second lowest ODI score of all time.


    "We have spent plenty of time on the pitch, and lots of runs are expected. We are used to big matches and the wicket looks good. We will have a proper one-day wicket."
    Boland Cricket CEO James Fortuin has promised plenty of runs in Paarl after two low-scoring games in Kimberley and Bloemfontein

    "I thought Kimberley was poor, and we thought it would get better coming to Bloem. But we are hoping Paarl is going to be the best one."
    Dale Steyn hasn't been impressed by the pitches South Africa have played on so far this summer

    15.15 GMT, October 5: The preview has been updated to include the return of Faf du Plessis from injury.

    Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town