By Edward Makuzva
The first hour and a half of this match belonged to Zimbabwe A, as Brian Chari and Chamunorwa Chibhabha shared a fine opening partnership of 98 yesterday, at Harare Sports club.
After that it was all about the South Africa Emerging side, who turned the tables totally on the home side, winning in the end by the comprehensive margin of six wickets, due mainly to outstanding bowling from Migael Pretorius and a superb century from Janneman Malan.
Chari and Chibhabha opened the batting against the bowling of Lwandiswa Zuma and Pretorius.
According to the statement, Okuhle Cele came on to bowl, Chari welcomed him by lofting his first ball for a high six over midwicket, which brought up the team fifty in the 10th over.
He almost did the same to the left-arm paceman Michael Cohen, driving his fourth ball for a one-bounce four over long-off.
The left-arm spinner, Thomas Kaber, got the same treatment, Chari swinging his third delivery over midwicket for six.
Despite some bad fumbling from the South Africans in the field, they eventually managed to get the bails off at the bowler’s end, and Chari could no longer refuse to return to the pavilion.
Innocent Kaia came in next and announced his presence with a classic drive for four wide of mid-off to bring up the team hundred.
He followed up with a very non-classic slice over cover that the sweeper near the boundary just failed to reach and catch.
Chibhabha duly reached his fifty off 75 balls, but lost Kaia, who slashed at and edged a ball from Cele after scoring a brisk 14 off 12 balls; 119 for two in the 25th over.
Chibhabha himself did not last much longer; on 55, he chopped a ball from Pretorius on to his wicket, making the score 124 for three in the 27th over.
Kevin Kasuza came in, the man who saved his team from defeat in Kwekwe, but he had to survive a very uncomfortable first over from Pretorius.
Peter Moor (2) did not survive the next over, as he played over a faster yorker from the off-spinner Senuran Muthusamy and was bowled, the ball actually breaking the stump, and the score had slumped to 126 for four in the 28th over.
Timycen Maruma also struggled at the start of his innings, but gradually he and Kasuza settled in and began to pick up runs.
The second drinks break found the Zimbabweans at 145 for four off 33 overs, having scored just 62 and lost four wickets off the 17 overs since the first break.
The South Africans kept it tight in the field, however, and Kasuza in particular struggled to score.
Eventually, becoming desperate, he tried to force a ball from Kaber across the line and was dismissed lbw for 14 off 32 balls.
At 166 for five in the 38th over, the Zimbabweans were losing their way.
In the 40th over, Maruma got hold of Kaber and hit him for four and six off successive balls.
At the 40-over mark Zimbabwe A were 180 for five.
Kudzai Sauramba took a while to settle in, but he and Maruma then played usually together and the 200 came up in the 44th over.
Another six over midwicket by Maruma brought him his fifty off 52 balls.
Sauramba was out for 16, beaten for pace by a fast full-length ball from Pretorius; 214 for seven in the 47th over.
Neville Madziva was run out for one, seeking a risky second run, and then Maruma departed as he flicked a ball from Pretorius straight to the fielder at fine leg, the score now being 216 for eight in the 48th over.
Maruma had batted well and held the middle order together for his 58 off 58 balls, which included three sixes and four fours.
Pretorius bowled Ainsley Ndlovu third ball without scoring, and then did the same to Keith Jaure first ball – three wickets in five balls.
Pretorius, bowling accurately at a good pace, was the best of the South African bowlers, his final figures being five wickets for 34 runs off 8.5 overs.
For the Zimbabweans, an innings that had begun so well ended dismally for 216, the last five wickets falling in 11 balls for only two runs.
For their part, the South Africans kept to their task very well and kept up strong pressure once they had broken through to wrest the advantage from the home side.
Madziva and Jaure opened the bowling for Zimbabwe A to the South African pair of Yaseen Valli and Malan.
Malan drove Jaure for two successive fours in his opening over, while Valli edged a four through the slips off Madziva.
The fifty came up in the seventh over, courtesy of a wide by Madziva that Sauramba, the wicketkeeper, missed and gave away four more runs.
Chibhabha, who replaced Jaure, conceded three fours in his first over to the rampant Malan.
A lofted on-drive by Malan off Ndlovu brought him his fifty off just 33 balls, and included the remarkable figures of 10 fours and a six.
With the score at 85 in the 12th over, Valli miscued a drive off Chibhabha and was caught at mid-off for 22, for a score of 22 off 34 balls.
He was replaced by Muthusamy, who has been in prolific batting form on this tour.
The pace of the batting eased off after Valli’s dismissal, even by Malan, but the team hundred still came up in the 15th over.
After taking a breather Malan came out swinging again, and hit Brandon Mavuta for two powerful sixes in an over to go into the eighties.
He then gave a hard chance to short extra cover that was not held, and it did not take him long after that to complete a superb century, which took him only 73 balls.
Malan finally fell for 108, well caught just inside the boundary by Kasuza off the bowling of Mavuta.
He faced only 79 balls, hit 14 fours and five sixes, and left with the score 178 for two wickets in the 25th over.
The second match of the series of three takes place on Friday at Harare Sports Club.