The opening match of the series failed to excite the crowd, as Mid-West Rhinos failed to produce a competitive total and Mountaineers were never stretched as they recorded a straight-forward victory by six wickets.
Mid-West Rhinos, put in to bat, lost Gary Ballance to a brilliant run-out by Prosper Utseya in the second over, but then did well for a while. Brendan Taylor was the trail-blazer, being particularly severe on a rather rusty-looking former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Harris, hitting him for two leg-side sixes. When he swept a catch to deep square leg, he had scored 37 out of 55 off 27 balls, in the eighth over.
His partner at this time was Riki Wessels, who made 31 before driving a catch to long-on. At this stage the score was a promising 76 for three in the 11th over, but there ensued a major collapse as one batsman after another departed in quick succession, mainly to the spin of Utseya and Natsai Mushangwe. The 100 only came up in the 18th over, with seven wickets down, and then Shingi Masakadza returned to take two wickets in the 19th over. The last pair survived to take the total to a disappointing 115 for nine after 20 overs; only two batsmen had reached double figures. Mushangwe took three wickets for 19, and there were two scalps each for Shingi Masakadza and Utseya.
Sensible batting was all that Mountaineers required to win the match. Phil Mustard, from Durham, gave a spurt at the start with 18 off 14 balls, the first wicket falling for 29 in the fourth over. Graeme Cremer, returning to the game after missing nine months with a knee injury, struck with his second delivery, trapping Kevin Kasuza lbw for 2; 47 for two in the seventh over.
At the other end was Hamilton Masakadza, who picked a slower ball from Edward Rainsford in the second over of the innings and drove it over long-on for a superb six. He provided the backbone of the innings with 34 off 38 balls, sharing a good partnership of 35 with the 42-year-old Harris. Gary Chirimuuta was brilliantly run out by Roland Benade, but Harris saw Mountaineers home with his unbeaten 39. Cremer, with one for 12 off his four overs, was the most impressive bowler.