At Masvingo Sports Club, Wednesday 10 October 2012
Result: Mid-West Rhinos (330/7) beat Southern Rocks (230) by 100 runs.
This match was played under the shadow of Kevin Curran’s untimely death in Mutare and that probably had its effect on some players in this match who knew him well.
Otherwise it was a good game, with its great highlight a brilliant record innings of 190 by Vusimuzi Sibanda, and although Southern Rocks lost again, they went down fighting honourably.
The morning’s play saw two outstanding individual performances, one from each side: the one brief and the other long-lasting. Southern Rocks, after their ill-fortune in Harare, this time won the toss and at first it seemed to suit them very well. Brian Vitori, opening the bowling in superb style and swinging the ball in, ripped out three batsmen in his first two overs with only two wides (his own) on the board. His victims were Mark Vermeulen, to a highly disapproved lbw decision, Brendan Taylor to a catch at mid-on, and Malcolm Waller, also lbw. All three knew Curran well and the tragic news may have distracted them badly.
Watching from the other end was Sibanda, who had played two maiden overs from Tinashe Panyangara, but now went on to play one of his finest innings ever. Steve Trenchard scored an uncomfortable 5, but he did help for a while to stem the tide. Then Graeme Cremer proved the ideal partner for Sibanda in a partnership that eventually added 187 for the fifth wicket. Sibanda showed superb confidence and judgment, sometimes moving down the pitch to the pacemen. His driving, often lofted but safe, was the most glorious feature of his innings, but he also cut well at times and his notorious pull was less in evidence. His century came off 93 balls and he continued to plunder the bowling, which was of a reasonable standard even if the pitch was quite flat.
With five overs remaining he was on 181, and appearing well set for a rare limited-overs double-century. But in the next over he was out to a brilliant leaping catch at long-off after yet another blistering lofted drive by Alister Maregwede. In official Zimbabwean one-day cricket, his 190 is second only to the 194 not out of Charles Coventry in a One-Day International match against Bangladesh in 2009. He hit 24 fours and seven sixes. Cremer made 63, but only extras apart from this pair reached 20 in the eventual total of 330 for seven. The total was also a record for inter-franchise one-day cricket. Vitori finished with three for 49, having suffered along with the others at the hands of Sibanda.
Against such a total and with a weak batting line-up, Southern Rocks needed a virtual miracle to win. However, from the start Roy Kaia and Maregwede gave it a go, attacking the pacemen with panache and running up 48 off the first six overs. The introduction of off-spinner Simon Mugava slowed them down and then removed Kaia for 27 with a sharp low return catch. At the other end, Cremer trapped Maregwede lbw for 31 and Southern Rocks had to start again.
But they continued to fight, Ben Slater sharing good partnerships with Richmond Mutumbami (24) and Peter Burgoyne (43). When the latter was out, the score was 187 for four in the 33rd over – impressive, but the required run rate was now over eight. Slater quickly fell for 45, unimpressed to be given out caught at the wicket, and six were down for 191 with 10 an over needed. Tendai Chisoro blazed a quick 31, but the end came at 231.
Southern Rocks had fought well and produced six batsmen with scores of over 20, against the two of their opponents. The spinners took all the wickets apart from a run-out: four to Waller, three to Mugava and two to Cremer.