South Africa's all-rounder Lance Klusener was at his smashing best on Tuesday in Nairobi. This golden boy of the World Cup 1999 was sent in as an opener today against Zimbabwe in the four-nation Series for the LG Cup. He justified that elevation with a 105-ball unbeaten 101 as his team raced to a nine-wicket victory. Klusener hit four massive sixes and struck 11 fours.
His first 51 runs came off 46 balls and contained seven fours and three sixes. That should speak for the imaginative manner in which Klusener had built his match-winning innings. Klusener and Herschelle Gibbs, chasing a victory target of 217, made no secret of their intention. They pitched their tent in the enemy's camp and amassed 125 runs in only 18.4 overs before Gibbs (48 in 55 balls with six fours and one six) had to leave the scene.
He sprained his right toe and retired hurt. Then Klusener and Jacques Kallis (25 in 30 with two sixes) took the score to 174 by the 28th over. Kallis was beaten and bowled by Guy Whittal. Skipper Hansie Cronje arrived and stole the limelight with some hectic hitting (31 not out in 22balls, 2x4, 2x6). It was all over in 35 overs. Earlier, paceman Alan Dawson and left-arm spinner Paul Adams led a magnificent South African rally to demolish Zimbabwe from a commanding 170 for two to 216 all out.
Thus South Africa, who was stunned by India in its first outing on Sunday, brightened its position in the race for top honours. Zimbabwe had beaten Kenya in the opening match of this league on Saturday. India will take on Kenya on Wednesday. South Africa chose to field first. It must have been cursing itself for that decision when the Zimbabwe openers Neil Johnson (35 in 59 balls) and Grant Flower (91 in 120 balls, 11x4, 1x6) batted fluently to frustrate the South African attack.
The pair put on 99 in 22 overs before Johnson played a ball from off-spinner Derek Crookes onto his stumps. Skipper Alistair Campbell skied a catch to Herschelle Gibbs off Lance Klusener (124 for 2). But Grant Flower found a disciplined partner in Murray Goodwin and the two looked set for a long association. The score stood at 170 for 2 in 38.5 overs when things began to happen for South Africa. Eight wickets fell for an addition of 46 runs by the fourth ball of the 48th over
Medium pacer Jacques Kallis brought off a spectacular return catch to send back the top-scorer Grant Flower. He dived to his left showing amazing reflex-action and scooped the ball inches from the ground. That proved to be the beginning of the end. For, thereafter, all the South African bowlers bowled their respective second spells to a plan. The Zimbabweans had no suitable answer to their rivals' methods.