Close of play, Day 2: Mid-West Rhinos 296; Mashonaland Eagles 298/3.
On Monday, Brendan Taylor and Malcolm Waller put on 151 together in partnership for Mid-West Rhinos.
On Tuesday, Regis Chakabva and Mark Vermeulen put this in the shade with a stand of 230 for Mashonaland Eagles. Chakabva reached his highest career score, while Vermeulen unfortunately fell for 99, but their determined and admirable batting took their team into a strong position after the second day’s play.
Mid-West Rhinos face a serious uphill struggle now to get back into this match.
Mashonaland Eagles began the day with the wicket of Kevin Kondo down overnight, without a run on the board. The high-quality seam bowling of Edward Rainsford and Mike Chinouya opened the attack, and before long the other Mashonaland Eagles opener, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, was bowled for seven, shouldering arms fatally to a ball from Chinouya that came in and bowled him. The score was 10 for two.
Chakabva and Vermeulen dug in with grim defence and saw off the two most dangerous bowlers, before they slowly found their touch and began to score off the other bowlers, who toiled hard but were not threatening on a pitch that gave them no help. Rainsford could perhaps have been tried again before lunch, but by then the batsmen were well settled. Chakabva was the more aggressive of the two, with Vermeulen content to play the unaccustomed role of defensive partner, showing fine concentration but for a long time few strokes.
Chakabva reached his fifty just before lunch, off 101 balls, with three pulls for four in a short-pitched over from Malcolm Waller. Vermeulen then had only 20, and the score was 87 for two. With Rainsford and Chinouya bowling again straight after lunch, the batsmen concentrated on seeing them off and the runs came slowly. Again they opened up against the lesser bowlers, Chakabva playing some particularly impressive drives through the covers. Vermeulen went to his fifty off 125 balls, during a period when Chakabva was becalmed, but the latter opened up again at the expense of the left-arm spinner Kuda Munyede, and had reached 99 at tea, when the score was 181 for two.
It took three balls for Chakabva to reach his century after tea, taking in all 192 deliveries. The pair continued to take runs with comparative ease off the secondary bowlers until, with the stand on 230 and himself on 99, Vermeulen drove a ball straight to mid-off, where Madziva juggled the ball but held it. Vermeulen had played a fine innings of great concentration and determination at a critical time for his field, and had richly deserved a century.
Chakabva had just equalled his highest score of 131, and he was now joined by Sikandar Raza Butt, who was bristling with nervous energy after waiting with his pads on for over four hours, and he immediately began to lay into the bowling, second new ball and all. He raced to 19 off 20 balls before he had worked off the surplus adrenalin and settled down to a more conservative approach.
Mashonaland Eagles claimed first-innings players off the final ball of the day, as Raza hit another boundary to take the lead with seven wickets still in hand. Chakabva was still there with 147, having achieved the fairly rare feat of batting throughout a full day’s play. Raza had 42 off 49 balls, and even Rainsford, the best bowler of the day, suffered somewhat in the final half-hour.
By the end of the day, he had still creditable figures of one for 39 in 19 overs, much better than any of his team-mates. To their credit Mid-West Rhinos, unlike Mashonaland Eagles on the previous day, maintained a good over rate and actually fitted an extra over into the day’s play.