South Africa A proved too good

HARARE - South Africa A were visibly disappointed after Zimbabwe's plucky second innings display which saw the hosts cling on for a draw, and Stephen Cook and his men made it clear that there would be only one winner in the second game at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.

From the onset, the visitors were ruthless as they first of all savaged the bowling on a typical Queens pitch, amassing 570/6d, and then sat back and played the patience game, knowing that Zimbabwe A wouldn't be able to repeat the heroics of the second innings of the first match.

This is by no means a reflection on Zimbabwe A's batting, nor does it suggest that they are incapable of forcing a draw: far from it.

South Africa A made two mistakes, and paid the price for doing so.

The first mistake was the age old one that all South African cricket teams make when they play their so called little brother Zimbabwe.

They underestimated Zimbabwe A, despite their protestations both before and after the match.

The second mistake was their decision to not enforce the follow on, claiming that they had a long season ahead of them, and that they wanted to use their bowlers sparingly: a very valid excuse, but a strange one given that it would have been the perfect situation to try and get their bowlers into form..

Bulawayo however, was a different kettle of fish entirely.

Cook won the toss and both he and veteran batsman Heino Kuhn stroked centuries, which set the perfect platform for the rest of the batsmen to play with freedom and confidence.

Then, all the experience of playing a lot of first class cricket at a considerably higher standard than that of Zimbabwe came to the fore, as they gamely plugged away at the brittle Zimbabwe line up, waiting for the inevitable batting collapse which duly happened.

Prince Masvaure however, was the absolute stand out performer in the Zimbabwe A batting lineup, as both he and Craig Ervine briefly frustrated the South African A team with a dogged fourth wicket stand.

Masvaure's scores of 87* and 146 must surely put the left hander into contention for the Test series, while Ervine's welcome return will give the selectors another option in the middle order, should Sean Williams not be available.

Some armchair critics have scoffed at Masvaure's sudden peak in form, saying that it is about time he started showing consistency, but some players are late developers, and Prince is possibly a late developer, and should be rewarded for his consistency.

Zimbabwe A's next outing is a three day match against the New Zealand at Harare Sports Club, which sadly has been known for its flat pitch, and one wonders how much longer curators and the think tank of Zimbabwe Cricket will continue to live in the false allusion that slow, low and flat pitches will benefit the game at both first class level and international level.

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