PRO50 MATCH: MOUNTAINEERS v MID-WEST RHINOS
At Mutare Sports Club, Wednesday 9 January 2013
Result: Mid-West Rhinos (225/6) lost to Mountaineers (200/3) by 7 wickets.
A beleaguered Mid-West Rhinos team went down to Mountaineers in a rain-affected Pro50match at Mutare Sports Club today.
It is a defeat that could cost them dearly. Rhinos began the match at the top of the table, but were overtaken by Matabeleland Tuskers who won in Bulawayo. Rhinos may also suffer a points penalty for inadvertently playing Peter Moor earlier in the season when he was not officially qualified. If so, this may well cost them their chance of a place in the final on 19 January, let alone a home advantage.
For their part, Mountaineers are out of contention for the final, but outstanding batting won them the match after Mid-West Rhinos had made the early running.
Mid-West Rhinos made good running right from the start. Vusimuzi Sibanda soon showed fine form, finding the boundary regularly, and it was a surprise when, with 27 off 36 balls, he pulled a ball straight to midwicket where Kevin Kasuza pulled a superb catch almost off his bootlaces. Brendan Taylor ran to a fluent 35 off 31 balls, but just after a brief spell off the field because of a drizzle, he was smartly stumped.
Malcolm Waller was another to make a fine start without going on to anything big. He matched his captain with 35 off 33 balls before he drove a ball from the off-spinner Tapiwa Mufudza hard and straight, only for the bowler to take an excellent low catch. The opener Jaik Mickleburgh was still there, anchoring the innings, but now he began to open up. However, on 49 he was caught off a skier to deep midwicket. At this point Mid-West Rhinos were 164 for four in the 31st over.
Rain stopped play again three overs later at 180 for four, but play soon resumed, with Peter Moor quickly out for 14, including a big six over square leg. Mountaineers now pressed in and the scoring rate slumped. The 200 came up in the 40th over, as Steven Trenchard and Mluleki Nkala gradually began to take control – but then came more and heavier rain sweeping in from the Bvumba Mountains.
This forced the closure of the Mid-West Rhinos innings at 225 for six, after 43 overs. The two not-out batsmen had 33 and 13 respectively. The spinners Mufudza and Natsai M’shangwe had two wickets each, but they were expensive, and the most economical bowler was Shingirai Masakadza, surprisingly left out of the squad of players to tour West Indies, who had one for 26 off eight overs.
When play finally restarted at 1545 hours, Duckworth-Lewis dictated a target for Mountaineers of 200 runs in 28 overs – a required run-rate of more than seven an over on an outfield slowed by the rain.
Mountaineers had to go for the runs from the start, and Mark Pettini was fortunate to be dropped on one by a combination of wicketkeeper and first slip. Hamilton Masakadza and Pettini were both in superb form and the bowlers wilted before their assault. The 50 went up in the seventh over, and Masakadza reached his own fifty off 31. The team hundred was reached in the twelfth over.
The stand realized 111 in less than 14 overs before Masakadza drove a catch to mid-off, after scoring 62 off 37 balls and bringing the required run rate down to six. Pettini, the Essex player, now took it upon himself to bat through and see his team home to victory. He did a fine job, playing the good balls watchfully and picking out the bad ones to hammer to the boundary. Greg Lamb proved a reliable partner, playing a supporting role at first and then opening out as victory became more certain. It came with 3.4 overs to spare, the result of outstanding batting. It is futile to speculate on what might have happened had there been no rain, but Mid-West Rhinos will no doubt be doing just that.
Pettini finished unbeaten with 85 off 73 balls (eight fours, two sixes), and Lamb on 33 off 36. Neville Madziva was the most successful bowler with two for 32.
At the end of this match, Matabeleland Tuskers have 22 points and Mid-West Rhinos 21. The two teams will meet at Kwekwe Sports Club on Saturday.
Mashonaland Eagles have finished their programme and have 19 points – but if Mid-West Rhinos lose on Saturday and incur a points penalty, they may well contest the final after all.