Sunday’s low-scoring first ODI, which spanned a mere 60% of a possible 100 overs, didn’t really afford either team time to genuinely test each other – or themselves. The second fixture in Bloemfontein will, hopefully, span the distance, writes JONHENRY WILSON.

Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza, South African skipper JP Duminy and Man of the Match Lungi Ngidi all expressed surprise at the nature of conditions experienced in Kimberley. The Mangaung Oval pitch, though, will likely prove more conducive to a lengthier contest.

South Africa have leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, fast bowler Dale Steyn, batsman Khaya Zondo and Keshav Maharaj as reserve options. Whether they choose to tinker with the current XI, though, remains in the balance. A return for Steyn is in high demand, but perhaps best left for the final ODI, when the series result is likely decided and the pressure entirely off.

Even then, this low-profile series probably doesn’t require the much-anticipated union of pace aces Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Ngidi. It’s well worth keeping that triumphant tri-factor for the ODIs against Australia later this year.

Predictably and well-documented already, Wednesday will also yield another chance for an inexperienced middle order to shine in the absence of the injured Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla and rested David Miller and Quinton de Kock. Opener Aiden Markram is under pressure and might not be the ODI opener required in the long term. The talented Reeza Hendricks, meanwhile, has endured a brief string of low scores since a century on debut against Sri Lanka earlier this year. Room might be made for Dolphins star Zondo after all.

Zimbabwe were impressive with the ball, but poor with the bat, in the series opener. A larger target for the Proteas might have presented a less one-sided, or entirely different, result at the Diamond Oval.

New coach Lalchand Rajput has publicly professed, on several occasions, that this is not the Zimbabwe of the past. This talk has to be converted into walk, though, if the African minnows are not to be consistently characterised as veritable walkovers.

A self-imposed hiatus amid late salary payments robbed veteran Brendan Taylor of valuable experience against Pakistan and Australia earlier this year. Other returnees, too, were out of sorts in Kimberley. Their principled choices of the past were, fairly, based on bank balances. However, these were counter-intuitive for their cricket. Decisions made about dollars and cents then need to be converted into runs and wickets now.

Key players

Among the current Proteas squad, Duminy boasts the most ODI runs and wickets at the Mangaung Oval. His 48.50 batting average at this venue is almost 11 runs more than his career aggregate of 37.66. He might bowl again here, too, particularly if Maharaj is not added to the XI at the expense of a seamer.

Wednesday will mark Masakadza‘s 200th ODI and he’d dearly love to celebrate the occasion with an innings of significance, and perhaps an unlikely victory. Masakdaza, like all-rounder Elton Chigumbura, who has 200-plus ODI caps, made a promising start in Kimberley. Both stalwarts, however, failed to convert.

Probable XIs

South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, JP Duminy, Heinrich Klassen, Christiaan Jonker, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir.

Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza, Kyle Jarvis.

Photo: Gallo Images

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