South Africa have walked a narrow line between tryouts and continuity in this series, and they are clearly still in phase one of ‘Vision 2019’ experimentation, reports ESPN.
The first two ODIs against Zimbabwe saw new players in pivotal positions and old players trialled in unfamiliar ones.
In both games, stand-in captain JP Duminy had dropped down the order to offer the more inexperienced batsmen in the squad the chance to close games out themselves. Neither opportunity was taken, however, and the hosts slipped to 96 for 5 in the first match and 101 for 7 in the second as the visiting Zimbabwe bowlers exploited conditions heavily weighted in favour of the ball.
The early-season pitches have played wildly out of character and this hasn’t been a profitable series for batsmen. Steyn’s fifty is the only one to have been scored from either side, and the South African bowling attack has flattened Zimbabwe’s batsmen in both games, bowling them out for 117 and 78.
Steyn has shown he still has serious pace, topping out at around 145kph in the second game – a number all the more terrifying given how badly the pitch was behaving – and Imran Tahir’s series strike rate is an eye-watering 8.2. Add Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo to the mix, and it will be an achievement if Zimbabwe are even able to last 50 overs on Saturday, given their struggles.
South Africa’s attack is settled, and it’s the batting that has yet to come to grips with Vision 2019. South Africa made have it clear all along that they were willing, if a little reluctantly, to sacrifice results for this vision but time is running out for the likes of Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks and Khaya Zondo to make their mark before Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock return. They should at least have a more placid track on which to stage their third audition of the series.
Zimbabwe will be hoping that the pressure to perform continues to tell on South Africa’s middle order. They are on a nine-game losing streak, and while their bowlers have been able to put them in strong positions in the last two games, their batting has failed completely.
South Africa’s batting tyros have one more chance to get things right before the series switches format and the hosts settle on their personnel for the trip to Australia at the end of the month. Aiden Markram has got himself in, and then out, in both games and though everyone has shown positive intent, stickability has generally been lacking.
Zimbabwe’s batting engine room has completely failed to fire so far. The visitors tend to do well with the bat when the middle order has a cushion, but Solomon Mire has struggled since his return from injury and captain Hamilton Masakadza, like Markram, has done the hard work against the new ball only to give it away. If Masakadza and Mire can lay a platform, the job becomes much easier for everyone following them.