Humbling no bad thing for SA
Cape Town - Embarrassing for South Africa on the day, for sure ... encouraging for southern Africa and the greater cricketing world in the longer term.
That is one way to digest the Proteas’ 29-run upset at the hands of Zimbabwe in an unofficial Twenty20 international before a vibrant crowd at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
Let’s stop short of calling it a train smash, shall we?
South Africa, minus several of their established “hardebaarde”, are just starting out again after a period of inactivity under the less-than-animated acting leadership of ace batsman Hashim Amla, and these sort of comeuppances can be useful, sometimes educative experiences.
Who knows, if they do manage to cover themselves in glory at the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later in the year, they may come to reflect with a chuckle on the season’s humble roots against their normally easily-downed neighbours.
At least they can be said to have been scrambled to their feet by the drill sergeant, as it were - you can bet that Gary Kirsten and company will not be allowing too many “lie-ins” for the remainder of this triangular.
As things stand, the Proteas now find themselves in the rather rare position of seeking a wee favour from Bangladesh on Thursday: they may be hoping the Tigers can knock over now unbeaten log-leaders Zimbabwe, revelling in two wins out of two.
The three teams only meet each other twice in the tightly-compressed schedule before the final is staged on Sunday.
Odd slip-up? That happens. The Proteas possibly not reaching the showpiece game of a tourney featuring this pair of minnows? Now that would truly be unpalatable!
It will be interesting to gauge the ferocity of South Africa’s response to this occurrence when they are next in action on Friday against Bangladesh once more, and whether some shuffling is done to their XI ... we have not yet seen any of Farhaan Behardien,
Chris Morris or Faf du Plessis do duty at the triangular as an unchanged side from game one crashed to “Zim”.
By and large, the Proteas’ seam attack failed once more to collectively achieve required standards, with length a major ailment on a slow, gripping pitch: it always looked as though it might be game-on from the moment home openers Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton
Masakadza joyously bashed their way to a partnership of 114 in 13.3 overs after taking first strike.
It was hard to get too excited by any of the faster men in the South African attack, frankly, although if you want a “positive” it was that Wayne Parnell, slightly to his credit, was better than he had been in his horror show a day earlier.
Still, he has leaked 94 runs in seven overs at the event thus far so regaining self-respect is hardly a done deal yet.
Left-arm spinner Robin Peterson again performed with guile as an opening bowler, a responsibility that he is getting more and more comfortable with in limited-overs internationals on suitably sluggish pitches.
On the batting front, meanwhile, Richard Levi got out when well set for a second game on the trot - though at least he’s contributing - whilst Colin Ingram, the No 3, may not necessarily have enhanced his longer-term chances of nailing down that role despite top-scoring in the unsuccessful reply with 48.
While composed and comfortable enough, the left-hander’s strike rate of 123 was unremarkable and he probably needed to have had more runs to his name by the time he departed with a hefty, unrealistic amount of work still required by the tail, deep in the 18th over.
Gladdening for all who love cricket from a universal perspective was the buzz and obvious improvement in the Zimbabwean ranks, something that augurs well both regionally - South Africa could do with having neighbours much closer again to the competitive force they were 10 or 20 years back - and in terms of the possibility of their regaining a fuller place at the world table, across all three major codes.
Brendan Taylor’s troops deserve to bask in Wednesday’s giant-killing glow, even if it may not last too long.
Over to you, Proteas ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing