PRO50 MATCH: MASHONALAND EAGLES v MID-WEST RHINOS
At Harare Sports Club, Saturday 5 January 2013.
Result: Mid-West Rhinos 30/1 v Mashonaland Eagles – no result.
The crucial Pro50 match between the two leading teams at Harare Sports Club ended sadly without a result, due to heavy rain. Only about 40 minutes’ play was possible in the morning, with honours about even in that brief period.
This was a vital match for both teams. At the start Mid-West Rhinos were at the top of the table with 19 points, having played five matches out of eight, while Mashonaland Eagles were just behind them with 17 off six. A victory for the visitors would therefore virtually assure them of the title, while a Mashonaland Eagles win would guarantee both teams a place in the final and throw the league wide open.
It is almost inevitable when playing at home that Mashonaland Eagles should win the toss and put the opposition in to bat, and sure enough it happened again today. The pitch was slow and obviously moist after so much rain, but it did not give the bowlers undue help. It was slow and had some tennis-ball bounce in it.
The Mid-West Rhinos openers, Vusi Sibanda and Jaik Mickleburgh, progressed steadily to 25 in the 7th over, at which point Taurai Muzarabani moved a ball in to bowl Mickleburgh for 8. At the other end Elton Chigumbura was quite erratic. Brendan Taylor came in and played with great caution, scoring a single off 13 balls. Sibanda had 14 and the total was 30 for one in the 10th over when rain suddenly came pouring down, taking the ground staff by surprise so they were late in covering the pitch.
The rain continued for most of the morning, often heavy, but stopped during the luncheon interval. But the umpires wisely decided that the conditions were not good enough to consider continuing the game. Had they done so, the match would have been reduced virtually to a T20 game, and the team which lost would rightly feel hard done by in a 50-over competition.
The bottom line is that both teams take two points from this match. This works in favour of Mid-West Rhinos, who now have 21 points with two matches to play, while Mashonaland Eagles have 19 with only one match in hand. Only dismal play by Rhinos could prevent them from topping the league and hosting the final, while Matabeleland Tuskers still have a chance of overtaking Mashonaland Eagles for a place in the final.