HARARE: 133 - The margin by which Zimbabwe need to beat South Africa to eliminate them from the final, if Zimbabwe bat first and score 250. If South Africa bat first and score 200, Zimbabwe will need to chase the total down in about 23.3 overs. Zimbabwe forced the one-way traffic into a u-turn last week when they beat Australia to put themselves in contention for the final. That possibility faded two days later when Australia beat South Africa by a bonus point to leave the neighbours to tussle it out for the remaining spot, although it is South Africa’s to lose.
Zimbabwe will have to beat South Africa and beat them properly. Not only will they need a bonus point but their margin of victory will have to be big enough to see their net run-rate balloon beyond what may be deemed realistic. Instead, the hosts may have to content themselves with smaller success of simply competing with and challenging South Africa. It has been a tough three weeks of fifty-over cricket for Zimbabwe. They have toggled with various combinations, dealt with suspensions and injuries and have been trapped in a tunnel of defeat until the light came on Sunday. That one match showed Zimbabwe’s promise and the value of regular game time. This could be their last international fixture until they tour Bangladesh in October so going out with a bang will be on their minds.
South Africa will have more immediate matters to take care of. Their plans were thrown slightly off track with the loss to Australia, so they can no longer use the final game for experimentation but rather for practice in must-win situations. Victory is not essential for them but it would significantly ease the passage into Saturday’s final, where they can test themselves in a pressure-cooker situation ahead of next year’s World Cup.
In the spotlight: Zimbabwe’s ability to play the complete game has only been on display once in the tournament. The test for them is to see if they can do it again and they will need their batting in particular to pull its weight. Zimbabwe’s attack has done a good containing job throughout but their batsmen have been prone to collapses. If both can work as well as they did two days ago, Zimbabwe will be happy to see consistency at last.
The two main concerns for Russell Domingo after the defeat to Australia would have been the recurring problems: South Africa’s middle order and their death bowling. Neither may get the opportunity to show improvement in a fixture which could take on a completely different complexion to their previous one but if they do the spotlight will be on JP Duminy and David Miller to see whether they can turn starts into something more significant and Ryan McLaren who needs to regain the ability to bowl the yorker at the end.
It would be cruel to leave out any of the men who beat Australia on Sunday and although Zimbabwe have tinkered with their team in every match, they could go with the same XI. Barring a change in seamer, no-one’s place should be under threat. Had South Africa been 100% certain of their place in the final, they would have used this match for experimentation but they do not have that luxury. That will mean fielding their first-choice XI which, unless Morne Morkel’s shoulder injury flares up, an unchanged XI despite the long tail.
Zimbabwe: Sikandar Raza, Tino Mawoyo, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Prosper Utseya, John Nyumbu, Tendai Chatara, Donald Tiripano.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir.
AUCKLAND: When good neighbours become good friends. Perhaps not on Saturday (today) at Eden Park ...