LOGAN CUP MATCH: MID-WEST RHINOS v MASHONALAND EAGLES
Day 1 at Kwekwe Sports Club, 22 January 2013
Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (166) versus Mid-West Rhinos (108/1)
It seems that victory in the Pro50 final in Bulawayo last Saturday has done Mashonaland Eagles’ confidence no good as far as the Logan Cup competition is concerned.
As soon as the four-day championship resumed, they had a forgettable day at Kwekwe Sports Club, as a poor batting display was followed by a difficult time on the field, with Vusimuzi Sibanda and Mark Vermeulen putting their bowlers to the sword.
It was a sunny morning in Kwekwe, but much rain has fallen during the past 10 days, and Sibanda – captaining Mid-West Rhinos as Brendan Taylor is playing in the Bangladesh Premier League – decided to bowl first, knowing the pitch was likely to be damp underneath but would dry out later in the day.
This proved to be correct to a limited extent, as the bowlers found significant movement for less than the first hour of play, and after that the pitch flattened out. However, the weakness of the Mashonaland Eagles batting quite justified the decision.
Apart from Taylor, Mid-West Rhinos have a full team for this match, with Graeme Cremer having returned from injury. Mashonaland Eagles are without Kyle Jarvis in New Zealand, Elton Chigumbura in Bangladesh and the injured Lovemore Gumunyu-Manatsa, while they also took the major step of omitting Forster Mutizwa – badly out of form this season.
Once again, Mashonaland Eagles produced another opening partner for Chamunorwa Chibhabha, this time bringing back Kevin Kondo after an absence of three seasons.
The early movement in the pitch cost them the wickets of Kondo (5) and Regis Chakabva (3), both caught by Sibanda at first slip off the bowling of Mike Chinouya, for 17 runs. Then came a determined and promising partnership of 48 between Chibhabha (32) and the captain Stuart Matsikenyeri (31), who stayed together until the pitch had eased.
Unfortunately for the visitors, both lost their wickets when they should have been digging in for high scores. Chibhabha admittedly was bowled by a superb yorker from Neville Madziva, but Matsikenyeri – straight after lunch – tried to hit a ball from Cremer against the spin and skied a catch into the covers.
The score was then 86 for four, and the team never recovered, while the Mid-West Rhinos bowlers did a fine job, continuing to attack with accuracy and backed by tight fielding. Sikandar Raza Butt and Prosper Utseya both got bogged down and ended their innings with poor shots. Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Nathan Waller were more aggressive in intent as they tried to wrest control from the bowlers. All four made between 15 and 19. Nobody else reached double figures.
There was a ninth-wicket partnership between Waller and Raymond Price (9), which added 25, the second-best stand of the innings. A brilliant catch by Cremer at second slip eventually removed Price, and the innings closed soon after tea for 166. All the bowlers returned reasonable figures, although Cremer – out of cricket for so long – was rather expensive. The best was Madziva, with three wickets for 24 runs.
In reply, Mid-West Rhinos soon lost Jaik Mickleburgh, caught at the wicket first ball in the first over, but Sibanda and Mark Vermeulen were looking to dominate the bowling. Vermeulen in particular lived dangerously at times, sometimes swishing and missing, sometimes hitting in the air, but always on the attack, especially with the drive and short-arm pull through midwicket.
Both batsmen survived a chance and neither is a good runner between the wickets, so they enjoyed a couple of narrow squeaks there. An uppish cut over backward point brought Vermeulen his fifty off 54 balls, which included nine fours.
By the end of the day, the two were taking runs with ease, making nonsense out of the laborious Mashonaland Eagles innings. They finished 58 runs behind the visitors’ total, with nine wickets still in hand.
Rhinos will be looking for a big score and a big lead on the morrow but, as the Logan Cup this season has shown so often, nothing can be taken for granted and they will need to continue to apply themselves well to the task.
Mashonaland Eagles are not out of the match yet!