It was a warm sunny day as Southern Rocks won the toss and decided to field. The pitch turned out to be slow and scoring quickly was not easy, and the batsmen were to have particular difficulty timing their drives. The Mashonaland Eagles batsmen did not apply themselves particularly well, though, and a number of them fell to – or were dropped off – skyers.
Mashonaland Eagles for once managed to find a successful opening partnership; in fact the 57 that was put on turned out to be the highest stand of the innings. It consisted of Cephas Zhuwao and the tail-ender Tino Mutombodzi, a stop-gap opener who did a good job. Zhuwao, the ‘big bully’ as he is known, got off the mark in the second over with a six over midwicket off Tinashe Panyangara. However, in the same bowler’s next over he was dropped off a huge skyer at mid-off, and a few balls later Mutombodzi sliced a ball through the hands of the fielder at backward point. Zhuwao now decided there was no mileage in big hitting today and settled down to bat with more discretion. Finally at 57 Mutombodzi (27) played on to a ball from Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi and, not long afterwards, Zhuwao fatally forgot his new policy and holed out at long-off. He had made 35 off 43 balls and was destined to be the top scorer of the innings.
When Forster Mutizwa, who never looked comfortable, was out for 8, the score was 79 for three after 18 overs. Rory Hamilton-Brown and Regis Chakabva dug in to stabilize the innings and put on 53 together, although the Englishman struggled to score. Chakabva was caught at the wicket off an attempted cut for 31 and Hamilton-Brown followed in the next over for 21 off 50 balls. Stuart Matsikenyeri and Mark Mbofana made a few at some speed but then were out; six batsmen reached 20 but none passed 35. The last wicket fell in the penultimate over, with the total 178. There was much poor fielding from Southern Rocks, but there was some good bowling, with Munyaradzi the most successful with four wickets for 35 runs. Despite the pitch, Mashonaland Eagles should have scored well over 200.
Southern Rocks had plenty of time to chase this target, but suffered a bad start when Prince Masvaure was caught in the slips without scoring, off Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa. Then came a vital partnership of 64 between Roy Kaia, who adopted the anchor rule, and Chamu Chibhabha, who recognized the nature of the pitch and wisely curbed his strokeplay. They batted through to the 20th over, when Hamilton-Brown took the ball and persuaded Kaia (23) to pull his first ball to midwicket.
Ashby Mutumbami made 10, but the key figure was Chibhabha, who continued to play with great discrimination. Alister Maregwede, with a dogged 8, slowed the scoring down and when he was out at 110 for four the required rate had risen to almost five, not easy on this pitch. This may have pressured Chibhabha into swinging across the line and being bowled by Kyle Jarvis for 59.
This could have been the turning point of the match, as Chisoro was left with five tail-enders as his only support. But he received good help from Panyangara, and when the umpires decided the light was too bad – a decision that would have infuriated a crowd if there had been one – 13 more were needed off the last 3.5 overs with four wickets in hand. The noble Chisoro finished with 39 not out and this victory will bring welcome relief to the beleaguered Southern Rocks team.