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14 February 201516:00

South Africa v Zimbabwe Preview, Match 3 at Hamilton

Under Whatmore, Chigumbura’s men have seen a change in fortune, but de Villers’s side is as complete as they come

South Africa v Zimbabwe Preview, Match 3 at Hamilton - Cricket News

With an all-round side, South Africa is a top contender for the title in 2015.

South Africa, never having gone past the semifinal of a World Cup, has worn the tag of ‘chokers’ for way too long. If, however, its recent form – the loss to New Zealand in the warm-up fixture a few days ago surely but a blip – and the depth in its squad is anything to go by, South Africa is a top contender for the title in 2015.

But, as the South African skipper AB de Villiers said on Saturday (February 14), the team isn’t looking that far ahead. For now, South Africa is solely focussed on its opening Pool B encounter against Zimbabwe in Hamilton on Sunday.

De Villiers’s statement could have been dismissed as a rehearsed cliché if it had come before Zimbabwe’s warm-up fixtures. But now, two inspiring performances later, it seems like Zimbabwe has stated its intention.

Arriving in New Zealand following a 5-0 loss to Bangladesh in the One-Day International series, Zimbabwe won three practice fixtures against Northern Districts XI comfortably before working its newfound intensity under Dav Whatmore, the coach appointed after that Bangladesh tour, on New Zealand in the opening warm-up tie.

It reduced the World Cup co-host to 157 for 7 before rain played spoilsport. The weather wasn’t a factor in the second tie, as Hamilton Masakadza led the way with a century in a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka.

Having said that, Sunday’s isn’t a warm-up fixture. Zimbabwe is up against the No. 3 side in the world. A side that relies on the likes of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis to get the runs at the top of the order, before de Villiers and JP Duminy look to sign off with their blazing willows. If a stellar batting line-up isn’t enough, the team has a well-oiled bowling line up too with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott forging the pace battery. Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso make up the spin unit.

The line-up looks so complete it prompted even de Villiers to say: “We’re certainly one of the favourites. There’s no hiding from that fact.”

The only concern for South Africa is Farhaan Behardien’s fitness. It is uncertain if the all-rounder has recovered from a lower-back injury, but should he be ready, South Africa will have another arrow in the quiver.

With or without Behardien against it, Zimbabwe will need to come up with something out of the ordinary.

It had Neil Johnson deliver that for them with both bat and ball during the 1999 World Cup in England when Zimbabwe defeated South Africa by 48 runs. This time around, it has a bunch of players who have the ability to come up with the goods.

Elton Chigumbura, the skipper, carries the team on his broad shoulders and will need to put his experience to good use. Masakadza’s rise bodes well for the side, Sean William’s ability provides much-needed stability to the middle order and Brendan Taylor, the wicketkeeping batsman, is as much a force with the bat as he is behind the stumps.

Squads (from)

South Africa:
Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Wayne Parnell, Kyle Abbott, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Rilee Rossouw.

Zimbabwe: Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Soloman Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Prosper Utseya, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara, Regis Chakabva, Tafadzwa Kamungozi.

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