Result less important than Cricket World Cup prep for SA against Zim

South Africa's captain Jean-Paul Duminy (L) shakes hands with Zimbabwe's players after his team won the first One Day International cricket match between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the Diamond Oval in Kimberley on September 30, 2018. South Africa won by 5 wickets. / AFP PHOTO / Wikus DE WET

Tuesday’s forecast high for Bloemfontein is 29 degrees. Wednesday’s is 19.

That’s hardly a big enough difference to crack a windscreen in a place where you could be greeted by an icicle when you open a tap first thing of a winter’s morning.

And it doesn’t capture the degrees of separation that yawn between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The home side’s flippant batting on a lively pitch narrowed that abyss in the first one-day international in Kimberley on Sunday.

Even so‚ South Africa got there by five wickets with almost half their innings to spare having dismissed the Zimbos for a record low total.

It is difficult to imagine that JP Duminy’s team have not learnt their lessons from all that going into the second match of the series in Bloemfontein on Wednesday — almost as hard as it is to think the bowlers will be presented with another helpful surface.

Whatever. Imran Tahir wasn’t getting ahead of himself on details like the conditions and the sorry state of the opposition.

“If you play for your country you have to be up for it‚ no matter who you’re playing against‚” Tahir told reporters in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

“That’s what you’re wearing this jersey for.”

But he wasn’t unhappy to be at the biggest ground in the country in terms of area‚ which offers bowlers a places to hide against aggressive batsmen.

“It always helps‚ especially if the guys are trying to hit you against the wind‚” Tahir said.

Not that he should need help dealing with a side who have scored only one century in ODIs this year — Brendan Taylor’s 138 against West Indies in Harare in March — and own six of 2018’s 20 lowest totals.

Tahir won’t be the Zimbabweans’ only problem: word from Bloem was that Dale Steyn took to the nets on Tuesday with eyes as sharp as his pace.

Steyn wasn’t picked on Sunday but seems set to get a run on Wednesday in a game and a series that‚ for the South Africans‚ is less about the results than it is about preparing for the 2019 World Cup.

Like Steyn‚ Keshav Maharaj‚ Tabraiz Shamsi and Khaya Zondo warmed the bench in Kimberley and will be keen to get among the runs and wickets this time.

Tahir was in the mix on Sunday‚ and at 39 and with 807 senior games of all formats and levels in the colours of more teams than you could shake a thigh pad at‚ he remains South Africa’s first-choice spinner.

But‚ like everyone else who has played for South Africa‚ he has yet to win a World Cup.

With the 2011 and 2015 editions of the tournament in his first-hand memory‚ was he looking forward to having another go?

Tahir’s manners in his dealings with the press are invariably impeccable‚ but the seemingly innocuous question pushed him to a new level on that score.

“Very much so‚ sir‚” he said. “If we win the World Cup I’ll definitely probably [retire].”

One game at a time‚ young man.

Besides‚ if South Africa win the World Cup the several players who have said they are planning to call it quits after the event would be hard pressed to walk away.

Definitely probably‚ anyway.

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