from John Ward at Mutare
Close of play, Day 2: Mountaineers (259) v Mid-West Rhinos (236)
It is unexpectedly hard going for batsmen at Mutare Sports Club in this match, but a day of attritional cricket saw Mountaineers take a small but perhaps significant lead on the first innings over MidWest Rhinos.
The best performances of the day were a fighting innings of 77 by Steve Trenchard and a five-wicket haul by the seamer Tatenda Mupunga.
Rhinos began the second day at 10 without loss and fancied their chances of overtaking the disappointing Mountaineers total of 259 all out on the first day. All agreed that the pitch basically favoured batting, and yet no batsman could score comfortably on it, nor could they explain why not.
The bowlers got little movement, and the only explanation that could be offered was that the pitch was rather slow and a little uncertain in bounce. In addition, it could be said that most of the batsmen lacked the patience to work hard for long periods or the will to bat to a plan of working the ball round the field and keeping the score ticking over that way.
Many of the batsmen began their innings very slowly, but then got themselves out when the bowlers’ patience exceeded their own. The overnight opener Ronnie Chokununga took 36 balls to get off the mark, in the 12th over, but in the following over his partner, Bothwell Chapungu, had a big swish and was caught at the wicket off Donald Tiripano for 13: 21 for one. At 19 Chokununga poked outside the off stump and edged a ball from Tatenda Mupunga to the keeper, Forster Mutizwa, for 8 off 52 balls.
Steve Trenchard and Peter Moor were now together, but their partnership was almost nipped in the bud when Moor, on 1, was dropped off a low chance to square leg.
Both batsmen played with great determination as they put on 51 together, but then Moor too nibbled outside to off stump to a ball from Mupunga and Mutizwa took his third catch. Moor made 30.
Lunch came at 104 for three, with Trenchard on 37, and he continued to play an innings of good judgment and determination afterwards, reaching his fifty off 102 balls. He had two dogged partners in Nyasha Mayavo (7 off 32 balls) and Mark Mbofana (4 off 55), but in the end, with 77 to his credit, he drove back low and hard to be caught and bowled by Prosper Tsvanhu.
Immediately afterwards, Mbofana was given out stumped off Dan Housego, as he allowed a ball to pass down the leg side. The total was now 153 for six, still 106 behind.
Neville Madziva and Bright Njanji stayed together until tea, when the score was 172 for six. They continued to work hard with the bat afterwards, playing with care and waiting to hit the bad ball to the boundary. They scored a valuable 54 together before Njanji (32) edged a ball from Mupunga to second slip: 206 for seven.
The rest of the innings was a case of the consistent Madziva seeking tail-end partners to stay with him. Michael Chinouya stayed a while for 7, but the innings was over just before five o’clock for 236, Madziva finishing with 40 not out. Mountaineers thus led by 23 runs on the first innings after two days.
Mupunga, bowling a persistent medium pace on a good off-stump line, took five for 65, his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, while Tsvanhu, also putting all he could into his bowling, had two wickets.
It was a hard day’s cricket, and this time Mountaineers will be the happier of the teams.