The Proteas might’ve hoped that Wednesday’s second ODI against Zimbabwe would deliver a few new heroes.
Instead, it was the two oldest members of the team that played a starring role in disposing of their embattled neighbours by 120 runs in Bloemfontein.
Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir indeed illustrated their worth as the build-up towards next year’s World Cup gathers pace.
Of the duo, it was the leg-spin of Tahir that delivered the most spectacular performance.
The 39-year-old decimated the Zimbabwean batters to end with figures of 6/24 as the visitors were shot out for just 78 in pursuit of what wasn’t an impossible 199.
His masterful use of the googly was a joy to behold and, except when he dropped short, wasn’t read by any of the batsmen.
But arguably the key contributions came from Dale Steyn, playing his first ODI in more than two years.
It was him that unlocked Zimbabwe’s batting insecurities with the first two wickets, that of Solomon Mire – trapped in front – and Craig Ervine, who was mistimed a short ball.
The legendary 35-year-old quick boasted an analysis of 2/19 from his six overs.
The highlight of his day though was the vital, career-best 60 he scored with the bat as the home side managed to scrape together an underwhelming but defendable 198.
Steyn showed excellent control in general to hit eight fours and a beautifully chipped six, which brought up his maiden half-century.
It took him 117 matches to reach that milestone, the fourth longest in ODI history but still way off the record of 157 by Sri Lanka’s Chaminda Vaas.
South Africa needed him desperately after an inexperienced batting order showed precious little judgement in collapsing to 101/7 in the 26th over.
This team says it wants to play attacking cricket but the manner in which they executed was at times embarrassing and didn’t reflect well on the Proteas’ batting depth.
Summoning all his wisdom, Steyn though was able to shepherd the equally calm Andile Phehlukwayo (28) as they put on a crucial 75 runs for the eighth wicket as Zimbabwe were left to rue a golden opportunity unused.
Tendai Chatara was Zimbabwe’s best bowler with figures of 3/42.