At Centurion, March 11, 12, 13, 2005. South Africa won by an innings and 62 runs. Toss: South Africa.

If the First Test was produced by the Theatre of Cruelty, the Second was more like farce. Everything appeared to be going according to plan when Zimbabwe were asked to bat and collapsed to 115 for seven, an improvement on the previous week but predictably feeble.

Then Nel, who had terrorised the quivering top order with his physical and verbal bouncers, pulled a hamstring and hobbled off the field. Langeveldt twisted a muscle in his back and hobbled off the field. Kallis wrenched his hip and... hobbled off the field. That put three out of four seamers on the physio's table, and the fourth, Zondeki, had just completed a lengthy second spell. South Africa, who had rested Pollock and Ntini, were down to slow left-armer, Boje and, um, nobody, really. Smith resorted to his own off-spin, and called up de Villiers, who had made his debut against England as an opening bat, found himself keeping wicket in his next two Tests, and had never bowled in first-class cricket. He delivered seven overs for 16 runs - economics that surprised everyone, especially him.

With the home dressing-room resembling a casualty ward, the team's fitness trainer, Adrian le Roux, who last played cricket at university over five years earlier, came on as a substitute. The bizarre hiatus allowed Streak and Blignaut to nudge their way to pressure-free half-centuries. Blignaut scored 52 in 54 balls, out of 76 for the eighth wicket; Streak batted two and three-quarter hours and took Zimbabwe to a semirespectable 264 before he was bowled, 15 short of a second Test hundred. He fell to an inswinger from Kallis, who like Nel had limped back into action to share the second new ball.

South Africa were batting by the close, and on the second evening - when Zimbabwean captain Taibu joined the injury list, leaving the field for ten overs with a bad shoulder - they were already 111 ahead, despite three of the top four gifting their wickets after passing 40. Left-hander Prince played with admirable restraint, given the standard of the bowling. Recalled to the Test side aged 27, after more than two years in the cold, he cautiously earned a maiden Test century and then refused to give it away. Kallis batted in great pain, through a haze of cortisone injections that blurred his vision. No wonder he needed 95 balls for his fifty, rather than the 24 of the previous week.

Boje dominated the third morning, when South Africa added exactly 100 runs in 18.5 overs before his own quest for a maiden century was cut short by the persevering leg-spinner Cremer, who bowled him sweeping. An immediate declaration left Zimbabwe five overs to survive before lunch: in that time, they withered to 13 for two. With Nel and Kallis merely patched up and bowling without venom, the way was clear for Zondeki, playing his first Test since injury ended his debut in England in 2003, to cash in handsomely. He bowled well, in patches, to collect six for 39 - his best return in any first-class match - but his performance, like every South African's in this series, had to be measured against one of the weakest teams ever to have played Test cricket. With their two best bowlers rested and three of their next four injured, South Africa still won by an innings inside three days. And nobody, anywhere, was celebrating.

Man of the Match: M. Zondeki. Attendance: 12,915.

Man of the Series: J. H. Kallis.

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency