Despite a top-order wobble, South Africa clinched a six-wicket win and an unassailable series lead over Zimbabwe in the rescheduled second one-day international at East London. It shouldn't have been so tricky given that the target was 153, but in the end South Africa were able to get home in good time to round off a comprehensive bowling effort earlier in the day. In the midst of all this, Jacques Kallis became the first South African in the history of the game to have 8,000 runs and 200 wickets in both forms of the game.
After the in-form Boeta Dippenaar fell to an ugly pull shot that Vusi Sibanda did well to judge at point under the floodlights, two rookie batsmen looked as if they wanted to finish the game on their own. Loots Bosman showed no signs of nerves after he ducked into his first ball and took a blow to the helmet. Keen to make amends for his rash dismissal in the first one-dayer at Bloemfontein, he made sure to get right behind the line when defending the tight deliveries. He was afforded a slice of luck when Piet Rinke misjudged a top-edged cut shot at third man, but all it did was change the complexion of his innings.
A deft dab to the same region, a square drive on the up through cover point, and a huge hit over wide long-off for maximum followed. Perhaps loving the thrill of the lights and the cheer from the crowd, Bosman took it one step further with a golf-like tee back down the ground to signal the 50-run stand off just 31 balls with Alviro Peterson, the Lions batsman on international debut. Peterson was into his stride quickly as he worked his third delivery through midwicket for three before executing a perfect pull for four to get the stands swaying.
However, both batsmen were given a reality check by Rinke, the most unthreatening of medium pacers there must be in the game. Tossed the ball in the tenth over, Rinke struck in his second when he got Peterson to chop an attempted nudge to third man onto the stumps and he then bowled Bosman through the drive. Rinke nearly had a third when Kallis drove him just over cover's outstretched fingertips.
Prosper Utseya brought Anthony Ireland back into the attack and he responded with his second wicket when he bowled Kallis with one that kept low and nipped in. This big wicket, and Rinke's double strike, apparently had not been enough to shake South Africa up. Justin Kemp tried to make a further mess of the situation, but Utseya dropped him at short midwicket - pull, in and out - to deny Ireland a third wicket as well. It was that kind of evening. Eventually, Kemp (28 not-out) and another newbie, Jean-Paul Duminy (31 not-out), completed the formalities.
Utseya's decision to bat first didn't go down smoothly as Zimbabwe's batting came a cropper against a disciplined South African attack. The match was postponed by 24 hours due to rain on Sunday and started an hour late today because of a wet outfield, but South Africa's bowlers wasted little time in bundling a fragile Zimbabwe out for just 152 in 49.4 overs.
Whereas at Bloemfontein South Africa's bowling was under par at the start, today Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock removed the openers early and Kallis's decision to bring himself on first change was backed up with quick wickets. Ntini needed just four deliveries to remove Sibanda, Zimbabwe's top-scorer with 51 in the previous match, and was his usual hustling self as he regularly hit the right spots around the off stump. Pollock was his usual economic self and fired in an excellent delivery that nipped back and sent Tafadzwa Mufambisi's leg stump cartwheeling.
Kallis struck gold with his first delivery when he drew a leading edge from Hamilton Masakadza and snapped a neat catch moving to his right. He picked up a quick second wicket when Brendan Taylor mistimed a flick and was snapped up by a diving midwicket. And when Andrew Hall clipped Stuart Matsikenyeri's off stump with a one that nipped in low, Zimbabwe were 73 for 5 with plenty to fret about.
Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura put on 47 for the sixth wicket in the only substantial partnership of the innings, but their untimely dismissals near the death allowed South Africa a window to smash through. Ntini returned to nab Chibhabha, Peterson - who maintained a tight line with his brand of left-arm spin - added Rinke's wicket, and Hall ran through the remaining batsmen. Utseya helped his side over the 150 mark with a six and a four, but this was a total that would challenge few sides in international cricket.
Zimbabwe just didn't show enough gumption for a fight in the face of South Africa's improved bowling performance. The top order failed to read the length of Ntini and Pollock, there were attempts to go aerial when defense was in order, and the errors against spin were glaring. Given that this was their last chance for competition ahead of next month's Champions Trophy, Zimbabwe have much to address in terms of their batting.
Vusi Sibanda c Boucher b Ntini 0 (1 for 1)
Forced to play at a beauty on off stump, thin edge to the 'keeper
Tafadzwa Mufambisi b Pollock 21 (27 for 2)
Played all over one that nipped in sharply and knocked back leg stump
Hamilton Masakadza c & b Kallis 5 (33 for 3)
Looked to drive to the on side, got a leading edge back to the bowler
Brendan Taylor c Hall b Kallis 5 (50 for 4)
Aerial flick was snapped up by a diving short midwicket
Stuart Matsikenyeri b Hall 14 (73 for 5)
Pushed him back with one that swung in to clip off stump
Elton Chigumbura st Boucher b Peterson 30 (120 for 6)
Gave him the charge but missed by miles for a smart stumping
Chamu Chibhabha c Duminy b Ntini 38 (122 for 7)
Spooned a simple catch to backward square leg
Piet Rinke lbw b Peterson 3 (128 for 8)
Misjudged the line and was caught dead in front of the stumps
Anthony Ireland b Hall 1 (132 for 9)
Missed a straight delivery, typical you-miss-I-hit dismissal
Ed Rainsford b Hall (152 for 10)
Missed a slog and lost his stumps
Boeta Dippenaar c Sibanda b Ireland 9 (14 for 1) Top-edged a pull to point, who judged a skier very well
Alviro Peterson b Rinke 20 (67 for 2)
Bottom-edged an attempted late cut onto the stumps
Loots Bosman b Rinke 38 (72 for 3)
Drove and missed at a full ball that knocked back off stump
Jacques Kallis b Ireland 26 (109 for 4)
Beaten by the lack of bounce and inside-edged onto the stumps
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo