TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
NOT even Vernon Philander could crack the code to a stubbornly stingy pitch that helped condemn the four-day match between the A teams of Zimbabwe and SA to a draw in Harare on Tuesday.
SA A batted for seven overs to set a target of 358, and the home side were 192/1 when hands were shaken and beers cracked open.
That Philander was given only eight of the 66 overs SA A bowled tells its own story: with so little chance of success there was no need to hurry him back from his longstanding ankle injury.
But quality overs they were. In his third Philander had Brian Chari trapped in front. He also had several lbw appeals for Prince Masvaure’s wicket turned down and induced an edge from Tino Mawoyo that flew to second slip. Thing is, there was no-one at second slip at the time.
Whatever. Philander’s fine figures of 8-1-9-1 told of a job done well enough.
Even so, a side containing six test players would have hoped to do better against opponents they should beat in most conditions. That Zimbabwe A also had half-a-dozen test caps in their ranks does not even those odds.
After Philander struck Mawoyo and Masvaure stood firm for 368 balls for their unbroken stand of 177. Mawoyo ground out an unbeaten 79 off 205 balls. Masvaure took 183 deliveries to score 88 not out.
SA A’s batting highlight was the undefeated 101 Omphile Ramela scored in the first innings. There was also a pair of half-centuries for Theunis de Bruyn and 50s for Stephen Cook, Stiaan van Zyl and Dwaine Pretorius.
Captain Cook will hope his team build on that foundation to improve in the second and last match of the series, which starts on Friday in Bulawayo.