Overnight Castle Logan Cup: Matabeleland Tuskers 338/6 v Mashonaland Eagles.
Paul Horton, the Australian-born Lancashire professional, scored a sound century to give Matabeleland Tuskers a fine start in their match against the Logan Cup log leaders Mashonaland Eagles. The home bowlers struggled to take wickets, but Matabeleland Tuskers should have done even better than their close-of-play score of 338 for six wickets, as their innings was a story of useful partnerships that promised to go on to something really big in good batting conditions, but never did.
On a hot sunny day Matabeleland Tuskers were doubtless delighted to win the toss and be able to bat first on a rather slow pitch that gave very little help to the bowlers. Horton was in good form from the start, playing in his quiet, efficient way by working the ball through the field and keeping the runs ticking over, while not neglecting the boundaries off the bad balls. He has the ability to score all round the wicket off all types of bowling and the runs flowed steadily. He does not always pull securely, though, and when he had 24 he was lucky that a top edge fell into vacant territory behind the wicketkeeper.
His opening partner, Terry Duffin, was less comfortable, and had an escape when he had 7, mistiming a cut but seeing the fielder at backward point fail to hold on to the chance. He was unable to make much use of his escape, though, as he sliced another attempted cut off a ball from Innocent Chinyoka and was well caught high at second slip. He had scored 18 of an opening partnership of 80 with Horton.
Horton reached his fifty off 88 balls just before lunch, the score being 109 for one at the interval. His new partner was the captain, Gavin Ewing, who made a brisk 28 before being caught at the wicket off Douglas Hondo. Craig Ervine came in and batted solidly, while the bowlers toiled in the hot sun; both sides were weakened by the loss of their national players, and the Mashonaland Eagles attack, without Raymond Price, Kyle Jarvis and Elton Chigumbura, were unable to do more than toil steadily on the unhelpful pitch. Horton enjoyed another reprieve on 87, again off a pull, when a skier was misjudged by the fielder running in from long leg. He reached his 13th first-class career century just before tea, off 170 balls, a feat that was acknowledged only at 101 as the scoreboard was a run behind.
Matabeleland Tuskers were 207 for two at tea, but after the break Horton, without adding to his 104, walked into a straight ball from Nathan Waller and was dismissed lbw. It was a fine professional innings, scored off 188 balls and containing 12 fours. Keith Dabengwa began his innings with a flurry, but then lost Ervine, who aimed a loose cut at a ball from Waller and was caught at the wicket for 60. The score was 249 for four, and Matabeleland Tuskers were in need of a big stand to build on Horton’s excellent foundation.
Adam Wheater came in next and immediately went for his strokes. In just over half an hour he scored 29 off 26 balls, including six fours. It was perhaps too good to last, though, and he tried to hook a ball from Chinyoka that bounced too high for him and top-edged a catch to the keeper; 282 for five after a partnership of 33 with Dabengwa. Steve Trenchard played some good strokes in his 22 before being caught unusually off the back of his bat as he tried to leave a ball from Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa; this partnership was worth 50.
Dabengwa was still there with 47 at the close, partnered by Tafadzwa Ngulube. Matabeleland Tuskers have a long batting line-up and they should have a total of at least 500 in their sights – but to reach this would require the determination to turn useful partnerships into major ones.