from John Ward at Harare Sports Club
Close of play, Day 1: Southern Rocks (164) v Mashonaland Eagles (104/1).
Southern Rocks did their slim chances of remaining in first-class cricket next season no good at all with another dismal batting display at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
They followed this up with some indifferent bowling, with the notable exception of Tinashe Panyangara, and by the close of this the first day’s play they were at a serious disadvantage.
Southern Rocks won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch that was slightly green but gave no undue help to the bowlers. The weather was largely cloudy and remained so for most of the day. Mashonaland Eagles were missing Tafadzwa Muzarawetu and Southern Rocks Prince Masvaure, through injury.
Southern Rocks began, it might be said, as they did not intend to continue.
Innocent Kaia and Tendai Maruma made a dashing start against some rather loose bowling, racing to 46 off the first six overs, after which the bowlers began to get their act together rather better.
As usual, the batsmen failed to build on a good start. Maruma, on 32, drove a catch to midwicket off Brian Vitori, ending the opening partnership at 64 off 12 overs. Kaia (38) was caught at the wicket off the same bowler, trying to cut; 84 for two.
It all went downhill from here, with most of the batsmen contributing to their own downfall. Kudzai Maunze (5) was run out attempting an unwise single, and there was a brief respite as the two most reliable batsmen, Richmond Mutumbami and Roy Kaia, were together. Kaia, however, concentrated entirely on defence, scoring 2 off 28 balls, only for Admire Manyumwa to produce a superb delivery that came back and bowled him on the stroke of lunch. The score was now 104 for four, with Mutumbami on 17.
After the break, Southern Rocks worsened their situation, as Mutumbami was yorked by Elton Chigumbura for 25, and both Luke Jongwe and Tendai Chisoro, frozen into immobility, faced 14 balls each before being dismissed without scoring. Seven wickets were down for 116 before the two opening bowlers, Trevor Garwe and Tinashe Panyangara, came together.
Although still slow, they did enough to keep the score moving and put on 47 runs in 80 minutes before Panyangara fell for 22. The last two batsmen surrendered weakly, leaving Garwe unbeaten with a creditable 26. The total was 164, the innings closing at the tea interval. It was a very familiar sort of scorecard, with five batsmen passing 20 and not one of them reaching 40.
Vitori took five wickets for 44 runs, although he was well below his best and often bowled too short.
When Mashonaland Eagles replied, Panyangara bowled Clement Rizhibowa with his third delivery, before a run had been scored. Mark Vermeulen, though, batted with the ease of a master, driving impressively through the off side off the front foot, while Nick Welch, opening the innings, flicked a wild ball from Jongwe over the fine-leg boundary for six. It was the oldest and the youngest player in Zimbabwe cricket batting together.
The team fifty came up in the 12th over and the pair looked in fine form, but Southern Rocks had only themselves to blame, as Welch on 27 pulled a ball straight to Roy Kaia on the square-leg boundary, but the chance went down.
Much of the bowling was far too short, allowing Welch to practise his pulls freely and with more control. Vermeulen lofted a ball from Chisoro over long on for six to reach his fifty off 71 balls, and the team passed the hundred with just one wicket down before bad light brought play to a premature close.
Mashonaland Eagles were 60 runs behind at this point, with nine wickets in hand. Vermeulen had 57 and Welch 45. However, Southern Rocks’ position is not irretrievable, but it will take more than a solo performance from Panyangara to bundle the rest of the Mashonaland Eagles’ batsmen out cheaply. In nine overs he had figures of one for 15, the next best of his team being Jongwe, none for 19 off five overs.