Proteas less than convincing
That South Africa would win the first one-day international in Kimberley on Sunday was as close to certain as sport gets.
Win they duly did‚ though nowhere near as convincingly as they should have – by five wickets with a ball short of 24 overs remaining.
Having bowled and fielded as if determined to ignore the fact that their opponents were a poor excuse for a team‚ they batted as if nothing could possibly derail their victory.
They were proved correct‚ but would surely not take that attitude into a proper contest.
How bad things could get for the Zimbabweans was less certain than South Africa’s allbut-assured success.
So‚ how bad did things get?
Bad enough for the visitors to be in danger of being dismissed in the first half of their innings: they were six down inside 22 overs.
Bad enough for them to be dispatched for 117‚ their lowest total in the 39 ODIs they have played against South Africa.
Bad enough for South Africa’s reply to start 50 minutes before the scheduled lunch interval‚ which they reached needing 73 more runs off 38 overs.
Bad enough for odds on South Africa completing victory to be offered‚ not quite 20 overs into their innings‚ at 1/1000. On Zimbabwe winning? At the same point‚ 100/1.
For all that‚ there were mitigating factors to consider.
The pitch‚ normally as flat as the 165km of N8 that connects Kimberley to Bloemfontein‚ was as fresh as the breezy spring morning.
That was almost unfair on a team who had played their previous 26 games on the slow surfaces of home‚ Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.
And 117 is not as bad as it gets for a side who have been bowled out for 23 lower scores‚ 16 of them in double figures and three below 50.
Six Zimbabweans did not escape single figures, and only two got into the 20s.
That‚ mind‚ against a South Africa attack that‚ despite the conditions and JP Duminy choosing to field first‚ did not include Dale Steyn.
The Zimbabweans’ batting was a litany of poor strokes and‚ for variation‚ a couple of oddities.
The match was won and lost in the 34.1 overs the Zimbabweans managed to stay alive at the crease.
But that does not excuse the lack of discipline South Africa’s batsmen showed.
A win is a win‚ they say. But South Africa will know that is not all that will matter when the series resumes down the road in Bloem on Wednesday.