Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
South Africa spinner Imran Tahir slashed through Zimbabwe’s batting line-up with a career-best five-wicket haul to lead the Proteas to a 34-run win in the first Twenty20 International in East London.
Tahir was well supported by debutant Rassie van der Dussen, who struck a 44-ball 56.
Choosing to bat first, South Africa were dealt a big blow on the fifth ball of the match as debutant Gihahn Cloete was dismissed by Kyle Jarvis for two runs.
Quinton de Kock, who opened the batting with Cloete, only scored five runs before he was caught by Chamu Chibhabha at deep midwicket off the bowling of Chris Mpofu.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis and Van der Dussen managed to add 41 runs to the score before Du Plessis was removed by Brandon Mavuta for 34.
Van der Dussen and David Miller kept the runs flowing with an 87-run stand, during which Van der Dussen brought up his fifty, before Miller was sent packing by Jarvis for 39.
Van der Dussen went on to score 56, which came off 44 balls and included five boundaries and a six, before he was caught by Zimbabwe skipper Hamilton Masakadza at mid-off off the bowling of Mpofu.
Even though Christiaan Jonker fell shortly after, Van der Dussen’s knock helped South Africa finish on 160/6.
Jarvis was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets, while Mpofu snapped up two and Mavuta chipped in with one.
Chasing 161 to win, Zimbabwe made an awful start to their innings as Chibhabha was clean bowled by Tahir for three runs.
Tahir struck again in his next over as he trapped Masakadza lbw for one run before having Tarisai Musakanda caught behind on the very next ball.
Wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor managed to make 19 before he was caught behind off the bowling of Junior Dala.
Tahir then returned to strike in successive deliveries as he clean bowled Sean Williams for 21 before trapping Elton Chigumbura lbw for a golden duck.
Tendai Chisoro was the next to go as he was caught and bowled by Andile Phehlukwayo for two runs.
Peter Moor and Mavuta provided some resistance as they forged a 53-run partnership before Mavuta was dismissed by Dala for 28.
With Jarvis being cleaned up by Lungi Ngidi for a duck, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 126 when Moor was removed by Phehlukwayo for a 21-ball 44, which included a boundary and five sixes.
Tahir was the most successful bowler with five wickets, while Dala and Phehlukwayo took two wickets apiece. As for Ngidi, he claimed one.
Masakadza was disappointed to have lost, and said: “I thought the total was just about par. Definitely the bowlers have continued to do some good work. Batting is something we definitely need to work on. Losing three in the first six was always something difficult to bounce back from.”
Du Plessis was thrilled to have won, and said: “The wicket got a bit slower, so we were thinking 155. And there was a bit of dew, so the ball doesn’t grip as much as in the first innings. Rassie (van der Russen) batted really well, nice to have David bat well, and me too, obviously.
“He’s (Tahir) got a knack for taking wickets. He sees the value of taking wickets upfront, like today when he got three in the first six. We didn’t expect it to be this dewy. The wrist-spinners face a huge challenge, and it wasn’t easy for the seamers as well. But you want your young bowlers to experience a challenge, and Ngidi came back brilliantly in the 16th over. We always knew during that partnership that one wicket was all we needed.”
Tahir was named Man of the Match, and said: “I’m really pleased. I don’t take things for granted. Every opportunity I get to play for South Africa is an honour, just pleased to have been able to come out well. I practice mostly with the new ball to see if I can get more accurate if I get to bowl with the new ball. I’m a big believer that it’s never too late to learn.”