The ODIs had come and gone and it was now time for the T20 leg of Zimbabwe’s tour.
T20s are not South Africa’s best format, they have had a poor win percentage for the past few years and Zimbabwe would have known this is their best chance to compete.
South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first in East London, and they handed T20 debuts to Gihahn Cloete and Rassie van der Dussen.
The Proteas did not get off to a good start with Cloete and Quinton de Kock getting out inside two overs. Zimbabwe were off to a good start. Enter captain, Faf, who was in terrific form and hitting the ball so sweetly on his way to 34 off 20 deliveries. When Faf was dismissed, South Africa were 52-3.
It was then the Dussen/Miller show as the two put on 87 runs in their partnership, that saw Dussen make his maiden T20 half-century off only 44 deliveries. Miller was out on a well-played 34 and was livid with himself as he chipped the ball to the boundary.
Zimbabwe bowled with extreme skill in the death overs that restricted South Africa to a total of 160-6, which was the lowest T20I total at the ground. Credit to the touring Zimbabweans for pulling things back after Faf was on a roll, and giving themselves a chance of winning this game.
Faf opened the bowling with Imran Tahir, and it took him only 4 balls to strike, with a beautiful yorker to dismiss Chibhabha for 3.
In two games in a row, Tahir found himself on a hat-trick when he dismissed Zimbabwe captain, Hamilton Masakadza plumb LBW for 1, and then Musakanda the very next ball thanks to a brilliant effort by de Kock behind the stumps, taking the catch at full-stretch. Zimbabwe were in tatters on 11-3.
It was now up to experienced batsmen, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams to guide Zimbabwe to a win. They put on 29 runs before de Kock took another amazing catch behind the stumps to dismiss Taylor for 19, and give Dala his 1st wicket of the night.
Imran Tahir came back into the attack and immediately struck, removing both Sean Williams and Elton Chigumbura in consecutive deliveries, and for the second time in the match, found himself on a hat-trick. Chigumbura was also Tahir’s 5th wicket, which was his 2nd 5-wicket haul in T20I, and with that, he became South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in T20Is, overtaking the great Dale Steyn.
It was a brilliant bowling performance from the 39-year old Tahir, who plays with such passion and pride when he wears the green & gold for his country. Despite Tahir completely bamboozling the Zimbabwe batsmen in the final ODI on the weekend, they were nowhere closer to being able to play him. Tahir’s magic struck again.
Brandon Mavuta and Peter Moor gave South Africa a scare towards the latter stages of the innings, with their brilliant counter-attack, add 53 runs in their partnership.
They took the attack to Tabraiz Shamsi who went wicketless and finished with figures of 0-43 in his 4 overs, getting carted around the ground for 25 runs in the 15th over, as Moor took a liking to him by hitting him for four consecutive sixes.
It was a spirited fightback from Peter Moor but for Zimbabwe, it was sadly not enough, as Andile Phehlukwayo took the final wicket with a great catch on the boundary by Jonker, he was gone for a brilliantly played 44 off only 21 deliveries.
South Africa had won the match by 34 runs and take a 1-0 in the 3-match series.
Whilst it was a comprehensive win for the Proteas, a worry for South Africa could be their back-up bowling. After the opening bowlers of Tahir and Ngidi went for 5.75 and 2.33 runs per over, respectively, it is a worry that Shamsi (10.75), Phehlukwayo (7.5) & Dala (8.33) were all expensive. This is an area they will need to work on for the next game.
The second T20I is in Potchefstroom on Friday 12th October, starting at 18:00 SA time.