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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
South Africa cruise to victory
Herschelle Gibbs returns to form
Gibbs returned to form in style
NatWest Series, Cardiff: Zimbabwe 174-8 lost to South Africa 175-1 (34.2 overs) by nine wickets

South Africa all but booked their place in the NatWest Series final with a bloodless nine-wicket win over Zimbabwe in Cardiff.

Skipper Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs both struck half-centuries, arresting the indifferent form displayed hitherto by the opening pair.

Heath Streak had been convinced he broke through in the opening over when Gibbs apparently edged behind, but umpire Peter Willey was unmoved.

Gibbs and Smith overcame the early scare to post the best opening stand of the series to date, 154, scoring at better than five runs per over in the process.

Smith fell to the freshly introduced Sean Ervine for 58 with victory already assured, but Gibbs remained unbeaten on 93 to guide South Africa home in the 35th over.

Only a wash-out in Sunday's clash betwen England and Zimbabwe in Bristol can potentially deny South Africa a berth in the Lord's final on 12 July.

NATWEST SERIES TABLE
South Africa P4 W3 L1 NR0 BP1 Pts17 RR0.62
England P4 W1 L2 NR1 BP0 Pts10 RR-0.06
Zimbabwe P4 W1 L2 NR1 BP0 Pts9 RR-0.73

Earlier, Zimbabwe managed only a poor total but were heavily indebted to a lion-hearted 54 from skipper Streak.

A score of barely greater than 100 looked possible when Zimbabwe, sent in by Graeme Smith, slumped to 92-6 in the 34th over.

Makhaya Ntini, bowling with great speed and bounce, struck early when Doug Marillier was caught by Jacques Rudolph after playing a poorly executed pull shot.

Ntini and Shaun Pollock both bowled tight seven-over spells, but it was only when they were rested that the wickets continued to fall.

Jacques Kallis claims the wicket of Dion Ebrahim
Kallis did not bat but continued his fine form with figures of 3-47

Charl Langeveldt bowled Travis Friend through the gate, and Kallis also struck in his first over when Ebrahim was caught behind for 20 playing at a devlishly rising ball pitched just short of a length.

Grant Flower and Tatentda Taibu briefly stopped the rot, but their 29-run stand was over when Paul Adams, playing his first game of the series, had the latter trapped in front for 19.

Another bowling change brought immediate success in the 30th over when Stuart Matsikenyeri picked out Rudolph at square-leg off the bowling of Andrew Hall.

Hall struck again soon afterwards, claiming the prized scalp of Grant Flower when the right-hander dragged the ball onto his stumps for 26.

The seventh wicket responded with a much-needed and speedy partnership of 52 runs, but Sean Ervine was on his way back to the dressing room after edging behind off Kallis.

Streak brought up his fifty with a six over extra-cover, but was soon on his way when he was bowled in the 49th over by Kallis, who was claiming his third victim.


South Africa: GC Smith (capt.), HH Gibbs, JH Kallis, JA Rudolph, M van Jaarsveld, MV Boucher (wkt), SM Pollock, P Adams, AJ Hall, AC Dawson, M Ntini.

Zimbabwe: H H Streak (capt), T Taibu (wkt), D A Marillier, D D Ebrahim, T J Friend, G W Flower, S Matsikenyeri, A M Blignaut, S M Ervine, D T Hondo, R Price.


WATCH AND LISTEN
South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs
"It only takes one good knock for the form to come back"


Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak
"We never really got any partnerships going"


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