David Miller and JP Duminy shared a spectacular unbroken world record fifth wicket partnership of 256 to set the Castle Lager Proteas up for a 62-run victory over neighbouring Zimbabwe in their opening ICC Cricket World Cup Pool B game at Hamilton on Sunday.
It was a partnership that started with a much needed rescue act after Zimbabwe, having won the toss, reduced the Proteas to 83/4, then a period of consolidation and finally all-out assault as 96 runs were scored in the final five overs.
Tanashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara, who had bowled so well up front to remove Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla and ensure that the Proteas only managed to make 29 in the statutory power play, bore the brunt of the final assault.
Miller, making his second ODI century, both of them coming in his last three innings, finished with a career best 138 (92 balls, 7 fours and 9 sixes) and Duminy with 115 (100 balls, 9 fours and 3 sixes). It was Duminy’s fourth ODI century and his third against Zimbabwe.
Their partnership obliterated the previous record of 226 achieved by Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara for England against Ireland while the previous South African fifth wicket record was the unbeaten 183 by Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes against Pakistan at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in 1998.
In the end the South African victory was a solid one rather than anything special and left plenty of room for improvement for most of the front-line batsmen and bowlers. This may be no bad thing as on the two previous occasions when the Proteas had their most realistic chances of winning the World Cup in 1996 and 1999 they came out of the blocks like a world champion sprinter but failed to see out the distance.
The World Cup only reaches its business end in a month’s time when the knock-out phase starts and no team can hold its peak for that long. What is required is a steady upward performance curve leading up to that stage.
It must also be stated that Zimbabwe have become a much more competitive team since the ring-wise Dav Whatmore, who has an outstanding record as a World Cup coach, took charge. They gave New Zealand a hard time in their one warm-up match and beat Sri Lanka convincingly in the other. Today’s performance will have confirmed the belief that they are very much in the running for a top four finish in their pool.
It was actually only in the 47th over that the Proteas went ahead of Zimbabwe on the over by over runs comparison after the latter had been given an excellent start with Chamu Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza adding 105 for the second wicket in 17 overs and Masakadza and Brendan Taylor a further 54 for the third wicket in only nine overs. Masakadza contributed Zimbabwe’s biggest score of 80 (74 balls, 8 fours and 2 sixes).
Imran Tahir, who was the pick of the South African attack with career best figures of 3/36 against Zimbabwe, dismissed both Chibhabha and Masakadza. The key period of their innings came when Masakadza was dismissed in the 33rd over as it started a five-over segment when they lost the wickets of their other key middle-order batsmen, Taylor and Stuart Williams. It left them on 218/5 and, from that position, there was not a realistic prospect of their winning the match.
Farhaan Behardien, who had missed both the warm-up matches through injury, passed a late fitness test and he and Duminy in the end bowled as many as 13 overs in the fifth bowler role. The Proteas next match is against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground next Sunday (05h30 start, CAT).
With thanks to KSA