from John Ward in Mutare
Close of play, Day 3: Mountaineers (259 and 219/6) v Mid-West Rhinos (236)
It was a hot day in Mutare that ended in rain and produced more dogged cricket, with little from it that will linger in the memory.
But it remained quite well balanced, although Mountaineers appear to hold a small advantage, being 242 runs ahead with four wickets still remaining.
The first innings of both teams had been completed at the end of the first day at Mutare Sports Club, which resulted in a lead for Mountaineers of 23.
Batting a second time, Tinotenda Mawoyo and Kevin Kasuza again gave Mountaineers a solid start, though scoring more quickly than they did in the first innings. They put on 55 in 17 overs before Mawoyo (23) edged a ball from Richard Muzhange to second slip, where it bounced off the hands of Steve Trenchard and into those of Peter Moor standing at first.
Kasuza again played an innings full of stubborn defence, with occasional bursts to hit the ball to the boundary. He still needs to develop the skill of working the ball around the field for singles, as do many of his team-mates. Kasuza’s innings ended on 40, just before lunch, when he tried to turn a ball from Muzhange to leg but skied a big leading edge beyond point, to be safely caught: 71 for two.
At lunch the score was 73 for two, with the two English professionals Dan Housego and Mark Pettini at the crease. Mountaineers will find it hard to make up adequately for their loss when they have to return to England on Friday. They played mainly a defensive game and looked set to build a large partnership when Housego (19) swept at a ball from Bright Njanji and skied a catch off the top edge – 119 for three.
Forster Mutizwa made a slow start but grew increasingly confident, especially in sweeping the spinners. Unfortunately there was a brief break for rain, and then Mutizwa, his concentration apparently broken, slashed the first ball on resumption, from Njanji, into the hands of extra cover. He made 20 and the score was now 145 for four. At tea it had advanced to 155 for four.
One run after tea, Kudzai Sauramba went for 9, caught at slip off Kudakwashe Munyede. Wellington Masakadza played a confident game, but was badly missed from a return chance to Bothwell Chapungu when he had 15. Pettini meanwhile was taking no chances, working his way through to a dogged fifty, which came off 142 balls. The team’s 200 came up in the 82nd over.
Masakadza rather went into his shell after his escape, and had scored 26 off 96 balls when he was out to a much harder return catch than he had given earlier, to the same bowler, Chapungu diving well to his left to hold the ball safely. It was now 210 for six. Donald Tiripano had not been in long when a light rain started and brought play to an end for the day. Spinners had been used for much of the day, Munyede bowling 29 overs, so in fact only three overs were lost. Pettini finished the day with 65 not out off 172 balls – a mostly forgettable innings but one of undoubted value to his team.
The final day will start 27 minutes early to make up for lost time, and any result is possible, although Mid-West Rhinos will have to play particularly well if they are to win rather than merely draw, given the trend of the match so far.
With Mashonaland Eagles going down to Matabeleland Tuskers in Bulawayo, the winner of this match will shoot to the top of the Logan Cup table.