T20 MATCH: MASHONALAND EAGLES v MID-WEST RHINOS
At Harare Sports Club, Sunday 6 January 2013.
Result: Mashonaland Eagles (149/6) beat Mid-West Rhinos (103/9) by 46 runs.
Mashonaland Eagles ensured that they would finish top of the Pro50 table and maintained their winning record with an easy 46-run victory over Mid-West Rhinos. Their main match-winner was their opening batsman Sikandar Raza, who hammered a superb 62 on a day when almost all the other batsmen found run-scoring difficult. Sadly, this match was played before the usual empty stands at Harare Sports Club.
The match had little interest from the point of view of the tournament itself, as Mashonaland Eagles had already qualified for the final, along with Mountaineers, and were almost assured of a home final. Mid-West Rhinos are a distant third in the table, but would be eager to inflict the first T20 defeat of the season on their opponents. Unusually, the visiting team won the toss and put Mashonaland Eagles in to bat – which is what the home side generally opts to do anyway in T20 matches.
They were soon regretting that decision. The aggressive opening pair of Chamu Chibhabha and Raza hammered 59 together before Chibhabha fell for 22 in the seventh over. The weakened Mid-West Rhinos bowling attack, without Edward Rainsford (sick), was erratic and wides were frequent. Raza played superbly, hitting three sixes and two fours while losing partners regularly at the other end; he made 62 off 56 balls, taking the score to 133 for four in the eighteenth over before being caught at long-off.
Given the prevailing damp conditions, runs were never very easy to obtain, and the eventual total of 149 for six looked quite good. Apart from the openers, none of the later batsmen reached 15. Mike Chinouya and Neville Madziva took two wickets each, but the most economical bowler was the off-spinner Simon Mugava, with one for 17 off four overs.
Mid-West Rhinos decided they needed a quick start, but Jaik Mickleburgh tried to hit too soon and skied a catch in the second over for 3. Brendan Taylor, however, was in fine form right from the start and it was clear that as long as he was in, the Eagles’ total was not safe. But he flattered only to deceive: after running to 21 off 11 balls he played a weak drive and gave a low catch to mid-on, leaving the score at 32 for two in the sixth over,
Vusi Sibanda was still there, but he was not at his best, and when he chopped a ball on to his stumps for 21, the total was 55 for three in the ninth over and Mid-West Rhinos were approaching miracle territory. The miracle never looked like happening, although Peter Moor, playing for his new franchise, fought well to score 30 off 36 balls. They could manage a total of only 103 for nine, with Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya and Cephas Zhuwao each taking two wickets.