Zimbabwe failed to reach the final of the triangular cricket series with South Africa and Australia when they surrendered to the Proteas at the Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Apparently, it was a mountain to climb for the hosts who needed to beat South Africa by a bonus point to join Australia for the final tomorrow.
Having won the toss and asking South Africa to bat, Zimbabwe needed to chase the target in 24 overs for them to qualify.
And when South Africa were 271 on the board, hopes of meeting Australia in the final diminished further and were eventually extinguished as Zimbabwe batsmen successively failed to impose themselves on the match. Zimbabwe were bowled out for 208 with 16 balls left.
Only Brendan Taylor (79) made his good start count scoring a half century, while the rest failed to kick in after weathering the early storm from a brilliant South African attack that included Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.
Sikandar Raza Butt will be disappointed with himself falling after a solid 29 at a point when he looked to have settled early nerves.
The manner he perished was avoidable, but he probably got excited after a few lusty shots that got the crowd into a frenzy.
Fans had thronged Harare Sports Club in their numbers, but few entertained hopes of a final berth for Zimbabwe. Somehow, many just wanted to see their team compete once again; and despite the defeat they were not entirely disappointed.
Vusi Sibanda was yet again given another opportunity at the top of the batting order. He showed signs and willingness to take on the South African frontline bowlers, but an ill-advised run at the call of his partner Raza Butt was his undoing as he fell to a run-out.
With Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza in the middle, Zimbabwe had every hope that they could still win the match, but South Africa knew that breaking that partnership would push them closer to victory.
Morkel took the honours of doing just that with AB de Villiers taking the catch to remove Masakadza at 26.
Sean Williams did not last long after becoming a victim of JP Duminy who combined with Hashim Amla.
After that it was more about Taylor positioning himself for personal success with Elton Chigumbura falling for 13 while Malcolm Waller made 17.
It was a much-needed half century for Taylor who until yesterday had struggled for form despite an important 30-run knock when Zimbabwe defeated Australia.
Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe bowlers had made some good work by making sure South Africa did not post an intimidating total even though it was still competitive.
Tendai Chatara had set Zimbabwe on the right path with a wicket in the first over when he induced an edge on Quinton de Kock and Neville Madziva soon got rid of opener Hashim Amla for 14.
Faf du Plessis, who went on to make a century, and Rilee Roussow did a good job rebuilding the innings with the third wicket falling with 96 runs on the board with Williams castling the latter.
AB de Villiers was run out before he did much damage, but JP Duminy’s knock together with du Plessis ensured South Africa were comfortable.
There was not much success for Zimbabwe’s spin this time, but they were still pleased with their effort.
After Zimbabwe’s win against Australia, South Africa was wary the home side as they unleashed their strongest side.
Zimbabwe did not disgrace themselves despite the defeat. One of the positives they can draw from this match is that they managed to make a contest out of it just as they have done with the whole series.
Their major concern would probably be their batting given their key players failed to convert good starts.
The final will be played tomorrow and both South Africa and Australia appreciate they were made to work for it.
It was not as easy as had been expected after all, but the final is prettily poised to provide a thrilling contest between two of the world’s