DURBAN – The Proteas eventually won by 34 runs, but they were given a late-night fright by Zimbabwe, in the first T20 international at Buffalo Park on Tuesday night.
It required a bit of experience to secure the victory as Imran Tahir, who is currently enjoying some of his very best form for the Proteas at the moment, notched figures of five for 23. He was twice on a hat-trick, and became the leading wicket-taker in the T20 format for South Africa in the process.
Once Tahir's magnificent spell was over, the rest seemed to be a formality. But then Zimbabwe had other ideas. Having been 70 for seven, they suddenly turbo-charged their way back into contention.
As the final ball of the 16th over was about to be bowled by Junior Dala, the visitors needed 38 off 25 balls. In T20 cricket, that is far from impossible.
This was all after PJ Moor had deposited Tabraiz Shamsi not once, not twice, not thrice, but a brutal four times onto the bank, as the momentum suddenly, and violently, switched. Brandon Mavuta chipped in with a breezy 28 from 14 balls, but it was Moor's assault on Shamsi that gave Zimbabwe a sniff.
South Africa clinch the 1st @KFCSA T20 International, with Phehlukwayo removing Peter Moor for 44 to seal a 34-run victory.
The Proteas lead the three-match series 1-0#SAvZIM #ProteaFire #KFCT20 pic.twitter.com/eTA87uRRWd
Moor was eventually last man out, caught on the long-off fence by a sprawling Christiaan Jonker, for an entertaining 44 from 21 balls. Had he stuck around for two ore overs, things might have got a lot more interesting for a Proteas attack that was heavily indebted to Tahir.
Earlier, with the bat, South Africa had struck 160 for six, with debutant Rassie van der Dussen notching a composed 56 from 44 balls.
There were several dollops of the class that he has shown on the domestic stage for several seasons, as the Lions man steered a tottering South African innings to relative safety.
He and skipper Faf du Plessis (34) added 41 for the third wicket, after Quinton de Kock and debutant Gihahn Cloete went inside the first two overs. There were runs, too, for the returning David Miller, who mixed power and some fortune in his 39.
South Africa's total of 160 always looked like it would be enough, given their varied attack. But, had it not been for Tahir and a stingy Lungi Ngidi (one for 7 in three overs), things could have been a little different.
The Proteas, still experimenting with combinations, will be worried about the number of times they have allowed a game, but limited Zimbabwe side back into contests over the past fortnight, and will be desperate to play with a flbit more assurance in the second T20 International.
Imran Tahir was named as man of the match, unsurprisingly.