from John Ward in Masvingo
Close of play, Day 2: Southern Rocks (196 and 81/1) v Mashonaland Eagles (336).
The second day’s play at Masvingo, like the first, brought some mediocre cricket, but also some outstanding individual performances.
Firstly, Trevor Garwe of Southern Rocks continued his fine bowling form, but he came up against a wall later on due to fine batting performances from Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Simbarashe Gupo and Nathan Waller, the last two reviving Mashonaland Eagles with a remarkable late-order recovery.
Mashonaland Eagles were 43 for three overnight, and Southern Rocks could not have wished for a better start to the day. Garwe, who had already taken all three wickets to fall the previous evening, produced an absolute “jaffa” that swung in late, shot through low and trapped Mark Vermeulen leg before wicket for his overnight 26. A similar second delivery had the new batsman, Remembrance Nyathi, caught at third slip. Mashonaland Eagles were now 43 for five and Garwe’s figures at that point were five for 12.
The Mashonaland Eagles captain, Mutombodzi, came out fighting. He turned the hat-trick ball past square leg for four and continued to attack the bowling, thriving in an enthralling battle with Garwe. Tafadzwa Muzarawetu held firm gallantly as the night-watchman, scoring 3 off 35 balls before a misunderstanding with Mutombodzi led to his being run out, making the score 83 for six.
Mutombodzi continued to prosper until he too was run out, for 49 (46 balls), chancing a risky second run for his fifty to Tafadzwa Tsiga, only to be narrowly run out; 106 for seven, still 89 behind. Nathan Waller now settled in with Simbarashe Gupo, and then began to hit out. With Garwe rested and the ball now ageing, the rest of the Southern Rocks bowling was innocuous, and the visitors’ hopes were rising with a lunch-time score of 164 for seven.
Afterwards the partnership continued to flourish, with Waller reaching his fifty more successfully than his captain, off 49 balls.
A few minutes later Mashonaland Eagles took the lead and then passed 200. Gupo then reached his fifty, off 92 balls. The next landmark was Waller’s maiden first-class century; he reached it off 93 balls with a straight six off Roy Kaia, and immediately followed it with another. The partnership eventually realised 181 in 34.2 overs, before Waller skied an attempted pull. He made 115 off 99 balls, with eleven fours and five sixes, and Mashonaland Eagles were now 287 for eight.
The score at tea was 300 for eight, with Gupo on 73. Keith Kulinga went for 4, and then Taurai Muzhange stayed in while Gupo went to his second career century off 161 balls, on the same ground where he made his first three years ago. He was then bowled going for another big hit, giving Innocent Kaia his maiden first-class wicket. He made 102 off 165 balls, with nine fours and two sixes. Thus numbers eight and nine in the order both made centuries.
The total was 336, a lead of 140 in the first innings. The only bowling figures worth mentioning were those of Garwe, who finished with five for 80, quite a decline after having at one stage five for 13. But he has done a great deal of work, mostly by himself, on his fitness and bowling since last season, following a couple of indifferent years with the ball, and the positive results certainly showed. Roy Kaia and Prince Masvaure both bowled steadily, but had no luck and suffered under the onslaught of Waller and Gupo.
When Southern Rocks went in again, Bernard Mlambo looked much more comfortable than he did in the first innings. Ironically, he pulled a ball from Waller straight to midwicket and departed for 4. Fortunately for his team, Innocent Kaia and Kudzai Maunze batted very capably for the rest of the day. At the close they had 44 and 32 respectively. They never looking in real trouble, but their team was still 59 runs in arrears and they will have a hard struggle on the third day to get back into the game.