Another Du Plessis century leads SA to final

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Man-of-the-match Faf du Plessis (121 off 140 balls) scored his third century from four innings this triangular series as he steered South Africa to a score of 271 for six that proved 63 runs too many for a spirited Zimbabwe.

Man-of-the-match Faf du Plessis (121 off 140 balls) scored his third century from four innings this triangular series as he steered South Africa to a score of 271 for six that proved 63 runs too many for a spirited Zimbabwe who were bowled out in the 48th over.

Elton Chigumbura earlier won a good toss as the visitors were asked to bat and found themselves in trouble at 26 for two in the eighth over after the home seamers Tendai Chatara (1/31) and Neville Madziva (2/53) removed openers Quinton de Kock (2) and Hashim Amla (14) inexpensively.

It is not easy batting early in the morning at the Harare Sports Club and Rilee Rossouw (36) did well to consolidate with du Plessis as the pair laid a stable foundation for the innings.

Rossouw's runs were his first in international cricket after he started his career with two ODI ducks. Later the batsman would also take his first international wicket when he had Chigumbura caught off a long hop on the boundary.

The wicket appeared used, slow and unpredictable and at 120 for four after 28 overs the Proteas appeared to make a sensible decision to try and bat out the overs rather than go for a big total.

Chigumbura relied almost exclusively on spin as 38 overs of slow bowling were sent down and the strategy appeared profitable until du Plessis and company struck almost 120 runs off the last 12 overs.

A tidy knock (51 off 61 balls) by JP Duminy helped the line-up, which was bolstered by an extra batsman, to a strong total.

Australian quick Mitchell Johnson fractured Ryan McLaren's forearm in Tuesday's match and the all-rounder was replaced by Wayne Parnell (1/39) for today's game. With the batting looking light, Rossouw got the nod in the place of spinner Imran Tahir.

The batsman has only ever bowled seven overs of First Class cricket but AB de Villiers, who was so fruity with his bowling changes that he even bowled two overs himself, was rewarded with a wicket as Rossouw took 1/17 in three overs of slow off-breaks.

Zimbabwe needed to chase the 272-run target in 25 overs to book a place in Saturday's final but as that was an impossible target they went about the attempted chase positively but with too many errors to get close.

A determined Brendon Taylor (79 off 96 balls) gave impetus to the middle order but ran out of partners. Taylor took his time to get going but once he did he was brilliant at distinguishing good balls from bad and treating them accordingly.

But left with too much to do on his own, Duminy (3/35) found his off stump when the batsman attempted an ugly hoik in the direction of President Robert Mugabe's State House next door.

Zimbabwe will not be playing in the final but they must be commended for their performance on and off the field. Their underdog outfit put up a good fight and both and won and lost matches graciously.

The pace of cricket can appear sleepy at this charming ground but when the crowd reaches some kind of critical mass in the mid afternoon the frequency at which the match is played begins to match the increased volume of the vocal locals who sing proudly in unison and cheer every single with enthusiasm.

Cricket is much loved here and the host nation has done a wonderful job in hosting a lovely tournament. In South Africa the sporting public may be more interested in rugby at this time of year, while in Australia they are glued to Aussie Rules but in Zimbabwe, sports fans have their cricket heads on and regardless of who wins on Saturday, it is a privilege to be a part of it.

<b>Nick Sadleir in Harare</b>

South Africa XI: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Aaron Phangiso, Morne Morkel.

Zimbabwe XI: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sirkandar Raza, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Neville Madziva, Prosper Utseya, John Nyumbu, Tendai Chatara.

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