Eventful tri-series comes to an end

HARARE - It was billed as a neutral venue clash between South Africa and Australia with Zimbabwe making up the numbers, but the hosts made known their presence and made the tournament a competitive one.

That historic three-wicket win over Australia, ending a 31-year wait since the famous victory of 1983 in Nottingham, England, coupled with off-spinner Prosper Utseya’s hat-trick and the eventual five-for will go down as the highlights of this series from a Zimbabwean point of view.

New head coach Steve Mangongo should have every reason to be over the moon, for it took him just one month and seven days to overturn the 31-year standing drought which ironically was his first win since taking the coaching job on substantive basis.

Zimbabwe, however, were largely let down by their inept batting that in most cases gave away wickets cheaply.

The bowling department fired from all cylinders for the greater part of the series.

Today, the Proteas and Australia battle for the series trophy when they clash in the final at Harare Sports Club this morning; a dream final predicted before the series but took some serious cricket display to be a reality.

This is a series where records have been broken, stats made and above all a contest that has proved there is no substitute for experience. Australia clawed back from potential elimination to book the first final slot courtesy of a bonus point victory over South Africa in their last round robin match.

For a while, it appeared as if the host would produce another shock by beating South Africa and qualify for the final had the Proteas downed the Baggy Greens on Tuesday. The anticipation never evaded the local fans who kept the belief even when their team needed to win with a bonus point by chasing down South Africa’s 271 inside 23 overs.

This is also a series where Faf de Plessis scored a century in every game that he played, three to be precise, and still in the running for another one to equal Brendan Taylor’s record for the most ODs 100s scored in Zimbabwe.

The South African top order batsman scored his maiden ODI century during this series and his rich vein of form continued with two more 100s and will be looking to make the best of the Harare Sports Club wicket as he warms up for the man of the series award.

During the series, we also witnessed South Africa losing for the first time after being five wickets down for less than 150 runs in seven of their 14 ODI chases since 2013 when they lost to Australia by a bonus point.

This was also the first time three sixes had been hit off Proteas seamer Dale Steyn in ODI cricket with Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh being the chief punisher. The final promises to be a cracker, given the rivalry between these two sides.

May the best team win!

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