PRO50 MATCH: MID-WEST RHINOS v MASHONALAND EAGLES
At Kwekwe Sports Club, Saturday 13 October.
Result: Mashonaland Eagles (182) lost to Mid-West Rhinos (187/6) by four wickets.
Mashonaland Eagles seemed a rather dispirited team after the tragic death of their coach, Kevin Curran, and were largely outplayed at Kwekwe Sports Club after losing an important toss.
Only in the last 10 overs or so of the match did they compete, and Mid-West Rhinos, after fine fifties from Vusimuzi Sibanda and Jaik Mickleburgh, the Essex professional, had to work their way home with caution by four wickets.
After overnight rain, the weather was overcast and windy in the morning, so Mid-West Rhinos put Mashonaland Eagles in to bat on winning the toss. The openers Regis Chakabva and Chamunorwa Chibhabha made a useful start, putting on 40 together at almost five an over, and the score reached 71 for one wicket before Chibhabha was out for 36, destined to be the highest score of the innings. Then the spinners, notably Graeme Cremer, took charge and four were out for 80.
From this point Eagles were always struggling, with the ball not always coming through well in the prevailing conditions. Five batsmen built a foundation and then lost their wickets with their scores between 16 and 22. Malcolm Waller bowled out Forster Mutizwa and Elton Chigumbura, but Raymond Price put up a good late show with the bat. The major surprise came from Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa, the worst franchise batsman in the country, and Edward Rainsford suffered the humiliation of being hit for four by this number eleven who made his first boundary in 14 innings which had before now yielded just four runs. Gumunyu-Manatsa finished unbeaten with a monumental six, when Price was run out for a fighting 30. The total was 182, with Cremer and Waller taking three wickets each.
The sun was shining again when Mid-West Rhinos began their none-too-difficult run chase, and they opened with their big guns, Sibanda and Brendan Taylor. Taylor did not last long, a victim of cricket’s most unfair law; doing his job and backing up as non-striker, he was run out for 10 when a superb straight drive by Sibanda was fortuitously deflected by the bowler Jarvis on to the stumps at the bowler’s end while he was still just out of his crease.
Later on Sibanda unleashed another powerful straight drive that hit his next partner, Mickleburgh, who prevented a certain four. Sibanda was not as dazzling as he had been in his previous match, against Southern Rocks, but he was still easily in control of the bowling and went to his 50 off 60 balls. With Mickleburgh also in fine form, the pair put on 109 for the second wicket until Sibanda unnecessarily drove a catch to long-on, departing for 55. With the score now 129 for two, though, Rhinos were poised to win easily. None of the seamers caused much worry to the batsmen, although they had to watch the spinners Price and Tinotenda Mutombodzi very carefully.
Waller, sadly out of form with the bat, clipped a catch to midwicket for four, and Steve Trenchard drove to long-on when on seven, but as long as Mickleburgh was still in there were no alarms. He batted very soundly for 73, but then ran himself out, and at 160 for five Eagles were still in with a chance, especially given the Rhinos’ fragile tail. For the only time in the match now, there was tension.
Mluleki Nkala, back in the team, went to Mutombodzi for four at 170, but by now the spinners had completed their ten-over allocations and the less effective seamers had to return. There were still eight overs left, so Cremer and Simon Mugava played it cool and took their time, until Cremer suddenly swung a ball from Nathan Waller over midwicket to win the match with a six. Mutombodzi with three for 27 was the best bowler for Eagles.