LOGAN CUP MATCH: MOUNTAINEERS v MATABELELAND TUSKERS
Day 4 at Mutare Sports Club, 22 February 2013
Close of play: Mountaineers (475/7 dec and 13/0) drew with Matabeleland Tuskers (298 and [following on] 312).
Matabeleland Tuskers are close to securing their third successive Logan Cup trophy after fighting their way through the final day against Mountaineers at Mutare Sports Club to secure a draw.
Tuskers’ heroes were the Hampshire professional Bilal Shafayat and Sean Williams, whose partnership of 153 for the fifth wicket blunted the Mountaineers attack for more than two vital hours. Shafayat stayed for exactly 400 minutes and put up 152 runs.
Mountaineers made a vain attempt at their impossible target, 136 at 15 an over, but after making 13 off two overs, bowed to the inevitable draw.
Matabeleland Tuskers resumed at their overnight score of 42 for three wickets – still 135 runs in arrears. The batsmen in occupation, Bilal Shafayat and the night-watchman John Nyumbu, played a defensive game no doubt also conscious of the possibility that rain might help them save the match. The morning was cloudy but there was more sunshine as the day went on.
Nyumbu fell after about 20 minutes, leg-before-wicket to Shingirai Masakadza for four, and this brought in Sean Williams. He settled in and then looked to take the initiative, playing his strokes well although handicapped by a slow outfield. Williams was particularly strong through the covers and placed the ball skilfully. He soon overtook Shafayat and reached his fifty off 55 balls, although after that he slowed down and appeared to be playing for lunch. Shafayat’s fifty came off 130 balls just before lunch, when the score was 162 for four.
The loss of only one wicket in the first session – two and a half hours, owing to the time lost the previous day – gave Matabeleland Tuskers hope of saving the match, and indeed they gave the toiling Mountaineers bowlers a few chances.
Williams was aggressive again after lunch, moving to 83 off 125 balls, before being given out lbw to Timycen Maruma, much to his fury! It was now 194 for five, with Matabeleland Tuskers now 17 runs ahead.
Bradley Staddon now stayed in with Shafayat, who reached his second century for Matabeleland Tuskers in successive matches off 221 balls. The partnership was still intact at tea, another session having passed with a single wicket falling. Now on 254 for five and 77 runs ahead, Matabeleland Tuskers were close to securing a draw.
Staddon went soon after tea for 20 off 58 balls, lbw to Tapiwa Mufudza, who did surprisingly little bowling in this match. Mountaineers’ hopes rose again as Glenn Querl quickly followed, out to Donald Tiripano, and Gavin Ewing was bowled by Price for three. This made the score 268 for eight wickets, 91 ahead with 21 possible overs left.
Shafayat now decided to become more aggressive, and his quick runs soon ensured safety for his team.
He was now hammering the bowlers mercilessly, and brought up his 150 with a huge six over long-on. Next ball he miscued another big hit, to be caught and bowled by Maruma for 152, scored off 302 balls with nine fours and six sixes.
Njabulo Ncube was out in the same over, closing the innings for 312, a lead of 135 with nine overs remaining. Maruma finished with three wickets, a good return to form, if not his best, but generally the bowlers toiled hard throughout the day on a flat pitch where batsmen who played wisely and patiently were very difficult to prise out.
The draw means that Matabeleland Tuskers are certain of winning the Logan Cup again, unless they contrive to lose to lowly Southern Rocks in two weeks’ time, and Mountaineers win next week against Mashonaland Eagles.
Although such a scenario is possible and not unprecedented, it is most unlikely.