For a while now, South Africa have been showing the earnestness of topping the world in one-day cricket and more particularly in 50-over format. They have everything; fine batsmen, quality bowlers and agile fielders. Above all, they have AB de Villiers, a man who is the very personification of someone leading the side from front. On Sunday’s third match of 2015 Cricket World Cup, South Africa lost the toss and Zimbabwe asked them to bat. Just when you thought an assault from Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla would begin, Zimbabwean bowlers sprang one surprise after another. They sent back de Kock and Amla to the pavilion by the 9th over. But South Africa still had Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers to follow. The two otherwise hard-hitting blokes tried to steady the flagging innings somewhat but Zimbabwe came up with more tricks from their bag. After allowing the no.3 and no.4 batsmen some leeway, the Zimbabweans snapped up their wickets as well. At 83/4 in the 21st over, South African start appeared out of tune with their expectations. While Zimbabwe supporters were going nuts with pleasure in a red-colored section of the crowd, David Miller and JP Duminy had a mid-wicket conversation. They went to work immediately since they had less than 30 overs, in which to put their acts together. After a quiet start, in which runs came from singles, twos or threes, Miller and Duminy shifted gear. Before Zimbabweans could realize, the counter-attack took the shape of a titanic storm as Miller and Duminy steamrolled into one big combined force in the death overs. They were so relentless in their approach that Zimbabwe forgot of having conceded only 28 runs in their first 10 overs because the last 10 overs cost them 146. Both Miller and Duminy came up with unbeaten centuries and the final South Africa score reached a whopping 339/4 after 50 overs. Besides taking their team to a winning position, the two batsmen also created a 256-run world record for the fifth wicket stand in an ODI game. In reply, Zimbabwe also ignored a poor start, when the second-wicket pair of Chibhabha and Masakadza put on 105 and took the team score to 137 in the 24th over. But later order batsmen couldn’t sustain the momentum and with Imran Tahir bowling immaculate length, the innings caved in at 277 and Zimbabwe lost their first match by 62 runs.
Though Zimbabwe created early sensation to the utter delight of their motley supporters at Hamilton’s Seddon Park, the third match of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup sprang to life only after the 21st over of the South African innings. By that time, the Proteas had already lost four very capable batsmen as de Kock, Amla, du Plessis and de Villiers were sent back cheaply by the Zimbabwe bowlers. Against Zimbabwe, 83/4 looked very poor when David Miller and JP Duminy took charge of the innings. They didn’t have too much time for the resurrection but they were cautious to begin with. These two added just 48 runs by the 30th over as the score stood at 131/4. By this time, they got the measure of Zimbabwe bowlers. By 40th over, South Africa had gone up to 193 and both batsmen had reached their half-century marks. But Miller and Duminy wreaked havoc off the next 60 balls. This was where, Zimbabwe lost the match. The final overs produced a barrage of unbelievable sixes regardless of whatever was hurled at them. One huge strike from Miller soared over the square-leg boundary and could well have gone into the traffic outside the ground. It was Solomon Mire’s 48th over of the innings and each ball was punished mercilessly by Miller as the ball-by-ball score read; 6, 4, 4, 6, 4, 6. This 30-run one-over-mauling was in sharp contrast to South Africa’s 28 runs in the first 10 overs. The Miller-Duminy firepower ended South African innings at a commanding 339/4
Zimbabwe lost their first wicket for 32 in the 7th over but Chamu Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza didn’t lose heart and put up a very creditable 105-run second wicket stand. However, the target was too far away for just two batsmen to do everything. Both Chibhabha and Masakadza were removed by Imran Tahir, who made himself unplayable at times. In his 10-over spell, Tahir yielded just 34 runs for his three wickets. Somehow, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel failed to make their marks in South Africa’s opening game. But Vernon Philander and Tahir filled up for them and after Masakadza fell at 191 in the 33rd over, the steam went out of the chase. The last eight Zimbabwe wickets fell for just 86 runs and South Africa ended the day with a comprehensive 62-run win.