The four-day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe turned out to be a one-sided affair, with the game ending within two days. Zimbabwe were outplayed in all the three departments as the South Africans were too hot to handle.
Zimbabwe lost wickets in heaps and there was absolutely no competition between both the sides. South Africa registered an innings victory and this also turned out to be the second shortest Test in last 50 years with just 907 deliveries being bowled in the entire game.
It’s true that Zimbabwe are not one of the top Test sides in world cricket and don’t have an inspiring domestic set-up to begin with. Domestic cricket plays a massive role in grooming talents and prepares them for the big stage, but Zimbabwe are certainly not a side that have a prolific and well set-up domestic circuit like India and Australia have.
@ZimCricketv (68 & 121) lost to @OfficialCSA (309-9 declared) by an innings and 120 runs in the historic day-night Test at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth. Tough luck boys and congratulations to the Proteas! #SAvZIM
— Zimbabwe Cricket (@ZimCricketv) December 27, 2017
“Our First-Class standard is nowhere near as high as South Africa and Australia. The wickets we play on are also quite tired, with not a lot of pace and bounce, and they turn a little. This sort of attack will test your technique and where you can get away with it in Harare and Bulawayo, you can’t here,” Cremer was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo.
They have not been a regular Test playing nation either. In fact, they have only played three Tests this year (excluding this one) and were exposed to the beast in their own jungle. They have fared reasonably well in the recent times and their career graph was on the rise, but South Africa was always going to be the toughest nut to be cracked.
Zimbabwe were more used to the docile surfaces back home and were suddenly playing a Day-Night Test on the speedy track of Port Elizabeth. Also, one shouldn’t forget, the wicket had enough grass over it in order to prevent the pink ball from wearing out, which was only going to make it tougher for the visiting side.
— Praise Dumi Dlakama (@praise_dumidk) December 28, 2017
South Africa are undoubtedly one of the best bowling sides in world cricket. The likes of Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj render bowling a joy to behold. They are beast, who are difficult to tame, especially at home. And the attack did live up to the expectations.
Zimbabwe’s bowling a decent job in picking nine South African wickets as the hosts declared for 309. The signs were clear that South Africa wanted to make the most of that final hour under the lights. Zimbabwe’s top-order had no answer as they lost four early wickets with just 14 runs on the board.
A tough Test for #Zimbabwe #cricket – but unless we have these chances to play we will never improve . I have not lost heart in our spirited team. Ours is a nation which has been bludgeoned by two decades of racist tyranny. We are rebuilding – so heads up @GraemeCremer & lads.
— David Coltart (@DavidColtart) December 27, 2017
The next day, things didn’t change for them in daylight either, being bundled out for just 68. South Africa imposed the follow-on, and once again managed to dismantle the visiting side for just 121, further winning the contest by an innings and 120 runs. None expected Zimbabwe to win this encounter, but the fact that they didn’t put up a fight may be disheartening for their fans.
The four-day contest turned out to be a failure mainly due to the day-night experiment against a relatively weaker side. Also, the gap between a top side and a modest Zimbabwe was massive. It would be cruel to blame Zimbabwe for their poor performance at Port Elizabeth. They hardly play any Test cricket and has hardly been exposed to a top side in the recent times. Zimbabwean skipper Graeme Cremer shed some light on the reason behind their poor run and how they were outplayed.
“It seemed that they were just better than us. We were blown away by their seamers. They didn’t let up, they hit their areas consistently, there was just enough in the wicket and we didn’t adjust to that. We knew it was going to be tough, but maybe not this tough. We know we’ve got a long way to go, especially in Test cricket and in conditions which are not flat. When it’s seaming around and bouncing and turning – we need to get used to that,” Cremer added.
At times, a defeat like this can break the momentum and shatter their confidence, which is justified. But Zimbabwe need not be bogged down with this defeat. They certainly have a long way to go and with games against equally-matched opponents scheduled in the future, they can take a lesson from this outing. Not just Zimbabwe, most of the sides would have struggled on this wicket against South Africa, but they need to forget this and move on. It did provide a clear picture of where they need improvement and the loopholes that exist in their line-up.
At times, games like this do a lot good for the side. This might be the push they needed, which might help them do well in the games to come. Yes, they certainly need to pull in certain areas. Although they performed valiantly against West Indies and Sri Lanka in their recent games, but that also came on flatter tracks. They need to start performing on difficult tracks, which will only help them evolve into a competitive side.