Harare: Low, slow, crumbling and likely to get much worse quickly. That was the verdict on the Harare Sports Club pitch from both Zimbabwe and South Africa after the second day`s play in their one-off test yielded just 209 runs in the 90 overs.
The Proteas finished on 201 for four and trail on first innings by 55 runs against their modest neighbours.
Opener Dean Elgar, who made a patient 61, said a lead of 100 would be a bonus with conditions set to deteriorate rapidly on day three.
"It’s getting very interesting out there, it feels like we are back in Sri Lanka," Elgar told reporters, alluding to South Africa`s recent series victory on the sub-continent.
"It is clear that first innings runs are key and if we can get a lead of 100, that is a lot of runs for them to easily get in these conditions. It’s the nature of this test, there are not many scoring opportunities, you have to be patient out there and wait for opportunities to score.
"We are in a good position, the first session tomorrow is very important and we go down to number 11 with Dane Piedt, who is no mug with the bat."
Elgar did have praise for the Zimbabwean bowlers, who stuck to their plans well. The seamers bowled wide outside off stump with a ring of fielders on the off-side, hoping to tempt the South Africans into a mistake.
It was a ploy that paid off with the wickets of Elgar and Hashim Amla.
"They are very good bowlers in their own conditions and they are very good for what has been prepared here. If we had a wicket like the ones back home, it might be a different story, but such is the nature of the game."
Debutant off-spinner John Nyumbu, who picked up the wickets of Alviro Petersen and AB de Villiers, reckoned Zimbabwe got exactly the pitch they asked for – one to try to nullify South Africa’s pace attack.
"We knew we would get a pitch prepared especially for our game plan and it has helped quite a bit," he said.
"Run-scoring will get more difficult, it is keeping low and if you hit the deck it is holding up a bit. There is an interesting three days to come."
Zimbabwe have never enjoyed a first innings lead over South Africa in the seven previous tests between the countries, six of which have ended in defeat and the other drawn.