| Tatenda Taibu is bowled by Makhaya Ntini in the last league match of the tri-series Thursday. England and South Africa meet in the final Saturday
Southampton: Jacques Rudolph’s unbeaten 69 guided South Africa to a seven-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in their tri-series match, the first ever international game staged at the Rose Bowl here on Thursday.
Chasing a meagre 174 for victory, Rudolph got South Africa home with 14.4 overs to spare as they warmed up for Saturday’s final at Lord’s against England and bounced back from their four-wicket defeat by the hosts at Edgbaston on Tuesday.
Rudolph faced 97 balls and hit 12 fours in his innings while Mark Boucher was 13 not out at the close.
Zimbabwe’s last match of the tournament was a ‘dead’ contest, with the finalists already decided.
But after their poor batting display they had South Africa in trouble at eight for two before Proteas captain Graeme Smith (69) shared a stand of 137 with fellow left- hander Rudolph spanning 25 overs.
Smith fell when a loose cut against Travis Friend was caught by Dion Ebrahim at point. He faced 80 balls and smashed 10 fours.
But by then South Africa, chasing 174 to win, were all but home at 145 for three in the 29th over.
Then Rudolph, on 61, was dropped at third man by Raymond Price after top-edging a cut off Friend.
Earlier Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak, who won the toss, top scored with 50 not out in his team’s below par total of 173 for eight. It was Streak’s ninth ODI fifty.
Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, who reduced Zimbabwe to 18 for three, finished with four for 45.
But Zimbabwe quick Douglas Hondo responded in similar fashion, taking two wickets for one run in seven balls at the start of South Africa’s innings.
Herschelle Gibbs (2) made his fifth single figure score in six series innings when he chopped Hondo onto his stumps.
Hondo then struck again when Martin Van Jaarsveld (5) was caught spectacularly by wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu. South Africa were then eight for two inside four overs.
However, Smith and Rudolph stopped the rot although they had a fortunate escape when, on 104 for two, Taibu missed a stumping chance off spinner Richard Sims. Earlier Zimbabwe collapsed to 74 for six before Streak and Sims (24) put on 54 for the seventh wicket.
And Zimbabwe’s score would have been worse had not Mark Boucher missed a stumping chance off Paul Adams when Streak was on 18. (AFP)