Dale Steyn eased back into the longest format of the game on the opening day of the three-day tour match between Zimbabwe and the SA Invitation XI at Boland Park on Wednesday.
He slotted very easily back into a rhythm that belied the fact that he had been inactive for more than a year with the nine overs he sent down in two spells in the first two sessions costing just nine runs.
By his own admission he did not crank the speed gun up and kept his short ball in the locker for next week’s Test match, concentrating on bowling an immaculate line and length that saw him start his new ball spell with 18 consecutive dot deliveries.
He had a confident appeal for a catch behind the wicket to his fourth delivery to Hamilton Masakadza turned down and then had a catch dropped at backward point to his 19th delivery that resulted in the first run that he conceded.
The important thing was that he came through his activity without feeling the slightest pain or niggle and he created another chance in his second spell with an inside edge by the left-handed Ryan Burls that evaded the keeper and went for the boundary that put three figures on the board.
Steyn clearly has a lot more ammunition in his tank which will no doubt be primed in the build-up to next Tuesday and the start of the pink ball Test.
The seamers were not helped by a pink ball that went soft very quickly. There was nevertheless a lot to like about the first change seamer, Tladi Bokako, while the experienced franchise leg-spinner, Shaun von Berg, was as effective and reliable as ever.
He captured the key wicket of Brendan Taylor and later broke the fourth-wicket stand of 65 between Masakadza and Burls when he dismissed the latter and then got rid of Sikandar Raza as well to have the excellent figures of 3/47 after 16 overs.
Masakadza provided the foundation of the Zimbabwe innings, scoring more than half the runs in the first 50 overs that saw his side reach 134/5 with 48 overs still left in the evening.
Under cover of darkness the ball started to swing and seam appreciably and Zimbabwe lost their last 5 wickets for 33 runs. This included Lizaad Williams taking the last three wickets in four balls with Michael Cohen and Von Berg also finishing with three wickets.
Masakadza’s 79 (181 balls, 9 fours and a six) was far and away the biggest contribution to Zimbabwe’s total of 196 all out.
It left the SA side with 24 overs to face in testing conditions. The home side lost both their openers cheaply before Temba Bavuma settled them down with the fastest scoring of the match.