This is virtually the same Mountaineers team that was demolishing all opposition about a year ago – same side but different spirit.
Mashonaland Eagles did remarkably well to total 218 after the appalling start they made on being put in to bat under overcast skies with the conditions still damp after much overnight rain. Their first five batsmen made just 18 runs between them; after just four balls the score was 0 for two, and then 11 for four in the fourth over. Three of these wickets fell to Tendai Chatara, who moved the ball considerably, and as so often the Zimbabwean batsmen were found wanting when the ball was doing something. Shingi Masakadza backed him up well.
The captain, Stuart Matsikenyeri, started the recovery as the pitch settled down, battling well for 34 runs in over an hour. When he was out, though, the score was 80 for six in the 18th over. The batsmen who really turned the situation around was Sikandar Raza, who once again showed his skill especially in the one-day game, and might well have been selected for the one-day squad in New Zealand. He showed good discrimination and strokeplay, rattling the score along at a run an over. He scored 58 off 61 balls before being stumped off Natsai Mushangwe.
He dominated a partnership of 60 with Chigumbura, who played with unusual restraint, his aim obviously being to stay in for the rest of the innings and attack during the final few overs. Raymond Price gave him good support after Raza left. It was not until the 46th over that he decided the moment had come, hammering a big six over long-on to reach his fifty, which came off 83 balls. He continued to attack, but could not time the ball well; he offered three chances in the deep during the next few overs before finally holing out at long-off, last man out for 58 in the final over of the innings. Chatara undoubtedly took the bowling honours, well deserving his figures of five for 38.
Mountaineers had given glimpses of a losing mentality in the final overs of the home innings, and when they batted they soon lost Tino Mawoyo, adjudged lbw to Kyle Jarvis for 2 in the first over. Mark Pettini and Hamilton Masakadza, however, settled in together and looked as if they might throw off Mashonaland Eagles’ tightening grip on the match. They added 54 before Masakadza (19) swept a ball from Price to backward square leg, and in the next over Nathan Waller took two wickets with fine deliveries, trapping Pettini lbw for 33 and yorking Timycen Maruma second ball. The score was now 58 for four in the 14th over, Mountaineers had lost their spirit and the writing was on the wall for them.
Kudzai Sauramba came out fighting and struck two defiant fours very quickly, making 14 off 16 balls before falling into Price’s trap and sweeping him straight to deepish midwicket. Daryl Mitchell, the only specialist batsman left, compiled a neat 37 before being bowled by a perfect yorker from Kyle Jarvis. Rain stopped play with the score 133 for eight after 33 overs and only tail-enders left. There was the usual obligatory dithering for a long time after the rain stopped before it was inevitably decided that the light was too bad to continue and the match would be decided by the Duckworth-Lewis method. There were three wickets to Jarvis, two each to Waller and Price. All three bowled well, but few batsmen faced them with any real spirit.
The result means that Mashonaland Eagles move closer to clinching the Pro50 title, although Mid-West Rhinos, whom they face next Saturday, could still challenge them. Mountaineers have now jettisoned their remaining hopes of any title this season with this defeat. This match would have been watched by between 100 and 500 people had it been played in any other cricketing centre in the country. Unfortunately, Mashonaland do not do crowds. So there wasn’t one.