Fine batting by Cephas Zhuwao and Ryan Bishop was followed by a good all-round bowling and fielding performance, so that this match was as good as over halfway through the Matabeleland Tuskers’ innings. Only some fine batting by Steve Trenchard in particular down the order kept the margin of defeat for his team down to reasonable proportions.
The weather was hot and dry, the pitch shaven but with reasonable bounce, and the spectators were conspicuous by their absence. Harare is the only cricket centre where this competition is not well supported by the public, perhaps through lack of marketing. Matabeleland Tuskers won the toss and put Mashonaland Eagles in to bat.
With Sikandar Raza moving down the order, the early Mashonaland Eagles batting was a study in contrasts. Dean Mazhawidza took 27 balls to get off the mark and made four runs in his first hour at the crease. Zhuwao as usual was eager for the big hit, and when he reached 50 Mazhawidza had 6. Zhuwao celebrated with 20 off an over from the experienced off-spinner John Nyumbu, but was caught at deep midwicket for 71, scored off 77 balls with 11 fours and 2 sixes.
By this time Mazhawidza had moved on to 10, but now he began to play more positively, keeping the score ticking over in company with Bishop, before falling lbw to Glen Querl for 39, made off 91 balls. The score was now 154 for two in the 36th over. When Sikandar Raza joined Bishop the pair proceeded to take the bowling apart, hammering 87 in partnership in the space of nine overs. Raza made 47 from 30 balls, departing in the 45th over with the score now 244 for four.
The course of the innings now changed dramatically, as in the final six overs the last seven wickets fell for 34 runs, in a display of frenetic batting against controlled and persistent bowling. Querl, who had been mainly responsible for Mazhawidza’s turgid start, finished with four for 49, while the medium-paced Brad Staddon took a more expensive four for 72. The final total was 278, when 300 had looked a certainty when Bishop and Raza were together.
The Matabeleland Tuskers innings never took off. They had quite a strong team, considering that the national team squad and also Zimbabwe A players were unavailable, but the loss of Charles Coventry through injury was a serious loss. The first six in their order, at least, were players with experience and a good track record, but they never really put it together. Terry Duffin, like his counterpart Mazhawidza, really struggled when he opened the batting; unlike him, he was out for just a single off 15 balls.
Gavin Ewing was in sound form and kept the board moving well; his next partner, Paul Horton from Lancashire, gave him good support and the pair added 45 runs in 12 overs. This was a sound platform for the team to build on, but the building never came. Ewing made exactly 50 off 60 balls before he was out in the 20th over, and with him went Matabeleland Tuskers’ hopes, as the middle order never even fizzled. Craig Ervine might have led the charge, but he was out for 16, and when Adam Wheater departed lbw, the match was as good as over at 116 for six with the required run rate now over eight. The bowling was not spectacular, but it was sound and steady and did the job.
Trenchard does not have a good one-day record, but he fought back well, hitting the bad ball hard, and with Querl in particular he produced Matabeleland Tuskers’ best batting of the match – easier with the pressure off, as victory was now not an option. Querl made 34 off 27 balls, the pair adding 66 in less than seven overs, and in the same over Trenchard was run out for 60 off 43 balls. The innings closed for 240, better than had seemed likely earlier. Mark Mbofana, with three for 26, was the most successful bowler, but they all turned in steady performances.