Cape Town - Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir underlined the experience and skills they can bring to the Proteas World Cup campaign when they inspired their side to a series-winning victory by 120 runs over Zimbabwe in the second ODI at the Mangaung Oval on Wednesday evening.
SCORECARD: Proteas v Zimbabwe, 2nd ODI
The Proteas, having won their first match by five wickets at the Diamond Oval on Sunday, now take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the final match at Boland Park on Saturday.
Zimbabwe looked as though they had the game for the winning when they reduced the Proteas to 101/7 at the halfway mark after the home side had again won the toss but Steyn responded with a career best 60 (85 balls, 9 fours and a six) that was also his maiden half-century in this format.
His partnership with Andile Phehlukwayo added 75 for the eighth wicket which was a Protea record against Zimbabwe and made the target of 199 for Zimbabwe on another difficult pitch look well above par.
What will have really pleased the Proteas World Cup planners was what followed when Steyn took the new ball and operated at speeds in the region of 145km/h and knocked over two wickets up front in a spell of 2/19 in 6 overs to clinch the Man of the Match award.
Imran then took over to take 6/24 to rout the Zimbabwe middle and lower order. In the process he became the fourth South African after Charl Langeveldt, JP Duminy and Kagiso Rabada (on debut) to take a hat trick and at one stage took 4 wickets in 7 balls to have figures of 5/16 in 4 overs.
His final figures were his second best for South Africa, beaten only by his career best 7/45 against the West Indies two years ago.
He has now taken four or more wickets in an innings on nine occasions and five or more on three occasions.
If the two veterans were the stars of the occasion, Phehlukwayo was not far behind. Apart from his contribution to the match-winning partnership with Steyn, he put in an excellent spell of 1/7 in 5 overs and took an acrobatic catch at short midwicket to help Steyn to his second wicket.
Once again, the specialist batsmen on both sides struggled with a testing surface in another low-scoring affair.