JP Duminy smashed Zimbabwe's insipid lengths to all corners in an entertaining, unbeaten 95 to launch his side to 194, a total that his bowling colleagues defended after a few hiccups, to give their side a 2-0 series win.
JP Duminy smashed Zimbabwe's insipid lengths to all corners in an entertaining, unbeaten 96 to launch his side to 194, a total that his bowling colleagues defended after a few hiccups, to give their side a 2-0 series win. Duminy's dazzling innings, the highest individual score by a South Africa batsman, was matched by fifties from Brendon Taylor and Chamu Chibhabha, but South Africa emerged in front thanks to Juan Theron's unhittable lengths, on a day when bowlers from both sides struggled to find their range.
Zimbabwe's openers began the chase in meek fashion, as the Powerplay overs, including three without boundaries, yielded only 45 for the loss of Hamilton Masakadza. Taylor and Chibhabha, however, were only just loading their guns.
Taylor imposed himself on Johan Botha's niggardly lines by stepping out and teeing off down the ground in the seventh over. Robin Petersen, introduced in the eighth, ran into Chibhabha who announced his intentions with a swipe over cow corner. Taylor pulled another six in the same over and the chase was on its way.
Botha had enjoyed an exceptionally economical Champions League, but Taylor's quicksilver feet converted his flat and full lengths into full tosses and half-volleys. Eleven runs came off Botha's second over, forcing an unscheduled bowling change as South Africa began to sweat. Duminy, who came on in the 11th, delivered three friendly half-trackers, all of which Chibhabha redirected towards and beyond the leg-side boundary. 106 for 1, with nine overs to go - game on.
With 73 required off 43, Chibhabha mistimed a sweep off Botha, who had resorted to a round the wicket angle. South Africa used the opening to claw back into the game, as Taylor was deprived of the strike, resulting in a mounting asking-rate. Charles Coventry's exit in the 15th over gave the hosts the upper hand, and they should have assumed total control once Taylor perished trying to inside-out Petersen over the covers. However, Wayne Parnell's inability to find the right lengths helped Elton Chigumbura and Tatenda Taibu keep the game alive until the last over. Theron's nerveless finish stalled them on the home stretch though Zimbabwe managed to record their highest Twenty20 total.
As in the first game, Zimbabwe had their bowlers to blame for the defeat. Graeme Smith began brightly, with the free spirit of someone unfettered by responsibility. His aggression offset the tight start from Prosper Utseya, who forced Loots Bosman and Colin Ingram into early indiscretions with his lack of pace.
Smith, on the other hand, relished the pace and waywardness served up at the other end. Shingirai Masakadza and Chris Mpofu kept dropping short and into his body, and Smith responded with an array of pulls. Over-compensation duly followed, and Smith got into position early to cream boundaries through the off side. The highlight of his innings was when he stepped out to deposit Graeme Cremer over long-on, before Taylor induced Smith to top-edge in the ninth over.
Zimbabwe's hopes of pulling things back were neutralised by Duminy's innovativeness against their army of offspinners. He kept setting himself up for the reverse-sweep, dispatching Cremer with the spin towards third man, before launching him over deep midwicket in the 12th over, forcing Chigumbura to bring back the fast bowlers.
The move played into Duminy's hands, as he prepared for the final assault by lifting the listless Mpofu through midwicket. After David Miller's exit, he mowed a poorly-disguised slower ball from Shingirai Masakadza over deep midwicket as Zimbabwe ran out of viable options. Unfortunately for them, Duminy still had a lot of ammunition in the tank.
Mpofu suffered the brunt of his blitz, but he did his cause little good by serving up hit-me lengths in the death overs. A half-volley in the 18th was knifed over covers; a full toss later in the same over went in the same direction. Duminy went into the last over with 75 against his name, but Mpofu had more largesse in store, raising hopes of the maiden Twenty20 century by a South African. There was to be another full toss, and a smattering of half-volleys in that over, all of which Duminy gladly tucked into. Fours through the covers, and sixes straight and over midwicket, left Mpofu nursing figures of 1 for 59 off four, Duminy four short of a ton, and Zimbabwe chasing a mountain.
Around 90 minutes of poor bowling later, Theron showed Mpofu how it should have been done. The difference between their last-over lengths was the difference between their sides today.