This defeat hurts

HARARE - It is hard to decide which is the more bitter pill to swallow.

The demoralizing 198-run loss Australia inflicted on Monday, or the 61-run loss to South Africa yesterday.

The answer that springs to mind would naturally be the loss to South Africa - or is it?

Getting yourself into a winning position and then watching in disbelief as the foundation you laid collapses around you may actually hurt more than the heavy loss of Monday.

Zimbabwe and in particular Prosper Utseya showed tremendous spirit when South Africa's openers were in full flight.

On so many previous occasions, we have seen the opposition convert such starts as Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock into formidable totals.

Truth be told, a total of 331, instead of the 231 Zimbabwe restricted South Africa seemed more likely, but the fielding side held on like a determined bulldog wrestling a bone away from a Great Dane.

And for a while, Zimbabwe were in control.

The off spinners Utseya and John Nyumbu bowled excellently in tandem, and for once, the normally dangerous South African middle order had no answers.

Zimbabwe would have been disappointed not to have mopped up the tail earlier, and the late flurry of runs between Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir partly spoilt a magnificent comeback effort in the field.

It would have been interesting to have been the proverbial fly on the wall in the Zimbabwean change room.

What would the tactics have been?

Unfortunately Zimbabwe were immediately on the back foot, thanks to the early loss of Tino Mawoyo.

Sikandar Raza Butt and Hamilton Masakadza looked reasonably composed against the new ball duo of Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, but it was short lived.

If a left arm spinner had one last wish before he passed on to the next life, it would undoubtedly be to bowl to a Zimbabwean batsman.

As soon as Aaron Phangiso came into the attack, he caused havoc by removing Masakadza and Brendan Taylor, both playing poor shots.

What would have hurt both the team and coach Steven Mangongo deeply was that at no point did the required run rate become a worry.

Yet, Raza Butt, Malcolm Waller and Sean Williams all got starts, and then gave the South Africans fielding practice by hitting the ball straight to them.

Williams may be the only one who was deceived by a slower ball from Ryan McLaren, his expression of anger and disappointment suggests that he had cleared Amla at mid-wicket.

The team only have 24 hours to try and iron out some of the problems they had, and although a great deal of heart can be taken out of some areas, this loss may have hurt more than we think.

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