South Africa, Zim look to solve mid­dle-or­der is­sues

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

Big pic­ture SOUTH Africa’s bowlers did a ster­ling job in the se­ries opener and the hosts are 1-0 up, but there are ques­tions over their bat­ting. In Bloemfontein’s Man­gaung Oval, they may have the per­fect stage to set right some of their bat­ting er­rors and get the mid­dle or­der flow­ing smoothly.

An untested mid­dle or­der clearly got the memo about play­ing ag­gres­sive cricket, but in the first ODI their ap­pli­ca­tion in con­di­tions that made stroke­play dan­ger­ous went awry. Only Hein­rich Klaasen seemed to have fig­ured out just how to be pos­i­tive against the ex­tra bounce in Kim­ber­ley.

South Africa’s bowl­ing, mean­while, ap­pears in starkly fine fet­tle. Kag­iso Rabada bowled a lit­tle within him­self on Sun­day, but was still ef­fec­tive, while Lungi Ngidi showed that he could be a men­ace even on a fairly slow pitch. Andile Phehluk­wayo and Wi­aan Mul­der did ex­actly what was asked of them in back­ing up the new-ball pair, while Im­ran Tahir whizzed through his vari­a­tions to clean up the tail.

Zim­babwe’s bats­men will also be pleased that South Africa’s at­tack might be de­fanged a lit­tle by bat­ting-friendly con­di­tions in Bloemfontein. The vis­i­tors do at least also have a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­ence of Bloemfontein than they had of Kim­ber­ley be­fore the se­ries opener.

The Man­gaung Oval is one of the few grounds in South Africa where Zim­babwe have a his­tory in all three in­ter­na­tional for­mats. Al­most 20 years ago, this was the ground where Zim­babwe played their first Test match on South Africa soil, and more re­cently Zim­babwe’s bats­men had left with happy mem­o­ries of T20 and ODI cricket here. Eight years ago, Bren­dan Tay­lor cracked a ca­reer-best 145* here un­der lights. Hamil­ton Masakadza, Sean Williams and El­ton Chigum­bura were all also part of the XI in that game, and Masakadza has a par­tic­u­lar con­nec­tion to the city.

Six­teen years ago, Masakadza en­rolled at the Uni­ver­sity of the Free State to study for a Bach­e­lor of Com­merce de­gree at their Bloemfontein cam­pus, and must have cut a some­what un­likely fig­ure at his Afrikaans hos­tel, Vishuis. But by all ac­counts he en­joyed his time here, study­ing with the help of a cricket bur­sary or­gan­ised by Ewie Cronje, fa­ther of Han­sie, and when he re­turned to the city for the first time since fin­ish­ing uni­ver­sity with the na­tional side in Oc­to­ber 2010, he cracked 72 in a T20I against a bowl­ing at­tack that in­cluded his old uni­ver­sity team-mate, Ryan McLaren.

Zim­babwe des­per­ately need Masakadza to rekin­dle some of that var­sity sparkle at the top of the or­der. South Africa, too, need more out of their bat­ting unit. Form guide South Africa WLLWW (last five com­pleted matches, most re­cent first)

Zim­babwe LLLLL In the spot­light South Africa’s mid­dle or­der is un­der more than a lit­tle pres­sure to per­form af­ter a lull in their last three ODIs. Reeza Hen­dricks has just seven runs from his last three ODI in­nings, while Dean El­gar and Chris­ti­aan Jonker are yet to show whether they can fill in for the in­jured Hashim Amla and the ab­sent David Miller. Klaasen helped South Africa over­come a wob­ble against Zim­babwe in the opener, and the bat­ting hope­fuls will be des­per­ate to im­pose them­selves a lit­tle more sec­ond time around.

Zim­babwe have some mid­dle-or­der is­sues of their own, but their bat­ting malaise is a lit­tle more wide­spread and of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is their abil­ity to ab­sorb pres­sure by turn­ing the strike over with sin­gles. This was par­tic­u­larly ap­par­ent in Kim­ber­ley, when 153 of the 205 de­liv­er­ies bowled at Zim­babwe were dots. They’ll have to find a way to run South Africa a lit­tle harder with quick sin­gles. Team news South Africa coach Ot­tis Gib­son spoke about giv­ing ex­tended op­por­tu­ni­ties to those in the start­ing XI ahead of this se­ries, and it’s likely that the South African think tank will want to have an­other look at their com­bi­na­tion in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. South Africa’s bowl­ing at­tack gelled very nicely in the first game, and their top six should have an­other chance to do the same.

With Bren­dan Tay­lor keep­ing wicket, Zim­babwe’s com­bi­na­tions are also likely set­tled for the mo­ment. The value of play­ing El­ton Chigum­bura as an ex­tra bats­man at No. 7 was demon­strated in the first ODI, when he top-scored with 27, and with Sean Williams and Solomon Mire fill­ing in the fifth bowler’s po­si­tion, the vis­i­tors have plenty of op­tions with the ball.

Bran­don Mavuta cel­e­brates his maiden ODI wicket —AFP. South Africa (pos­si­ble):

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