Proteas blackout - but you didn't miss muchComment on this story
Harare - For the better part of Sunday, the outside world was denied television coverage of the second day of South Africa’s Test against Zimbabwe by a burnt-out generator cable that had been supplying power to the broadcast van.
Nonetheless, whether potential viewers missed anything is dependant on their perception of what constitutes good Test cricket.
Those who like to see the game constantly move along may be relieved that the blackout forced them outdoors or on to those overdue house chores because the Proteas scored at just 2.39 runs per over labouring to 201/4.
Faf du Plessis’ unbeaten 69 left South Africa 55 runs behind Zimbabwe’s first innings total of 256, but it was an innings of patience and stodginess from 192 deliveries.
With the pitch slowing up and the Zimbabweans using it to their advantage by setting a defensive field, it was a day for diehard cricket followers who harbour an appreciation for sluggish, tactical cricket.
In movie terms, this was more Tree of Life than Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor was undoubtedly savvy in the way he marshalled his team within their limitations, drawing South Africa into a staring contest in which even Hashim Amla ended up blinking at first.
Taylor had three medium-pacers and a pair of spinners at his disposal, and he had them bowling six inches outside off-stump with a ring field for much of the day.
The real question was whether, as the far superior team, the Proteas should have done more to counter the ploy, and again the argument could be split two ways. Some might applaud their professionalism in playing according to the game situation; others could rightly claim that the Proteas had a duty to entertain and possess more than enough ability to assert their dominance over a team like neighbours Zimbabwe.
The worst period came in the hour after tea. Amla had batted 26 balls for his four runs when he drove Tendai Chatara straight to cover to leave South Africa 146/3. With the ball refusing to come on to the bat and Zimbabwe’s seamers maintaining their discipline, Du Plessis and AB de Villiers scored 11 runs from the next 11 overs before De Villiers whipped off-spinner John Nyumbu to midwicket.
South Africa had willingly tumbled into Zimbabwe’s trap.
The other talking point of the day was Alviro Petersen, who started well enough putting on 57 for the first wicket with Dean Elgar, but then handed Nyumbu his first Test wicket to depart for 32. That left the 33-year-old without a Test hundred in 22 innings, which means the pressure will intensify for him going forward.
Elgar appeared set for a third Test century as he batted serenely either side of lunch, but in the hour before tea he edged behind for 61.
That initiated the stand-off South Africa ultimately lost and allowed Zimbabwe back into the match.
Quinton de Kock was responsible for snapping the Proteas out of the hypnosis as he applied his naturally attacking game and got the scoreboard ticking over again.
De Kock will resume on 27 this morning, and he and Du Plessis will be facing a ball that is only four overs old. The pair may well see the harder ball as something of an aid in their bid to quicken the scoring rate, although Zimbabwe’s spinners have also found some threatening turn with it - most notably when Nyumbu had De Kock dropped at slip in Sunday’s penultimate over.
The day had begun with Zimbabwe on 248/9, and it took Dale Steyn just 10 deliveries to wrap up the innings - and his 24th five-wicket haul in Test cricket - as he had Nyumbu caught down the leg side.