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May 29, 1999

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Zimbabwe humble the mighty Proteas

What was thought would have been a cakewalk for the South Africans turned out to be their Waterloo. On the eve of the match, Zimbabwean coach David Houghton had said South Africa was unbeatable and only Pakistan had it in them to face the mighty Proteas. Little did he know that his own team would make him eat his words.

Zimbabwe humbled the South Africans by handing them a humiliating 48-run defeat to make their passage to the Super Sixes a certainty.

Zimbabwe started the day on a positive note as they won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket that did not have much in it for the bowlers. Neil Johnson and Grant Flower played positive cricket as they added 65 runs for the first wicket before Flower departed, slashing at a delivery outside the off stump to be caught in the slips by Darryl Cullinan.

Flower's dismissal did not stop Johnson from playing his natural game and soon he shaped another 66-run partnership with Murray Goodwin, who came in at number three instead of the pinch-hitter Paul Strang. Goodwin played himself into some form with a useful 34 off 45 balls before he mistimed a pull off Lance Klusener to Gary Kirsten at mid-on. The score then was 131.

At 170, Zimbabwe appeared to have set themselves up for a total of 270-plus when Johnson departed for a well-made 76 off 117 balls.

Johnson, who was born in Harare, but learnt his cricket in South Africa and also played for the South Africa 'A' team, turned out to be the chief tormentor of the Proteas as he helped take the shine off the ball and kept the scoreboard moving as well.

Allan Donald got South Africa the breakthroughs they needed by claiming two wickets in the space of four balls. He first claimed Johnson who pulled at a delivery only to find Shaun Pollock at mid-wicket. Then skipper Alistair Campbell played across the line and was trapped in front to give Donald his 200th wicket in one-day internationals.

Andrew Flower and Guy Whittal accelerated the scoring late in the innings, but Zimbabwe failed to set the South Africans a target of 250-plus. Flower was run out after scoring 29 off 35 balls when he failed to beat Pollock's throw over the stumps from square-leg. Whittal made a quick-fire 20, but lost his wicket trying to push the score. Zimbabwe thus finished their innings at 233 for the loss of six wickets.

But as it turned out, that score proved more than adequate. The South African collapse started from the word go. Kirsten fended the very first ball to gully where Andrew Whittal pulled off a difficult chance.

Mark Boucher and Herschelle Gibbs took the score to 24, before an error in judgement triggered a collapse. Boucher called for a quick single, then hesitated, and in the resultant confusion, Gibbs was run out. Just five balls later, Boucher returned to the pavilion, playing across to a delivery from Streak and being trapped lbw. Another five balls later, Jacques Kallis chased a wide delivery from Johnson to be caught behind without disturbing the scorers.

That brought the captain Hansie Cronje to the crease, only to be castled by a perfect yorker from Johnson. Jonty Rhodes joined the casualty list soon after and at 40 for 6, South Africa looked well and truly out of the match. Within 12 overs, the top order of what is touted as the world's best team was cooling its heels in the dressing room.

Despite a late-order revival by Cullinan and Pollock who added 66 runs for the seventh wicket, South Africa failed to claw back into the game. Even the hard-hitting Klusener failed to bring the South Africans close to the target despite scoring a well-deserved fifty. The Proteans folded up for 185 in 47.2 overs.

The Zimbabweans outplayed their more fancied neighbours in all departments of the game as they recorded their first victory in eight games against the South Africans.

The South Africans' batting depth finally gave way. This puts the onus on the top order to get more consistent in the Super Six. Far too often has the South African lower order held the innings together and put up defendable totals.

If India win against England tomorrow, Zimbabwe will go into the Super Six league with four points, South Africa with two points and India with zero! Conversely if England win, all three teams -- South Africa, Zimbabwe and England -- will go in with two points apiece.

Zimbabwe's historic win will definitely give the Englishmen a sleepless night!


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