South Africa beat Zimbabwe by nine wickets inside four days in the one-off Test at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday to reinforce its position as the top-ranked team. The South Africans easily knocked off the 41 runs they needed in their second innings, finishing on 44/1 to seal victory and follow up a series win over Sri Lanka last month under new captain Hashim Amla.
South Africa earlier bowled Zimbabwe out for 181 in its second innings after offspinner Dane Piedt took 4/62 to increase his match haul to eight wickets on debut. Fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel picked up three wickets each in the second innings, as Zimbabwe’s initial resistance was swept away and it slumped from 98/2, losing eight wickets for 83 runs on the final afternoon.
Steyn, the top-ranked bowler in Tests, finished with match figures of 8/84 and South Africa was seldom in trouble on a slow, lifeless pitch in Harare that the visiting batsmen and bowlers both took a little time to work out. “Very satisfied with the win, we played well through the day,’’ South Africa’s AB de Villiers said. “Test cricket is all about playing well away from home.’’
Zimbabwe fought hard and had its own offspinner making a successful debut. John Nyumbu took 5-157 in South Africa’s telling first innings of 397 to give the strugglers a positive outlook despite their batting collapse on the last day. “We were competitive for three days and were blown away after lunch today,’’ Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor said. “A lot of positives for us. Nyumbu has been in first-class form for a number of years. Full credit to him.’’
Playing its first test in a year and first against South Africa in a decade, Zimbabwe made 256 batting first, relying heavily on Taylor’s 93. South Africa’s Piedt returned 4/90 in his first bowl in Tests and was an instant success when he removed Mark Vermeulen with his first ball, a delivery that turned sharply from outside the off stump on a pitch that helped the spinners more than anyone.
Steyn had enough pace and skill to trouble the Zimbabweans despite the pitch to take 5/46 in the first innings, his 24th career five-wicket haul. South Africa replied with 397, with Faf du Plessis making 98, Quinton de Kock 81, and JP Duminy 55. Opener Vusi Sibanda gritted his way to 45 as Zimbabwe held off the South Africans at the start of the second innings, but he and Vermeulen fell in successive overs to start the collapse. Steyn had 3/38 and Morkel 3/15 to back up Piedt, who won the man of the match prize.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 256 & 141/7 (Vusi Sibanda 45; Morne Morkel 3/15, Dane Piedt 3/60) tied with South Africa 397 (Faf du Plessis 98, Quinton de Kock 81; John Nyumbu 5/157) & 44/1 (D Elgar 21)