Deputy Sports Editor
The duel between Zimbabwe and South Africa will today draw to a conclusion after both teams made it into the final of the Pran RFL Twenty20 final at Harare Sports Club this afternoon.
This comes after the Proteas managed to even the odds and won yesterday’s final round robin by six wickets. Zimbabwe won the toss and elected to bat, a move that initially appeared right but soon came back to haunt the hosts.
Like he has done pretty much throughout the series, Zimbabwe’s Hamilton Masakadza was the chief architect of destruction as he stormed to a quick-fire 36 off 30 balls during his team’s promising start.
Unfortunately he lacked support from the rest of the top order batsmen as wickets fell in quick succession with the only notable contribution coming from his opening partner Vusimuzi Sibanda.
The two starred in a 29 run opening stand off 24 balls until Sibanda was trapped leg before wicket by Chris Morris deep in the third over of the game.
The fall of Sibanda seemed to signal the beginning of the end for Zimbabwe’s entire series as wickets fell quick and fast with batsmen like skipper Brendan Taylor (1), Malcolm Waller (0) and particularly Elton Chigumbura (5) all falling by the wayside.
Their dismissals had the nation’s hopes of a final berth fading as the team was reeling at 60 for five. That is until the introduction of man of the moment Graeme Cremer whose antics with the bat brought some respectability to the team’s entire innings.
On his way to 36 off 27 balls, Cremer starred in two meaningful partnerships, the first of which was 32 run sixth wicket stand with Stuart Matsikenyeri.
The second was unbeaten 27 balls 32 run seventh wicket stand by Cremer and Prosper Utseya which then saw the hosts to a paltry 126 runs for six in their allotted 20 overs.
For the visitors only Wayne Parnell made a stand out contribution finishing with three off 16 runs in his fours while Morris, Robin Peterson, Albie Morkel all took a wicket apiece.
South Africa’s reply was more of a formality with mathematical implication has it would determine who they face in the final.
For South Africa, a win would all but have seen them through to the final, while for Bangladesh to go through they could only hope for the Proteas to reach the target inside 15 overs.
The reverse was true for the hosts to go through.
Zimbabwe made the best possible as the chief bowler Christopher Mpofu made light work of the ever dangerous Hashim Amla, who he was caught behind by wicketkeeper, Taylor for a duck.
With the onus left on fellow opener, Richard Levi, he took the responsibility in his stride to make a half century that was the cornerstone of South Africa’s easy run chase.
His 54 runs off 30 balls saw him star in a solid 55 run off 32 balls second wicket partnership with Faf Du Plessis (14), until he was run out by Mpofu.
South Africa then took control of the game as Justin Otongo (24) and Farhaan Behardien (19) both made commendable contribution with the bat to see the visitors home.
They, however, could not do it inside 15 overs to set up a date with the hosts in today’s final after making 130 runs for four in 17. 4 overs.
South Africa’s win saw all three teams finish eight points after two rounds of matches.
The Proteas and Zimbabwe, however, topped the table due to superior net run rate which was 0.378 and -0.086 respectively.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Cricket got a shot in the arm after Innscor through their Bakers Inn brand came on board and sponsored the Chipembere Primary School academy of excellence with cricket kit.
The kit, which is worth a undisclosed amount, comprised of a bowling machine, playing kit, cricket boots, helmets, pads and luggage bags.
Also Bakers Inn will provide with transport to all matches and practice and will construct articial nets, acquire a water cannon and mower for Old Hararians, which will be the training center for the center.
Once completed, the center will be named after Bakers Inn.
The program was designed by Zimbabwe Cricket to develop, identify and nurture junior cricket in the high density areas of Zimbabwe.
To kick start the programme, Highfield was identified as a starting point of which Chipembere would be the first base.
This was due to its history and ability to identify talent, epitomised by the number of former students who have managed to break through into the national team and play at the highest level.