A superb fighting partnership between Donald Tiripano and Wellington Masakadza was not enough to give Zimbabwe XI victory in the third and final one-day match against South Africa A at Harare Sports Club on Friday, the hosts going down in the end by 36 runs.
Sikandar Raza continued his usual policy of winning the toss and putting the tourists in to bat first.
South Africa A got away to an excellent start, with Tony de Zorzi and Ryan Rickelton scoring freely off the bowlers.
They showed little difficulty in their opening partnership of 98 in 19 overs, at which point Rickelton chipped a simple catch from Masakadza, in his first over, to mid-off where it was held by Raza.
Reeza Hendricks came in next, and he was just getting set with 14 off 21 balls when he swept a ball from Masakadza to the leg boundary, only to be caught by Kevin Kasuza.
De Zorzi went on to reach 78 when he became Masakadza’s third victim, after he also swept a ball towards long leg, where it was very well held low down by Tanaka Chivanga running in – 147 for three in the 29th over.
It was four in a row for Masakadza when the visiting captain, Heinrich Klaasen (17), went for a big hit and skyed the ball over the head of the wicket-keeper, Richmond Mutumbami, who ran back to hold the catch very well to make it 181 for four in the 35th over.
Raza then took a wicket as Lesiba Ngoepe (14) went for a big leg hit and was comprehensively bowled at 217 for five.
Then came a vital partnership between Khaya Zondo and Andile Phehlukwayo who added 57 for the sixth wicket in less than seven overs.
The last two overs of the innings went better for the Zimbabweans, though, as Tendai Chatara bowled out Zondo for an excellent 60 off 60 balls to break the stand.
Chivanga then delivered an eventful final over, bowling out Bjorn Fortuin with his first ball.
The batters scored six runs off the next three deliveries, before Chivanga struck again, bowling out Gerald Coetzee and Daryn Dupavillon, hitting out, with the last two balls of the innings, straight full-length deliveries.
Despite their last five wickets falling for only 13 runs, the South Africans finished with the good score of 287 for nine wickets, Phehlukwayo being the not-out batter with 29 off 25 balls.
Chivanga finished with three wickets for 43 off eight overs, but the star accolade went to Masakadza, who in 10 overs took four top-order batters for only 44 runs.
The Zimbabweans had an early setback in chasing their difficult target, as Takudzwanashe Kaitano misjudged the third ball of Dupavillon’s first over and got a leading edge to be caught on the off-side.
Prince Masvaure came in to play a cautious game, while Kasuza was more aggressive, playing some fine strokes as he got after the bowling, although getting away with a thick edge or two.
Masvaure was the first to go, however, aiming a cramped pull at a short ball from Coetzee and skying a catch to deep square leg for nine – 47 for two after 14 overs.
Wessly Madhevere, in next, appeared to be settling down when he played over a yorker from the left-arm spinner Fortuin and had his middle stump knocked back for 11.
Then came a major disaster, as Raza dabbled at his second ball, from Phehlukwayo, outside his off stump and edged a low catch to the keeper before he had scored – 78 for four in the 20th over.
Kasuza had a fortunate escape on 49, as Fortuin failed to hold a difficult return chance, but then Milton Shumba, who had rather struggled to score three, played a ball from Phehlukwayo on to his stumps to make the score 85 for five in the 24th over.
Kasuza, now joined by Mutumbami, reached his 50 off 79 balls.
A boundary by Mutumbami brought up the 100 after 26 overs, meaning the last five Zimbabwean wickets needed to score at almost eight runs an over to win.
Mutumbami was in fine form, scoring freely, but Kasuza struggled to increase his scoring rate.
Eventually he tried to pull a ball from Lizaad Williams and skyed a catch to be out for 66 – he faced 99 balls and hit eight fours, the score being now 145 for six wickets in the 33rd over.
Only two runs later, however, Mutumbami followed him back to the pavilion, caught at backward point off a lifting ball from Coetzee, after making a good 39 off 37 balls.
At 147 for seven in the 34th over, it seemed Zimbabwe XI’s hopes of victory had realistically gone as Masakadza joined Tiripano at the crease.
However, the pair faced the situation magnificently, pushing the score along at a good pace without slogging, placing the ball and running skilfully between wickets, taking the score past 200 in fine style.
They added 89 together in less than 11 overs before Tiripano went for 48, dragging a ball from Phehlukwayo on to his stumps, after facing only 35 balls and hitting a six and six fours.
Chatara came in, but then Masakadza, trying to steal the strike, was run out for 32, scored off 32 balls, and nine wickets were down for 241 in the 45th over.
The last pair of Chatara and Chivanga managed to add 10 runs before, in the 48th over, Chivanga was bowled by Phehlukwayo for five to finish the match, with Chatara on seven not out and the total 251.
Phehlukwayo with four wickets for 32 was the South African hero with the ball, while Coetzee took two wickets.
South Africa A have therefore won the one-day series by two victories to one.
South Africa A – 287-9 in 50 overs (Tony de Zorzi 78, Khaya Zondo 60, Ryan Rickelton 47; Wellington Masakadza 4/44, Tanaka Chivanga 3/43, Tendai Chatara 1/54)
Zimbabwe XI – 251 all out in 47.2 overs (Kevin Kasuza 66, Donald Tiripano 48, Richmond Mutumbami 39; Andile Phehlukwayo 4/32, Gerald Coetzee 2/40, Lizaad Williams 1/39)
South Africa A won by 36 runs