A good day all round

HARARE - The long wait for this one-off Test match finally ended at 10m yesterday morning when Brendan Taylor won the toss and elected to bat against South Africa.

The pitch seems to be devoid of most of the grass coverage we normally have at Harare Sports Club.

In fact, it resembled a pitch not to dissimilar to the pitch in Rajkot in India.

Very flat, dry and as already mentioned, devoid of grass.

It came as a real surprise when Tino Mawoyo was excluded from the final 12, as well as leg spinner Natsai Mushangwe, who would have been a real handful on this pitch.

Sibanda has been out of sorts for a while now, and although Mawoyo has just recovered from an injury, he did look promising in the final unofficial Test against Afghanistan.

The only question was... Who would get Vusi? Steyn or Philander?

Steyn was the successful bowler inducing the edge of the unfortunate Sibanda, who perished without scoring.

Mark Vermeulen received a good round of applause from the growing crowd when he came out to bat, and that gesture alone tells a story in itself.

The fans have forgiven and forgotten, and all they want is the best 11 to be picked at all times.

Regardless of your race colour or past.

Both Vermeulen and Masakadza looked composed and relatively calm as they first of all saw off the shine of the new ball, and then started to expand their forward defensive blocks to some sweetly timed strokes.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when Hashim Amla turned to off spinner Dane Piedt after the first drinks break, but surprise then turned to shock and disappointment when the debutant trapped Vermeulen in front with his very first ball in Test cricket.

Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor showed glimpses of why they are arguably Zimbabwe's best batsmen as they knuckled down nicely and saw the team through to lunch without any alarms.

But when both Masakadza and Regis Chakabva fell in quick succession after lunch, visions of South Africa batting were already beginning to form in most people's minds.

Taylor was truly outstanding.

His ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps, fend off the short balls and selectively sweep the spinners once again showed how much he has matured as a player.

What also impressed was Richmond Mutumbani who showed great composure and restraint as he kept his skipper company in a crucial partnership before a laps of concentration lead to his downfall.

South Africa aren't the world's number one ranked team for nothing.

At no point did they show any frustration, they simply stuck to their guns, and waited for the batsmen to make a mistake.

In my 13 years of talking and writing about this game, I have never witnessed a bowler being warned for excessive use of the bouncer.

And yet, it happened as Morne Morkel received an official warning when bowling to Richmond Mutumbani.

South Africa will definitely be the happier of the two teams, but Zimbabwe showed good fighting spirit by batting out the entire day, a feat many people thought they were not capable of.

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