Confidence has been a major and fragile factor in Zimbabwean cricket this season. It has been seen in other competitions, and is now playing a major part in the T20 tournament. Matabeleland Tuskers started their programme in highly confident mode, winning their first three matches easily before slipping up against Mid-West Rhinos – and were never the same team after that. Mashonaland Eagles looked a sad case in their first three matches, but a big victory over a Southern Rocks team in even worse condition suddenly convinced them they could do it – and so they hammered the plummeting Matabeleland Tuskers team to win through to the final against Mountaineers. Their hero was Ryan ten Doeschate, who played the most amazing innings of the tournament when batting right through the innings for 121.
Matabeleland Tuskers won the toss and put Mashonaland Eagles in to bat, perhaps figuring that this was what their opponents would least want. Unfortunately for them, their bowlers seemed to be suffering from nerves, as the first few overs were loose and the batsmen took full advantage of them. Mashonaland Eagles sent in their experienced overseas players, in the form of ten Doeschate and Rory Hamilton-Brown to open the innings, and ten Doeschate in particular took advantage of the loose bowling, hammering 24 runs of his first eleven balls.
With the score 64 without loss after six overs, a light drizzle started, not enough to bother the crowd much, but the umpires were another matter, and they took the players off the field. The crowd quickly grew annoyed, but fortunately only 16 minutes were lost so the incident did not become a public relations disaster. Unfortunately for Matabeleland Tuskers the break did not change the course of the game at all, as the batsmen continued their assault and the bowlers were either innocuous or erratic.
The score reached 89 in the eighth over when Hamilton-Brown was run out for 26. After that the innings was almost all the ten Doeschate Show, as partners came and went with small but generally quick and useful contributions. Mashonaland Eagles failed to reach 200 against Southern Rocks after having it in their sights, but they – or rather ten Doeschate – made sure of it this time. He reached his century off only 50 balls, with two successive sixes, and finished unbeaten on a remarkable 121, off only 58 balls with six fours and eight sixes.
Such a target was virtually impossible for Matabeleland Tuskers – except for the Chris Gayle factor, and possibly Charles Coventry. The confident bowlers showed great accuracy, but Gayle started his assault in the third over, with a six and a four off successive balls from Nathan Waller. Then Kyle Jarvis went for two successive sixes, and the contest was on. If Gayle stayed, Matabeleland Tuskers would win. Not even ten Doeschate could shred a bowling attack as Gayle was doing; the only question was, would he stay for long enough?
Gayle reached 50 off 29 balls, but then, one run and two balls later, the match in effect came to an end. A leading edge gave a gentle return catch to the bowler Peter Trego, and Matabeleland Tuskers were 67 for one. Next ball his partner Tim Smith (13) drove a catch to long-on. Coventry made 13 off 14 balls before lofting a catch to the same position. Matabeleland Tuskers did not give up, but it could only be an exercise in damage limitation now. Steve Trenchard did best, with a fine innings of 56 not out off 31 balls in fading light; overall, in fact, the Matabeleland Tuskers batting was better than that of their victors. The one factor that made the difference was ten Doeschate.
With two overs to go the light became too bad to continue, so the players left the field and the margin of Mashonaland Eagles’ victory was calculated to by 34 runs. They are in such superb form now after their dismal start that they must be favourites to beat Mountaineers tomorrow after finishing fourth in the group section.