LOGAN CUP MATCH: MOUNTAINEERS v MATABELELAND TUSKERS
Day 3 (21 February 2013), at Mutare Sports Club
Close of play: Mountaineers (475/7 dec) v Matabeleland Tuskers (298 and [following on] 42/3).
The reigning Logan Cup champions and current table-leaders Matabeleland Tuskers, who have ridden roughshod over all the other franchises so far this season, are now facing the strong possibility of their first defeat at the end of the third day’s play at Mutare Sports Club. Mountaineers put in a sound all-round performance, yet the highlight of the day was actually a remarkable innings of 65 by the Matabeleland Tuskers last man, John Nyumbu.
The weather had changed on the third morning, and most of the day was overcast, with a shower of rain before the start of play. The pitch, although still basically flat, was rather difficult for batsmen to score quickly on from accurate bowling, according to the Matabeleland Tuskers coach Heath Streak, and his batsmen did not handle it well. For most of the morning session they showed little of the fight that should be expected from the champions and there were too many soft dismissals.
Sean Williams, the one remaining specialist batsman, never looked confident; he survived an easy catch in the covers early on, and then flashed at a ball from Timmy Maruma to be caught at slip for 30. Gavin Ewing, the injured captain, came in, but retired on 8 as he started feeling groggy again. At 169 for eight, therefore, the last man Nyumbu joined Njabulo Ncube, and the two proceeded to show their seniors in the batting order how to do the job.
They played themselves in sensibly, and then started hitting the loose deliveries, lasting until lunch and putting on 54 together before Ncube was trapped lbw by Calum Price for 22. This gave Ewing enough time to recover and he joined Nyumbu at the crease at 223 for nine. He batted within himself, with due regard for his health, while Nyumbu, whose previous highest score in first-class cricket was 45, went on to reach a remarkable 65 off 113 balls, before falling lbw to Maruma. Ewing finished unbeaten on 43, the last pair having put on 75 runs and the last two wickets 129. The deficit, however, was still 177. Masakadza finished with four for 71 and Maruma four for 65.
Mountaineers enforced the follow-on, and quickly dismissed the unfortunate Brian Chari for a pair through a freak dismissal. Chari drove hard back down the pitch, the ball hitting the bowler, Price, on the leg and then ricocheting out into the covers, where it was caught. Terry Duffin and Keith Dabengwa, however, played themselves in with great care, and the score had reached 15 for one off eight overs when a sudden shower of rain hit the ground.
50 minutes’ play was lost, and soon after the resumption Donald Tiripano had Dabengwa caught in the slips for 7; 21 for two. After 37 minutes, however, the rain returned, with the score 38 for two. Play started again at 5.30, but in poor light and on a damp field. Mountaineers reverted to their spinners, and they lost Duffin, shouldering arms to be bowled for 20 by a ball from Greg Lamb that may well have pitched in the rough of the bowlers’ footmarks. Nyumbu, after his earlier batting triumphs, came in as night-watchman to join Shafayat.
Matabeleland Tuskers now face a difficult task on the final day to stave off their first defeat of the season, still 135 runs behind with only seven wickets left, but they could be saved by the weather. A Mountaineers victory would open up the Logan Cup competition wonderfully, as the two teams would then be equal on points with one match to play, a thrilling finish to the first-class season.