Harare: Dale Steyn and Dane Piedt claimed four wickets apiece for South Africa, but Zimbabwe defied the odds as they batted out the first day of the one-off Test to reach stumps on 248 for 9.
Top-ranked South Africa had been expected to rifle through ninth-ranked Zimbabwe after the hosts had won the toss and elected to bat, but came up against a determined side that was marshalled by captain Brendan Taylor's 93.
It was just the fourth time in eight attempts that Zimbabwe had passed 200 in their first innings of a Test against the Proteas — an achievement that looked highly unlikely as Steyn and Piedt pounced in the first two sessions.
Fast bowler Steyn eased past West Indian great Malcolm Marshall on the list of Test cricket's leading wicket-takers, taking 4 for 45 to end the day on 379 scalps.
Meanwhile debutant Piedt became the 19th Test cricketer — and just the first South African since Bert Vogler in 1906 — to pick up a wicket with his very first delivery, which spun sharply to trap Mark Vermeulen lbw for 14.