Close of play, day 1: Mid-West Rhinos 296; Mashonaland Eagles 0/1.
A fighting century by Brendan Taylor, who began his innings looking quite out of touch and finished it in fine style, rescued Mid-West Rhinos after a poor start against hosts Mashonaland Eagles.
He was helped by Malcolm Waller in a partnership that accounted for more than half the eventual team total on the first day of this Logan Cup match at Harare Sports Club.
On a sunny morning, with a normal-looking pitch, the toss satisfied everybody. Mid-West Rhinos won it and decided to bat, but Mashonaland Eagles had planned to put them in anyway had they won it.
Brendan Taylor and Edward Rainsford were back in the Mid-West Rhinos team, but Prosper Utseya was still missing from Mashonaland Eagles with an injured thumb. Mashonaland Eagles played only four front-line bowlers, a decision that was to give them some problems later in the day.
Vusimuzi Sibanda and Bothwell Chapungu opened the batting against Brian Vitori and Taurai Muzarabani. Vitori was rather inconsistent, looking fairly innocuous most of the time but occasionally producing a real ‘jaffa.’ The first came just after Sibanda had driven him straight for a superb four. Stung by this, Vitori produced a superb delivery to trap him leg before wicket (lbw) right back on his stumps, for seven.
In the next over, Chapungu gave his wicket away, driving a low catch weakly into the covers, and Mid-West Rhinos were in trouble at 16 for two.
Peter Moor and Brendan Taylor dug in, but did not look comfortable, although the bowlers were not getting undue help from the conditions. Taylor was very slow at first, and he lost Moor for 16, Vitori producing a fast yorker to bowl him when he came back for his second spell at the other end. Taylor and Malcolm Waller were very cautious, knowing that there was little batting to come now if either of them was out. By lunch, they had taken the score to 86 for three, with Taylor on 39 and Waller 12.
Immediately after lunch they adopted a more aggressive approach. Waller particularly with the cut and Taylor with the drive soon made the Mashonaland Eagles bowling look helpless, and after a while both batsmen were picking off the runs with ease.
Tinotenda Mutombodzi, the new and as yet inexperienced Mashonaland Eagles captain, rather overworked his seamers at this stage, especially considering he had only four frontline bowlers.
Taylor reached 50 off 75 balls and then raced to his century off 119 with great ease, while Waller was quite content to play second fiddle. This was Taylor’s 20th first-class century, overtaking his franchise coach Grant Flower. Only Andy Flower, with 30, has scored more centuries in Zimbabwean first-class cricket.
Then, at 102 Taylor became a little careless and cut a ball from part-time bowler Chamunorwa Chibhabha uppishly, for Mark Vermeulen to take a sharp catch at slip. Taylor had hit 16 fours and a six. The pair had put on 151 for the fourth wicket, the score being 200 for four.
This now slowed the scoring right down, and at tea Mid-West Rhinos were 205 for four. Mashonaland Eagles had only bowled 50 overs at this stage, a low over rate.
Soon afterwards Mark Mbofana (7) was adjudged lbw – to his displeasure – to Mutombodzi, who had taken a lot of punishment during the afternoon and was now pushing the ball through defensively rather than tossing it up.
Nyasha Mayavo began his innings confidently, but then lost Waller, who was out in similar fashion to Taylor, except that his stroke was a thick edge to slip rather than a cut. He hit 74 off 139 balls, with 12 fours. Mayavo went on to make a useful 29 before he presented Sikandar Raza Butt with his wicket, trying to flick a straight ball through midwicket and being bowled: 273 for seven.
Edward Rainsford came and went without a shot played in anger, a hitter apparently shorn of all confidence, and the runs now virtually dried up. It might have been a good idea for the last two wickets to hit out, get out and then put Mashonaland Eagles in for an uncomfortable period at the end of the day, but this was clearly not in Mid-West Rhinos’ plans.
Mashonaland Eagles took the second new ball with the last pair together, and finally dismissed Neville Madziva, whose 26 took 89 balls. The total was 296, with Vitori taking four wickets for 67, while there were two wickets each for Muzarabani and Chibhabha. Admire Manyumwa and Mutombodzi himself were expensive, which put pressure on the rest of the attack.
This left Mashonaland Eagles with just one over to face before the close, as four overs were lost due to their abysmal over rate, even after the extra half-hour was played. Just two balls were bowled, in fact, because with the second Rainsford won an lbw decision against Keith Kondo without a run on the board.
Considering Mashonaland Eagles’ present weak batting state, this may be said to have been the visitors’ day.