Imran Tahir. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FRIKKIE KAPP
Imran Tahir. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/FRIKKIE KAPP

London — The forecast high for Bloemfontein on Tuesday was 29°C. Wednesday it is 19°C.

That is 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 does not capture the degrees of separation that yawn between SA and Zimbabwe.

The home side’s flippant batting on a lively pitch narrowed that abyss in the first ODI in Kimberley on Sunday. Even so‚ SA got there by five wickets with almost half their innings to spare, having dismissed the Zimbos for a record low total.

Dale Steyn. Picture: FRIKKIE KAPP/GALLO IMAGES
Dale Steyn. Picture: FRIKKIE KAPP/GALLO IMAGES

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 have another helpful surface.

Whatever. Imran Tahir was not 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 said on Tuesday.

"That’s what you’re wearing this jersey for."

But he was not unhappy to be at the biggest ground in the country in terms of area‚ which offers bowlers 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 in 2018 — Brendan Taylor’s 138 against the West Indies in Harare in March — and own six of 2018’s 20 lowest totals.

Tahir will not 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 was not 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, 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‚ remains SA’s first-choice spinner. But like everyone else who has played for SA‚ 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?

The seemingly innocuous question pushed him to a new level of his media manners.

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

One game at a time‚ dear young man.

Besides‚ if SA 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.

TimesLIVE

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