PAARL - There will be many twists and turns, highs and lows, ebbs and flows on the way to the next World Cup. And it will all be put down to ‘Vision 2019’ and South Africa’s quest to find the elusive formula to lift the golden trophy.
Since Ottis Gibson’s appointment last summer, a mindset of all-out attack has been implemented, but it remains a work in progress. Saturday night on a surface finally resembling a cricket pitch, and under the spanking new floodlights at Boland Park, there were though signs that the process is underway. Chasing a total of 228 – comfortably Zimbabwe’s highest score of the series – there was enough runs for the home team’s batsmen to get stuck in and play an innings of substance.
For the visitors to be competitive, they needed early wickets. That was not forthcoming though with openers Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks intent to make a statement. Both top-order batsmen are in the race for a place in the World Cup squad, and with each run scored they inched closer to a plane ticket to England next year.
There will be greater challengers ahead this summer with current Champions Trophy holders Pakistan and Sri Lanka still to visit these shores over the coming months, but both Markram and Hendricks looks assured at the crease during their 75-run partnership for the first wicket in just 12.3 overs at a rate of 6.25 per over.
Markram (42 off 40 balls, 7x4) was the chief aggressor in the partnership, striking the ball cleanly and playing with plenty of intent, and therefore had every reason to feel aggrieved when he was adjudged lbw by New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney.
Television replays clearly indicated that ball had ricocheted off Markram’s inside edge before striking his pads, but with the Umpire Review System not in place for this series, the young Proteas opener was forced to drag himself back to the pavilion.
Equally, Hendricks had every right to feel aggrieved with his lbw decision - Gaffaney the umpire once again – later too when the ball seemed to drifting down the leg-side, but the stylish right-hander had at least passed fifty by that stage. It was a crucial innings for the Highveld Lions stalwart, particularly in regards to his personal World Cup ambitions, as it was his first score of any substance since striking a century on debut in Sri Lanka a couple of months ago.
Convenor of selectors Linda Zondi would certainly have felt a lot more comfortable watching the game on his sofa back home in KwaZulu-Natal after another young batsman, Heinrich Klaasen, also impressed with a maiden ODI half-century to close out the match along with the unbeaten Khaya Zondo.
The performance of the fast bowlers Dale Steyn (3/29) and the returning Kagiso Rabada (3/32) earlier in the searing Paarl afternoon heat was impressive too, along with Imran Tahir (2/44) who was once again being among the wickets.
Zimbabwe: 228 all out (Williams 69, Taylor 40, Steyn 3/29, Rabada 3/32)
South Africa 231/6 : (Hendricks 66, Klaasen 59, Markram 42, Tiripano 2/34)
South Africa won by 4 wickets, win the series 3-0