LOGAN CUP MATCH: MASHONALAND EAGLES v MID-WEST RHINOS
Day 3: 15 November 2012, at Harare Sports Club
Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (245 and 33/1) v Mid-West Rhinos (265 and 433/7 dec)
Magnificent batting by Vusimuzi Sibanda (89) and Mark Vermeulen (146) completely altered the balance of this Logan Cup match at Harare Sports Club.
After two fairly even days’ play, Mid-West Rhinos roared ahead of Mashonaland Eagles, thanks to the dominance of these two, backed by their team-mates down the order. The bottom line for Mashonaland Eagles now is that the team need a near miracle to win this match, and a remarkable team performance even to avoid defeat. As things stand at close of play, Mashonaland Eagles – needing 454 to win – had lost one wicket for 33 runs.
Mid-West Rhinos began the day with a second-innings score of 46 for one, which meant an overall lead of 66. From the start, Sibanda timed the ball beautifully, producing many handsome, seemingly effortless drives as he ran smoothly to his fifty off 73 balls. In contrast, Vermeulen struggled at first, adding only 11 runs to his overnight 10 in the first hour, as the bowlers showed great persistence and accuracy, giving little away. But he applied himself with great determination, knuckled down and played his way into form in a most responsible manner. In the second hour, he became much more fluent and his own fifty came off 129 balls. No wicket fell in the morning session, the score at lunch being 163 for one, Sibanda on 89 and Vermeulen 54.
Strangely, after lunch the roles played at the start of the day were quite reversed. Sibanda was not the same batsman at all, and he failed to add to his effort in 10 minutes before he was dismissed by a sharp catch at short leg off the bowling of Prosper Utseya. He hit 14 fours. Vermeulen on the other hand went from strength to strength, at one stage bludgeoning the same bowler for two fours and a six over extra cover off the same over. His century came less than an hour after lunch, reached off 177 balls.
His new partner was Brendan Taylor, who did his job to perfection. His team were on top, so he kept the scoreboard constantly on the move, reaching 50 off 44 balls and finally being out stumped off Utseya for 68 off 60 balls, including nine fours. By tea the advantage was massive, with a score of 341 for three, Vermeulen now on 141 and Malcolm Waller 19.
Waller took the lead at the start of the final session, attacking the bowling vigorously while Vermeulen took a back seat for a while. Then he attempted a risky second run for a hit by Vermeulen and a brilliant direct hit at the bowler’s end from the wicketkeeper, Regis Chakabva, ran him out for 36 off 30 balls. Off the very next ball Vermeulen’s fine innings came to an end, as, losing concentration, he was rather casually out leg-before-wicket to Jarvis for 146 (248 balls, eleven fours and two sixes): 364 for five.
Mid-West Rhinos have an unreliable lower order, but now Simon Mugava (32) and Neville Madziva (27 not out) carried on the good work of their predecessors, so that the declaration came at 1610 hours, with the total 433 for seven wickets. Mashonaland Eagles needed an almost impossible 454 to win. The only bowler with presentable figures was Taurai Muzarabani, with two for 38 off only nine overs.
Mashonaland Eagles have evidently decided to fight hard, as the normally aggressive opening pair of Sikandar Raza Butt and Chamunorwa Chibhabha played a dogged game. But Chibhabha fell lbw to Rainsford for 16 and, unless something out of the ordinary happens or the weather steps in, Mashonaland Eagles face likely defeat on the final day.