Know your limitations, play to your strength

HARARE - Some might describe yesterday’s play as boring and uninteresting.

They couldn't have been more further from the truth.

Granted, it wasn't the free-flowing and entertaining batting everybody expected to see, but it was like a game of chess.

Two Grand Masters settling down over the chess board, and trying to outwit each other with suttle moves.

Donald Tiripano showed tremendous application at the crease and has already shown that he is capable of holding up an end against the very best.

Nobody quite knew what to expect when the South Africans came out to bat.

Most of their batsmen have been in fine form, and are well known for their attacking brand of cricket, regardless of the situation they find themselves in.

Dean Elgar and Alviro Petersen seemed untroubled on a flat and unresponsive wicket as they calmly went about their business before  Matabeleland Tuskers off-spinner John Nyumbu got into the act by removing the out of form Petersen for 32.

Elgar and Faf du Plessis, two solid players, then seemed to have matters firmly under control.

Once again it appeared as if Zimbabwe's total of 256 was going to be hopelessly inadequate against a batting line up with such skill and depth.

But like the Proteas bowlers, the Zimbabwean bowlers stuck to a very clear plan.

That plan was to frustrate the usually positive batting line-up into making mistakes.

Elgar duly obliged when he flashed at a ball wide outside the off-stump to give Donald Tiripano his first wicket, and the up to then subdued crowd finally had something to cheer about as the tea break beckoned.

The muted cheers then changed to an audible bellow of delight when Hashim Amla, otherwise known as the Mighty Hash, drove Tendai Chatara straight to Vusi Sibanda at cover for just four runs.

Suddenly Harare Sports Club was back to life again, the chanting and singing by the now vocal crowd clearly rubbed off on the players.

Suddenly there was a noticeable spring in the step of the fielders, and when AB de Villiers then flicked John Nyumbu to Vusi Sibanda at mid-wicket for seven, the media were treated to all the old favourites, the crowd sing when their beloved team is on the charge.

While the likes of Amla and AB came and went without causing damage, Faf du Plessis simply set his stall out and grinded his way to yet another invaluable half century.

Du Plessis has for now at least made the number three position in the South African Test team his own.

He shows massive amounts of concentration and appears to relish situations such as these.

His shot selection has been highly commendable as well.

Unlike Elgar and to a lesser extent Amla, Du Plessis has been more than happy to leave any offerings outside his off stump, but has punished anything in his half.

Zimbabwe's more experienced seamers, Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara, have been impressive without been threatening, concentrating on bowling ou side the off stump for most of the day.

Panyangara has conceded a mere 18 runs from 16 overs with seven maidens, while Chatara, who got the wicket of Amla, has only conceded 17 runs from 15 overs.

Critics who were at the ground would probably call these tactics negative, but they have worked up to now.

Zimbabwe have been streetwise in the sense that they have quickly realised that they have no Dale Steyn in their line-up.

Steyn is unquestionably the world's best fast bowler, although English fans and their media would more than likely crack your crust, arguing that their precious James Anderson has all the skill.

The truth however is this,  Anderson is an absolute nightmare in the English conditions, but pretty toothless anywhere else.

Steyn on the other hand is dangerous on any pitch, be it the flat pitches of the subcontinent, or the fast and bouncy pitches of Australia or South Africa.

A fast bowler like Steyn is a captain's delight, and at any given time you can turn to him and ask him to run in and attack.

Zimbabwe on the other hand, do not have a Dale Steyn, nor a Heath Streak for that matter.

So they have gone to plan B.

None of the Zimbabwean seamers are quick by any stretch of the imagination.

None of them at this point of their career have any great skills either.

The latter however may change, should they be exposed to more international and more particularly test cricket.

What the bowlers lack in speed and skill, they make up for in planning and a huge amount of determination.

South Africa most definitely do have the upper hand, but the two-day Test that so many people feared will most certainly go into a third day, and more than likely a fourth.

The tactics Zimbabwe have employed up to now may be perceived to be negative, from the preparation of a flat pitch, to the bowling plans.

Yet, how can they be negative when Zimbabwe have clearly held their own for pretty much throughout the Test match?

Some have described the bowling as being toothless, but it has been very accurate which therefor makes a mockery of those critics who are determined to find nothing positive to talk about.

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