Zimbabwe slide to an embarrassing two-day defeat

South Africa 340 for 3 dec (Smith 131, de Villiers 98) beat Zimbabwe 54 (Kallis 4-13) and 265 (Ebrahim 72, Blignaut 61, Boje 4-106) by an innings and 21 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Zimbabwe batted better than they had on that terrible first day, but they still proved unequal to the task and succumbed to an embarrassing defeat inside two days at Newlands. They were bowled out in their second innings for 265, to go down by an innings and 21 runs, despite some late fireworks from Andy Blignaut which threatened to make South Africa bat again.

Matters had returned to something like normal in the morning session, as the batsmen hopped obediently into line and played patiently on a good batting pitch. Only two wickets went down before lunch, and only one more in the first hour afterwards - but the afternoon drinks interval obviously served up something surprising, as four quick wickets tumbled, including the top-scorer Dion Ebrahim for 72, to put the skids under Zimbabwe.

The lunch score of 95 for 2 would have been an ideal start on the first day of a Test. The trouble was that after yesterday's nightmarish performance, when Zimbabwe were shot out for 54, they were already firmly behind the eight-ball. Graeme Smith surprised some by declaring at the overnight total of 340 for 3, setting a daunting target of 286 just to avoid an innings defeat.

The openers immediately looked more at home than on the first day, when lack of footwork betrayed batsman after batsman as the ball moved around more. Stuart Matsikenyeri, the only man to reach double figures yesterday, got the ball rolling with a single off Shaun Pollock, then settled his nerves by thick-edging Makhaya Ntini for a four over gully. He had advanced to 13 when he fended a short one from Ntini low to Jacques Rudolph at short leg (25 for 1).

Still the floodgates remained resolutely closed. Ebrahim's defensive game is ideally suited to a rearguard, and he dug in doggedly. He did pop up one hook, but mistimed it so badly that it plopped to earth well short of the deep fielder. He lost Barney Rogers, the other opener, when he wafted through to Mark Boucher after battling to 28 (59 for 2). It was a second wicket for the impressive Ntini, who toiled through an initial ten-over spell on a steaming-hot day.

Ebrahim then put on 98 with Hamilton Masakadza, who played sensibly for 46. But he became tied down as he approached his half-century, and after living dangerously against Nicky Boje he finally cut him uppishly to Herschelle Gibbs at backward point (157 for 3).

It was now that Zimbabwe's resolve weakened. Brendan Taylor got underneath an attempted lofted drive off Boje and spooned it high over mid-off, where Charl Langeveldt clung on to a swirler (173 for 4). Tatenda Taibu survived a confident appeal for caught-behind off Langeveldt - the umpire Billy Doctrove was unsighted as ball brushed glove on the way through - but he didn't last much longer, pulling Langeveldt to be well caught low down at midwicket by the exotically named substitute Waylain September (183 for 5).

Three runs later Elton Chigumbura was gone too, for a duck, missing a well-flighted delivery from Boje that gripped a little and knocked back his off stump. And next ball Ebrahim's long vigil ended, on the point of tea. After scoring 72 in 202 minutes and 153 balls, with ten fours, he misjudged an inducker from Langeveldt, played no stroke, and swished his bat in frustration when Doctrove raised the finger (186 for 7).

Heath Streak departed for 12, perhaps wondering if his much-publicised return to Test cricket was such a good idea, but his fellow returnee Blignaut injected some fun into the last rites by blasting 22 off one over from Boje, including three sixes, one of which landed on the railway line outside the ground. In all he smashed six sixes, five of them in a 39-ball half-century. But the fun couldn't last: first Graeme Cremer was run out, and finally Blignaut was stumped attempting more violence off Boje, whose figures he had rather ruined.

Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe's ever-enthusiastic captain, had to admit last night that it was "the worst day since I started playing for Zimbabwe". Today was a little better - but not much. It was the first two-day Test since Australia humbled Pakistan at Sharjah in October 2002, and even that game never descended into the farce that was the first afternoon here, when South Africa piled on 249 runs in 33 overs that resembled a prep-school Fathers' Match more than it did a Test. Those worried about Zimbabwe's suitability for international cricket might have been a little less outspoken today, but they won't go away.

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo.