Match reports

Zimbabwe v South Africa, 2014-15

Wisden's review of the Test match between, Zimbabwe v South Africa, 2014-15

Brendan Taylor and Hashim Amla at the toss, Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 1st day, August 9, 2014

Zimbabwe's captain Brendan Taylor and Hashim Amla at the toss  •  Associated Press

At Harare, August 9-12, 2014. South Africa won by nine wickets. Toss: Zimbabwe. Test debuts: J. C. Nyumbu, D. T. Tiripano; D. L. Piedt.
Even the most adept fence-sitter might have been willing to risk a wager on this Test: the odds leaned more heavily than Pisa's Tower - and not towards Zimbabwe. South Africa had arrived on the back of a series win in Sri Lanka, which returned them to the No. 1 ranking, while Zimbabwe had not played an official Test in almost a year, and had not met a Full Member in any format in 2014.
So it was no great shock when Steyn removed Sibanda - his face still scarred by chickenpox - before Zimbabwe had a run on the board. Vermeulen, now aged 35, was making his second international comeback after being charged, then acquitted on psychiatric grounds, of arson against Zimbabwe Cricket premises in Harare. On 14, he got stuck in his crease against sharp turn from debutant off-spinner Dane Piedt, and was lbw - making Piedt the 19th bowler to take a wicket with his first delivery in Test cricket (and the second South African, after the recently discovered instance of Ernie Vogler, against England at Johannesburg in 1905-06).
The introduction of Piedt, playing at the expense of leg-spinner Imran Tahir, as early as the 16th over revealed plenty about the surface. The Harare Sports Club groundstaff left it dehydrated and drained of life in an effort to blunt South Africa's arsenal. But torpor ensued: across the first three innings, the run-rate barely crept above two and a half an over. After Piedt chipped away at the top order, Steyn picked up five wickets to complete the set against every Test team - although, in the absence of DRS, he was lucky to win two caught-behind appeals from the debutant New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney (Williams expressed his surprise, while Chatara was reprimanded for shaking his head and pointing to his leg). Taylor dug in, but was running short of partners and holed out in search of a hundred.
South Africa cautioned themselves against similar hot-headedness and approached batting with seatbelts fastened tightly. Wickets came only with lapses in concentration on a second day devoid of excitement, save for the demise of Amla and de Villiers in the space of 11 runs. De Villiers was an illustrious scalp for off-spinner John Nyumbu, who went on to become the second Zimbabwean, after Andy Blignaut, to collect five in an innings on Test debut. All the while, South Africa's lead slowly bloomed. They added just 56 in 30.4 overs on the third afternoon, but stretched out a lead of 141.
On a deteriorating pitch, Zimbabwe were upended for 181, through a combination of reverse swing from Steyn and turn from Piedt - though not before Mutumbami and Nyumbu had roused the crowd with a gutsy eighth-wicket stand of 54. Mutumbami collected his runs in pain, having been struck on the toe first ball by a yorker from Morkel. His injury meant Chakabva took the gloves during South Africa's short run-chase - which had one minor flashpoint, when Elgar reacted to being bowled by whacking the stumps with his bat, earning a reprimand. It was no more than a blot for South Africa, who were not scheduled to make another Test tour until 2015 - and thus ensured their unbeaten away series record would extend to at least nine years.
Man of the Match: D. L. Piedt.