Day 1: 20 November 2012, at Mutare Sports Club
Close of play: Mid-West Rhinos (151) v Mountaineers (119/2)
There was much unexpected cricket in the Logan Cup match at Mutare Sports Club today, with the collapse of the Mid-West Rhinos batting at the centre of it.
Despite a fine fighting innings from Malcolm Waller, the home side finished the day in a good position, with Hamilton Masakadza looking immovable at the crease.
It was a warm sunny day in Mutare and the pitch contained patches of green, although this does not necessarily mean anything here. The ground is in fine condition.
The home captain, Tinotenda Mawoyo, was disgusted to lose the toss yet again, and Brendan Taylor decided to bat. Mountaineers were missing Tendai Chatara with an injury, while Mid-West Rhinos were without Graeme Cremer – still missing with his long-term knee injury.
The condition of the pitch seemed to take everybody by surprise. It was slow and slightly soft in the morning, giving some movement to the bowlers, but not excessively. The batsmen seemed to think they were playing on a strange planet. Vusimuzi Sibanda was a sorry sight to see. Facing Shingirai Masakadza, who was not all that accurate in his opening spell, he shouldered arms or padded up, seemingly determined to use his bat as little as possible. He was then astounded to be given out leg-before-wicket, padding up to the 23rd ball he faced – without a run!
His opening partner Jaik Mickleburgh was little better, putting a four through square leg as his only scoring stroke, and after 10 overs the score was 13 for one, nine of them extras. Mickleburgh had not added to his boundary when he suddenly swung at a leg-side ball from Calum Price and was caught at the wicket, having faced 34 balls. The score was 15 for two off 11.1 overs.
There was some good bowling and unexpected movement off the pitch, but the batsmen did not adopt the best policy in facing it.
Taylor was the next to go, driving at a ball from Price and dragging it on to his stumps. Drinks were taken at 16 for three. Afterwards, at 25, Mark Vermeulen (3) was caught at the wicket off Masakadza. Waller showed the best form of any of the batsmen so far, showing sound defence while at the same time keeping the score moving, but Nyasha Mayavo and Simon Mugava also fell cheaply before lunch.
The score at the interval was a startling 45 for six. Waller was still there with 25 and extras had 10, which left a precious few runs for the six batsmen who were out.
The pitch hardened in the sun during the afternoon, but the seamers were still able to find movement. However, Waller finally found a partner worthy of the name in Neville Madziva, who not only kept up his end but also played some good attacking strokes. They added 98 together and were only separated when Mawoyo in desperation turned to spin for the first time. Natsai M’shangwe almost immediately tempted Madziva into a fatal sweep, bowling him for 39, and one run later removed Waller – caught at slip – for a magnificent innings of 78. He faced 94 balls and hit 12 fours, and the total on his departure was 140 for eight.
This pitch is full of surprises, as M’shangwe was getting sharp turn. He quickly removed the last two batsmen to finish with the figures of four for 11 in 4.1 overs, from a total of 151. All the seamers bowled well, if not brilliantly, with Shingirai Masakadza coming back from an inaccurate opening spell to take three for 48.
Mountaineers made a slow start, losing Mawoyo for seven in the seventh over, lbw to Edward Rainsford, the total being 12. At 31, his partner Dan Hodgson was caught in the slips off the same bowler for 16. But now the match began to turn again and, as so often, Hamilton Masakadza was involved. He began batting with care, but slowly began to stamp his dominance on the innings. He rarely appeared in trouble, but simply picked off the runs and the boundaries with apparent ease as they came. With the Essex professional Mark Pettini as a reliable partner, he reached his fifty off 87 balls.
At the close Mountaineers were 119 for three, with Masakadza on 52 and Pettini 37.
They are in a position to take control of this match, but Logan Cup cricket this season has been very unpredictable – and there is always the matter of the pitch or, more particularly, the way the batsmen handle it.