TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
NOT even a hat-trick by Prosper Utseya could stop SA from winning their triangular series match against Zimbabwe in Harare on Friday.
SA, who were 142 without loss almost midway through their innings, crashed to 231 all out with Utseya and his fellow off-spinner, John Nyumbu, taking 8/78 between them on a dry, sharply turning pitch.
But anything SA could do, Zimbabwe could do worse – they were dismissed for 170 inside 40 overs to give SA victory by 61 runs.
Utseya, who finished with career-best figures of 5/36, hit the visitors hard in the 26th over. First he had Quinton de Kock spectacularly caught by Tendai Chatara at short third. Then Rilee Rossouw edged the first ball he faced to slip. With his next delivery, Utseya trapped David Miller plumb in front.
Utseya’s hat-trick was only the second in a one-day international by a Zimbabwean following Eddo Brandes’ effort against England in Harare in 1997.
The moment was particularly bitter for Rossouw, who was run out off his first ball in his previous innings – his international debut against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on August 21.
But Utseya will not be able to enjoy his success too heartily. On August 22, he was reported for having a suspect bowling action and has 21 days from that date to be tested.
His faster delivery and arm ball were cited as the potential problems. However, Utseya took all his wickets on Friday with off-breaks.
And all that after Hashim Amla and De Kock had mounted their fifth century stand in 17 opening partnerships together.
Zimbabwe’s limited pace attack, weakened still further by Tinashe Panyangara being thrown out of the squad for sending his teammates video clips of Australia’s Mitchell Johnson attacking England’s batsmen, had no reply to the SA opening pair’s onslaught.
They Zimbabweans also did themselves no favours by dropping Amla on six in the fifth over with just 12 runs on the board.
Amla scored 66 before Utseya had him stumped in the 25th over, and De Kock forged ahead to 76. Their stand of 142 came off 147 balls.
But, with AB de Villiers rested, the only other SA batsmen to make an impact were Nos. 10 and 11, Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir, who shared 36 off 37 balls in a partnership that brought the Zimbabweans back to earth in the wake of their wild celebrations earlier in the innings.
That sombre mood seeped into Zimbabwe’s reply. They batted conservatively against SA’s new-ball pair, Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, and then lost five wickets to the left-arm spin of Phangiso and Ryan McLaren’s steady, accurate seam.
Sikander Raza, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller and Elton Chigumbura all made promising starts to their innings but failed to follow through. Consequently, no Zimbabwean pair shared a half-century stand.
“It’s a team game, and someone has to come through,” Utseya, so taciturn he has been nicknamed “Rowdy” by his teammates, had said between innings. “I’ll give you a big smile if we get across the line.”
Sadly, by the end of the match, Utseya no longer had reason to smile.