LOGAN CUP MATCH: MASHONALAND EAGLES v MOUNTAINEERS
Day 3 (28 February 2013), at Harare Sports Club
Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (222 and 153) lost to Mountaineers (259 and 117/2) by eight wickets.
Mountaineers, having completed their Logan Cup programme, are now at the top of the table with 36 points, although Matabeleland Tuskers, who have 35, still have to play Southern Rocks at Masvingo next week. The reason was that the match at Harare Sports Club, which looked as if it might have a good finish, ended on the third day as bottom-placed Mashonaland Eagles sank to their sixth defeat in the eight-match season, putting up little fight against the more motivated Mountaineers.
From the start Mashonaland Eagles continued to show that, as far as their batting in the Logan Cup is concerned, they are still operating with a losing mentality. They were 31 for one overnight, and before another run had been scored Keith Kondo (8) drove a ball from Shingi Masakadza weakly into the covers to be caught. In the next over Sikandar Raza (14) skied a pull to mid-on off Calum Price, the score now being 37 for three.
Stuart Matsikenyeri began positively with some handsome drives on the off side and, after Forster Mutizwa had gone for 6, settled down with Mark Mbofana into what was to be the largest partnership of the innings, 44 for the fifth wicket. They looked good together and could have caused a great deal of trouble, until Matsikenyeri, having scored 41 off 56 balls, drove a catch to mid-off off Tapiwa Mufudza. It was a good-looking innings, but his team needed somebody to stay there and score a century.
Mbofana also looked good, playing quietly most of the time with occasional powerful hits. A partnership with Remembrance Nyathi was developing nicely when the two managed to make a major error over a run and found themselves at the same end. The fielding team nearly messed it up, but finally Nyathi was narrowly run out for 11.
Nathan Waller as usual made some powerful hits, but at 151 three wickets fell, a deathblow to the innings. Mbofana on 40 played on to Price, who then caught and bowled his namesake Raymond without scoring, and Waller was caught at midwicket off Tiripano for 21. The last pair only managed a single each and the innings closed miserably for 153. Tiripano took four for 49 and Price three for 23. Generally the bowling was quite good, but the poor total owed most to poor batting, as in the first innings.
This left Mountaineers with 117 to win, on paper a fairly simple chance, but there was hardly likely to be overconfidence in the team that, set 65 to win by Southern Rocks, were all out for 26. There was also the additional pressure of knowing that they would overtake Matabeleland Tuskers at the top of the Logan Cup table by one point if they won, while defeat would hand the trophy to the Bulawayo side.
The usually restrained Dan Hodgson showed new-found confidence as he cracked the first ball of the innings, from Taurai Muzarabani, through the covers for four, while he steered the fifth ball to the third-man boundary. Greg Lamb too began his innings confidently and after four overs the score was 27, including six boundaries. Hodgson had five of them, but on 22 had a life as the keeper was unable to hold a chance diving to his right. The team 50 went up in the tenth over and the opening pair was still there, Hodgson on 30 and Lamb 17.
Lamb had not added to his score when at 51 he tried to scoop a ball from Waller to leg, only to sky a catch. On the stroke of tea Kevin Kasuza was caught overhead at mid-off for 10, again off Waller, making the score 67 for two. After the interval Hodgson reached his second fifty of the match, off exactly 50 balls. He finished with 63 not out and Mark Pettini 26 not out as Mountaineers completed their victory in the 28th over. So ended a dismal Logan Cup season for Mashonaland Eagles and a steadily improving one for Mountaineers, who will be awaiting eagerly developments in Masvingo next week.
The Logan Cup could yet end in a tie between Matabeleland Tuskers and Mountaineers, if the former lead Southern Rocks on first innings but fail to win the match, which is possible if rain intervenes or the pitch is too flat. If Southern Rocks pull off a real shock and win the match, Mountaineers will win the Logan Cup for the first time, but this would be a real upset. There is also a possibility that rain may prevent even a first-innings decision from being reached. So the Logan Cup competition will enter its final match next Tuesday still very much alive.