Mashonaland Eagles suddenly regained their confidence after their virtual walkover against Southern Rocks, and propelled themselves into the next stage of the competition with a brilliant batting display against Mid-West Rhinos. They just failed to reach a total of 200, but their 195 for five was the highest of the tournament to date, thanks to the blazing start they received from Ryan ten Doeschate (63) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (89). Not even the stars of the Mid-West Rhinos batting could compete with this, and they bowed out of the tournament. The Eagles now have the opportunity to defend their title which they won against the MidWest Rhinos in the last edition of the tournament.
The weather was again hot and sunny as Mashonaland Eagles were put in to bat; no doubt this was not their preference, but they responded in brilliant fashion. Ryan ten Doeschate went in first this time with Stuart Matsikenyeri, and he led the charge with a dazzling display of ferocious stroke play right from the start. The term ‘good opening partnership’ has been an oxymoron for Mashonaland Eagles for some time now, but this time their opening pair could not have done a better job. After five overs the score was 53 without loss and the 100 came up in the ninth over. Ten Doeschate made 63 off 33 balls with four fours and six sixes, and when he was caught off a skyer on the extra-cover boundary the score was 109 for one in the tenth over.
Matsikenyeri now took over the role of chief aggressor, and with Peter Trego (21) as partner the scoring rate did not slow at all. Mashonaland Eagles looked certain to pass 200 easily, but as he approached his century Matsikenyeri slowed down and was then bowled by Muzhange for 89 (51 balls, seven fours, five sixes). Only 20 runs came off the last four overs, mainly due to more fine death bowling by Richard Muzhange, who finished with three for 24, remarkable figures among such carnage when Graeme Cremer went for 60 runs in his four overs. So the total was ‘only’ 195 for five in the end.
In their last two matches Mid-West Rhinos’ batsmen have done wonders, but this has tended to obscure the weakness of their bowling, Muzhange excepted; Shaun Tait, the Australian, has been erratic throughout the tournament. But a target of 197 would require a near-miracle even for their brilliant top order of Brendan Taylor, Riki Wessels and Gary Ballance. Taylor came out hitting, and hit well, but even he cannot succeed all the time: after scoring 24 off 15 balls he hit around a ball from Trego and was bowled.
Thanks to Taylor’s early flurry, the score was 46 for one after five overs. But then the wheels came off. Lou Vincent (2) miscued to midwicket, having surprisingly come in ahead of Ballance. Ballance decided to play himself in before attempting the brilliant improvised stroke play that served him so well in his last two matches, but he never did; trying to guide a ball from Trego to third man, he was caught at the wicket for 8. Malcolm Waller (2) was caught at backward point, and then Wessels, still there on 42 after opening the innings, drove over a yorker and was bowled. The score was 86 for six in the 11th over and Trego had dismissed all of the Mid-West Rhinos’ big three.
Mid-West Rhinos do not have much depth in batting, and not one of the middle order reached double figures. Simon Mugava fought well for 13 and there were some powerful blows at the end from Tait, who made 26 off 13 balls, with three huge sixes before being bowled in the penultimate over. Trego was the star bowler with four good wickets for 27 runs.