This was the first defeat of the season in any form of cricket for the home side, and it was a devastating one. Glen Querl’s nine wickets in the match was the leading factor as far as the scorecard goes, but Mashonaland Eagles showed a serious lack of fighting spirit when the chips were down.
The day began with Mashonaland Eagles, in their follow-on, resuming at 59 for two wickets, with two quality batsmen in Stuart Matsikenyeri and Sikandar Raza at the crease. The weather was cool and cloudy after overnight rain. Any hopes of their making a real fight of this game vanished immediately. Matsikenyeri swatted the third ball of the day, bowled by Thabo Mboyi, very hard but straight at short extra cover, and was on his way back to the pavilion for 5. To the second ball of the next over Raza, still on 28, was trapped lbw by Glen Querl.
Worse was to come before the first 15 minutes of play were completed. Mark Mbofana, often a fighter in difficult circumstances, aimed a half-hearted drive at a ball from Mboyi and was caught in the slips, while Tino Mutombodzi tried to shoulder arms to the first ball he received and knocked it on to his stumps. 59 for two had become 59 for six. The Matabeleland Tuskers team was fired up, but the Mashonaland Eagles batting was incredible in its incompetence. The bubble had indeed burst.
Nathan Waller scored the first runs of the day, a thick edge off Mboyi over the slips to the boundary, while PJ Moor survived a difficult chance to second slip, and then began to counter-attack. With the attacking field runs began to come, though in a hopeless cause. Now that two batsmen with their heads right had occupied the crease for a few minutes, the bowling no longer looked lethal. Boldness was their friend: Waller off successive balls sliced a four just over the slips and skied a catch high over the covers that the fielder misjudged, several mishits evaded the field, and both batsmen played and missed at times.
Such batting is often successful for temporary rallies, but rarely last long enough to effect major recoveries. Moor had scored 29 off 44 balls when he drilled a ball from Mboyi straight to cover, making the score 107 for seven. They had almost doubled the score in partnership, adding 48 runs in less than ten overs. Most of the runs had come off the bowling of Mboyi, while against Querl they were content merely to survive. In the next over Waller too was gone, groping outside the off stump to a ball from Querl and edging to the keeper; he made 23 off 26 balls.
Querl did not succeed in taking the one wicket he required to make ten in the match, as there was an obstinate stand between Innocent Chinyoka and Douglas Hondo, who added 25 in 12 overs, requiring Querl to be rested after bowling unchanged for almost two hours. Keith Dabengwa’s left-arm spin had Hondo out for 9, caught at the wicket aiming a lusty swing, and last man Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa fell lbw second ball.
It was a devastating victory for Matabeleland Tuskers and a shattering defeat for the hitherto invincible Mashonaland Eagles, whose confidence has disappeared like the morning dew. Querl took nine wickets for 39 runs in the match, and now tallies 18 in his first two first-class matches. The momentum lies strongly with the Bulawayo side now, and it will be a test of Mashonaland Eagles’ mental calibre to see how they recover from this blow.