Boucher slaughtered Zimbabwe during his 147 off 68 balls
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At Johannesburg in March earlier this year, Mark Boucher provided the finishing touches to South Africa's epic chase of 434 against Australia. Today, however, he was their chief destroyer as they stacked up more than 400 for the second time in four matches and swept the series 3-0. Zimbabwe were beaten to their knees by a brutal display of power that began with the openers Loots Bosman and Alviro Petersen before Boucher shot from the hip and reached his first one-day century in his 220th match.
The contest effectively ended after the first innings. At no stage did Zimbabwe make any attempt to get near the target although, to their credit, they did bat solidly. Terry Duffin led the resistance with a defiant 88 and ensured that Zimbabwe put in a commendable performance. He was ably supported by Chamu Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza, with whom he added 94 and 102 for the second and third wickets. Zimbabwe finished with 247 for 4, thier highest total of the series but it was after the proverbial horse had bolted.
After chasing targets to win their previous two matches, Jacques Kallis had no hesitation in batting first when he won the toss for the first time in the series. South Africa wanted batting practice; instead Zimbabwe's bowlers gave them hitting practice. Ed Rainsford and Tawanda Mupariwa paid the price for spraying it liberally and the support cast of Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, and the usually parsimonious Prosper Utseya were hapless as South Africa ran riot. The pitch was as flat as a tarmac and Zimbabwe's shoddy fielding - Boucher was dropped on 7, 59, 105, 123, 140 and 144 - only added to their misery.
Earlier Bosman and Petersen had added 160 off 126 balls for the first wicket but by the time Boucher was done, that partnership was put firmly in the shade. Sixes rained from Boucher's bat as Zimbabwe's boundary riders became full-time ball-boys. His third six - there were ten in all - brought up his fifty off just 26 balls and he needed only 18 more more to cudgel the fastest century by a South African and the second fastest after Shahid Afridi. Boucher formed the mainstay of a 91-run partnership, off 61 balls, with Kallis for the third wicket and left an indelible mark on Chibhabha whom he clouted for 26 runs in an over.
To put Zimbabwe's bowling effort in perspective - they bowled only five dot balls in Boucher's innings, and when he offered one of umpteen catches, Brendan Taylor was heard pleading on the stump microphone "Catch it, please!" Inevitably, it was dropped.
The carnage, however, had started with Bosman and Petersen. Both batsmen scored their maiden half-centuries and both reached their fifties with a six as they laid the platform for Boucher's assault. The first Powerplay cost 67 runs, and Utseya postponed the next till the 15th over at which point Bosman cut loose. They scored 59 runs off the second Powerplay before a rush of blood eventually did Bosman in for 88. He charged Tafadzwa Kamungozi once too often and gave the debutant his first wicket.
However, Petersen picked up the pace, Kallis provided the glue with a relatively pedestrian 50 off 59 balls, and Boucher was the wrecking ball as South Africa added 219 runs in 22.1 overs after Boucher's arrival.
South Africa's bowlers will be disappointed that they weren't more incisive when Zimbabwe batted. Andre Nel and Johannes van der Wath hit the deck early on but after Nel drew Vusi Sibanda into an indiscreet shot, they had little success. Andrew Hall and Charl Langeveldt strangled the run flow in the middle overs, Roger Telemachus knocked over Chibhabha and Masakadza and the innings merely played out its destined course as South Africa swept the series.
Loots Bosman st Taylor b Kamungozi 88 (160 for 1)
Charged down and missed, foot was in the air
Alviro Petersen c & b Utseya 80 (199 for 2)
Tried to drive on the leg side, lobbed back to the bowler
Jacques Kallis c Chigumbura b Utseya 50 (290 for 3)
Top-edged a heave aimed for the leg side to short third man
Justin Kemp st Taylor b Kamungozi 10 (317 for 4)
Charged down the pitch and was beaten by the turn
Johannes van der Wath b Rainsford 5 (351 for 5)
Missed a heave over midwicket
Vusi Sibanda c Langeveldt b Nel 1 (9 for 1)
Driven on the up to mid-off
Chamu Chibhabha c Boucher b Telemachus 46 (103 for 2)
Played away from his body and feathered a nick
Hamilton Masakadza c Boucher b Telemachus 55 (206 for 3)
Slashed at a very wide ball and nicked it
Terry Duffin lbw Nel 88 (212 for 4)
Yorker hit flush on the toe
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo