Riding on the high of a dominant One-Day International series sweep, South Africa will be keen on carrying on their good run when they meet Zimbabwe in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals in Buffalo Park on Tuesday.
Despite winning the recently concluded ODI series rather comfortably, the hosts have a few chinks to iron out once the 20-over series begins. For starters, their batting at the top has been a problem. They suffered a collapse in the first ODI when they were reduced to 101 for 7 and even while chasing down modest targets have lost one wicket too many most times.
Heinrich Klaasen, who scored his maiden ODI half-century in the last game in Paarl, will be hoping to continue with his form in the T20Is – a format where he already has made quite a name for himself, while Quinton de Kock returning after being rested for the ODIs will be keen on hitting the ground running as will the experienced duo of Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy.
Du Plessis, who came back into the side for the final ODI after a lengthy injury layoff looked slightly rusty and will want to get the big scores come the T20Is while Duminy, with scores of 16*, 5 and 1 in the three outings will be eager to get back some batting form.
The bowling looked largely settled in the three ODIs. Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn had a successful comeback into the 50-over side while Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo, all were mighty impressive in the chances they got. Rabada and Steyn have been rested for the three T20Is which will add additional responsibility on Tahir’s shoulders but with the likes of pacer Dane Paterson and spinner Tabraiz Shamsi alongside Ngidi and Phehlukwayo, South Africa seem to have their bowling department in order.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile have plenty of issues to ponder upon as they look to make a quick turnaround from the ODI series loss where they were competitive throughout, but failed to win the crucial moments. While the bowling remained good at most times, the batting let them down, a major reason why they found on the wrong side of the result.
Brendan Taylor and Sean Ervine, both of whom clicked in the last ODI will want to bring their experience into play in the T20Is, so will captain Hamilton Masakadza, who with scores of 25, 27, and 28 in the three ODIs, got starts in all games but failed to convert them into anything substantial. The likes of Peter Moor, Solomon Mire and Chamu Chibhabha will also want to put their hands up and provide support to the seniors in the side.
The bowlers gave a good account of themselves in the T20Is picking up 21 wickets in the three games against a mighty good South African top order. The onus will once again be on Tendai Chatara, Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chisoro to keep the runs down.
The forecast in East London is bright and clear with no signs of rain. The Buffalo Park surface has generally been a batsman’s paradise and should be no different on Tuesday.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis ©, Junior Dala, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Robert Frylinck, Imran Tahir, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Gihahn Cloete, Rassie van der Dussen
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza ©, Solomon Mire, Neville Madziva, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Chris Mpofu, Chamu Chibhabha, Wellington Masakadza, Tarisai Musakanda, Tendai Chatara