by John Ward at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
Close of play, Day 2: Southern Rocks (190 and 153/5) v Matabeleland Tuskers (166)
When this well-balanced match at Queens Sports Club is concluded, quite possibly on Thursday, will it be judged that the off-spin of John Nyumbu for Matabeleland Tuskers or the batting of Richmond Mutumbami for Southern Rocks was more decisive in bringing about victory for the successful team? Or will another player step in with a major performance to clinch the match?
That remains to be seen, as the balance swung from one side to another on the second day.
Southern Rocks led narrowly on the first innings, but Nyumbu’s bowling in the afternoon enabled Matabeleland Tuskers to claw their way back into the match, only for Mutumbami to play a fine innings that put his team back with the advantage by the close – but not yet a great advantage. All remains to be revealed.
Overnight, Matabeleland Tuskers were 110 for four wickets in reply to Southern Rocks’ first-innings total of 190, with the prospect of a good fight for a first-innings lead, at least. The incumbent batsmen were Godwill Mamhiyo, who had 37, and Tawanda Mupariwa, with nine.
Mupariwa did not last long, falling leg before wicket to the left-arm seamer Prince Masvaure for 11. His brother Tonny departed almost immediately, to a good diving return catch by Trevor Garwe for one. Mamhiyo reached a sound fifty off 86 balls, but added only a single to it before he edged a delivery from Masvaure to first slip, and then Cuthbert Musoko returned to bowl a belated second spell, and quickly had Thabo Mboyi taking a wild swing at a ball outside the off-stump and edging to the keeper for four. The score had slumped in little time to 133 for eight, and Southern Rocks were well on top.
The later batsmen appeared to be frozen into immobility, defending doggedly but never looking as if they had the confidence to effect a recovery. Nyumbu faced 23 balls without scoring before finally a thick edge through the slips brought him a boundary. Kevin Kandala scored three off 22 balls before being caught at the wicket off Musoko: 149 for nine.
At this point Nyumbu came to life and started hitting powerfully but selectively. Steve Chimhamhiwa defended capably at the other end, while Nyumbu briefly caused the bowlers some consternation, including a hit for six over midwicket, before he finally holed out at mid-on for 30. The total was 166, a deficit of 24. Lunch was taken, and there were three wickets each for Masvaure and Luke Jongwe.
For the first time this season Southern Rocks led an opponent on the first innings; now they had to build on this fairly narrow lead so they could force an outright victory.
Ian Kaia seemed to have a rather strange idea of how to do this: he hammered the first two deliveries he faced, from Chimhamhiwa, for four each, and next over unaccountably shouldered arms to a straight ball from Tawanda Mupariwa that knocked out his off stump. He made 11 off nine balls and the score was 13 for one.
Bernard Mlambo batted steadily and looked to be building an innings of quality when he tried to pull a short ball from Kandala and only managed to drag it straight on to his stumps, having made 24: 51 for two. Tea came at 77 for two, with Kudzai Maunze and Mutumbami in together.
After the break Nyumbu took over, with help mostly from Keith Dabengwa at the other end, and the batsmen started to get out to him. Immediately after the tea interval Maunze (21) somehow managed to lob up a catch to the keeper, and in his next over Masvaure (1) was adjudged by the umpire to have top-edged an attempted sweep, also taken by the wicketkeeper. Roy Kaia came and went for 10, guiding a ball straight to bowled square leg, and Southern Rocks had lost their advantage with a score of 91 for five.
As was the case so often last season, Mutumbami held the innings together, with help now from Jongwe, who dug in deep to give his captain the solid support he needed. Mutumbami was fortunate when he had 39, drilling a ball from Nyumbu straight at the cover fielder, who put it down – a crucial miss. He reached his fifty off 81 balls.
Nyumbu returned, perhaps a little late, for another spell of just two overs at the end of the day, while his fieldsmen hung like vultures around the bat. But the pair survived, having added 62 together, Jongwe just eight but playing superbly for his team, and Southern Rocks will be well pleased to finish the day 177 runs ahead with five wickets still in hand, with Mutumbami still there on 73.
This is a considerable but not overwhelming advantage, and the match will probably have several twists ahead before it is finally decided.