In what was a thrilling contest to witness, the South Africa under-19s were eclipsed by 31 runs in their Youth One-Day International (ODI) Quadrangular series encounter against their Zimbabwean counterparts in Durban on Tuesday.
Due to a superior net run-rate, the junior Proteas end the round-robin stage in second place, sealing a series finale against the unbeaten India under-19s, taking place at the Kingsmead Stadium on Thursday, January 9.
Half-centuries from the captain, Dion Myers (70 off 76 balls; 7 fours, 1 six), and all-rounder, Wesley Madhevere (55 off 59 balls; 6 fours, 1 six) helped the neighbouring country post a commanding 267/9 before Tadiwanashe Nyangani took five wickets for 45 to dismiss South Africa for 236.
This was despite another fifty (65 off 60 balls; 8 fours, 1 six) from SA U19s skipper, Bryce Parsons.
After winning the toss and electing to bowl first, South Africa made their usual bright start, as Mondli Khumalo (2/60) dismissed opener, Gareth Chirawu for a duck. Milton Shumba (45) and Madhevere then combined to good effect to build a solid base for the Zimbabwean side, recording a 107-run partnership for the second wicket.
Although Khumalo and Jonathan Bird (2/42) made crucial breakthroughs, removing both in the 24th and 25th overs, Myers walked in at No. 5 and led from the front at the crease.
The right-hander dispatched the ball to all parts of the ground, particularly the shorter boundary, finding willing partners in Tadiwanashe Marumani (17) and Taurayi Tugwete (23) to help get his team over the 200-run mark.
The SA U19s’ bowled well in patches, with Merrick Brett (2/48), Odirile Modimokoane (2/44) and Parsons (1/39) making inroads, but it was not enough as Zimbabwe batted their allotted overs to get to a competitive total.
In response, notwithstanding the loss of Andrew Louw (2) in the second over, the junior Proteas, especially Parsons, got off to a positive start alongside Bird (17). The pair batted at more than five runs an over, putting on 53 runs for the second wicket before Myers claimed Bird’s wicket.
All-rounder, Parsons, then formed another key partnership with Levert Manje (20) as the duo continued the onslaught before they both fell in quick succession, including a sublime diving catch from Madhevere to get rid of Manje.
Those wickets handed the momentum to the away side, as five wickets fell for just 47 runs, with three of them belonging to the left-arm spinner, Nyangani.
South Africa was offered a glimmer of hope when Tiaan van Vuuren and Brett (37) came together for a 69-run stand for the eighth wicket, rallying against a barrage of spin from the Zimbabweans.
The two bowling all-rounders remained steadfast for 14.5 overs prior to Nyangani making the all-important breakthrough to take the game away from the SA U19s.
Van Vuuren tried his best, batting with the tail but it was not enough as Nyangani proceeded to pick up his five-wicket haul by bowling Khumalo (4) before Van Vuuren was the last wicket to fall, sealing the victory for Zimbabwe with 22 balls remaining.
Nyangani was awarded the Man of the Match for his match-winning, five-wicket haul.
In the other match, India continued their dominance to defeat New Zealand by 120 runs at the Chatsworth Oval, thanks to half-centuries from Siddhesh Veer (71) and Tilak Varma (59), and three wickets apiece from Atharva Ankolekar (3/16) and Shushant Mishra (3/35).
While the SA U19s take on India in the finale, New Zealand will compete against Zimbabwe in the third and fourth place play-off in Chatsworth.
Both matches will get underway on Thursday, January 9 at 09:30.