from John Ward in Kwekwe
Close of play, Day 2: Mid-West Rhinos (265 and 3/1) v Matabeleland Tuskers (202)
Brian Chari, number three batsmen for Matabeleland Tuskers, recorded his maiden first-class century for his team at Kwekwe Sports Club on Wednesday, but he received so little support from his team-mates that they still trailed by 63 runs on the first innings.
The day began with MidWest Rhinos on 247 for eight wickets, with Neville Madziva and Kudakwashe Munyede together at the crease. They played themselves in as if they were Test match openers, scoring just 10 runs in the first 8 overs, before Munyede fell leg before wicket to Steve Chimhamhiwa for 14. Michael Chinouya supported Munyede for a while before losing patience and skying a catch for 2, leaving Madziva unbeaten with his highest first-class score of 70. He had batted for just over 3½ hours and hit just three fours off 197 balls.
The total was 265. John Nyumbu, with four for 89, was the main wicket-taker, although he was rather expensive at times, while Chimhamhiwa bowled well to take the last two wickets.
Matabeleland Tuskers lost Bornaparte Mujuru (12) just before lunch, when the score was 23 for one, Chari having just come in. He and the other opener, Nkosana Mpofu, both batted doggedly after the break, and when Mpofu was finally dismissed lbw by Munyede for 11 (52 balls) the score was 35 for two in the 18th over.
Keith Dabengwa did not last long, caught at second slip off Chinouya, who bowled superbly at the more dubious end of the two-paced pitch. The team fifty came up in the 24th over, with Chari holding the innings together. Godwill Mamhiyo scored 7 off 47 balls before chopping a ball on to his stumps: 74 for four in the 33rd over.
Then the tone of the innings changed, as Tonny Mupariwa came in and played much more positively, getting the score moving, and Chari also began to open up more. The situation was looking brighter for Matabeleland Tuskers at tea, when the score was 100 for four, Chari on 45, and Mupariwa 17.
The third session saw the best cricket of the day. Chari came out bristling with intent, and took three deliveries to reach his fifty, which came off 91 balls. As he flourished, Mupariwa wisely concentrated on giving him good support. Chari was now a totally different batsman, aggressive and confident, with a special liking for hoisting the spin bowlers over the midwicket boundary. At one stage it looked as if he was trying to bombard the schoolchildren who were practising their cross-country around the boundary.
The momentum was now strongly with Matabeleland Tuskers, especially as Chinouya needed resting after a long and worthy spell. Chari, whose previous highest score was 98, reached his century with his seventh six, having taken 131 balls for it, but immediately after the drinks break he was caught at deepish mid-on off a lofted drive. His score was 116 off 144 balls, and he hit seven fours and eight sixes. His partnership with Mupariwa had added 112 in less than 23 overs.
The score was now 186 for five, and immediately the rest of the innings fell to pieces. Tonny Mupariwa went for 32, and nobody after that reached double figures, although Christopher Mpofu did slog one six. The last six wickets fell for just 16 runs inside eight overs, to Madziva and Munyede, who finished with four and three wickets respectively. The best bowling, however, was done by Chinouya who finished with two for 24 in 13 overs.
Batting again with an unexpected lead, MidWest Rhinos in their turn began badly. Almost three overs passed with the batsmen showing excessive caution and failing to score a run, before Bothwell Chapungu hit a simple return catch to Tawanda Mupariwa. As the light faded, Ronnie Chokununga and Steve Trenchard struggled against fine bowling by Mupariwa and Chimhamhiwa, and were relieved when the umpires took them off for bad light after five overs of the nine that remained.
At present, MidWest Rhinos hold the advantage, but the fluctuations of the match so far mean that nothing is certain and the third day could be very interesting and unpredictable.