from John Ward at Mutare Sports Club
Result: Southern Rocks (138) lost to Mashonaland Eagles (139/1) by nine wickets.
Put in to bat on a suspect pitch at Mutare Sports Club, everything went against Southern Rocks in their final Pro50 league match of the season.
Their batsmen crumbled against the Mountaineers seamers and, as the pitch improved in the afternoon, Hamilton Masakadza hammered their own bowlers as he led his team to a handsome nine-wicket victory.
Mountaineers won the toss and quite naturally, on a dubious pitch, it turned out to be a considerable advantage. They struck almost immediately: after a no-ball, Bernard Mlambo was leg before wicket to Tendai Chatara’s next ball. As so often happens in difficult situations, the batsmen’s motto seemed to be “Block desperately,” and the first five wickets went down in 16 overs for only 26 runs. Six were down for 46.
Forster Mutizwa as wicketkeeper had a happy time of it, as four of the first six batsmen presented him with simple catches as they poked at balls moving away from them. The only one of them to reach double figures, Charles Kunje, was superbly run out by Wellington Masakadza, a substitute fielder, as he went for a quick second run.
Prince Masvaure led a fightback, playing his strokes with good judgment, and was helped by Tendai Chisoro, who also did his side a service in a way when he hit an uppish drive very hard at mid-on, where Chatara dropped the catch and injured his hand so badly that he had to leave the field. He took no further part in the match and does not expect to be fit for the four-day match tomorrow.
Masvaure was to finish the top scorer with 34 runs off 51 balls, while Chisoro made 29 before falling to a brilliant running and diving catch by Tapiwa Mufudza. Rocks were all out for 138 in the 49th over, an effort that was quite an achievement after such a poor start.
Donald Tiripano took three wickets for 39 runs, and there were two each for Chatara and Shingirai Masakadza. All bowled well, as did the spinners, but the conditions were so favourable that it was not difficult.
Tinotenda Mawoyo opened the Mountaineers innings with Kudzai Sauramba. They followed an aggressive policy, running up 32 runs in less than seven overs before Sauramba miscued a hit to leg and was caught for 19 off 20 balls. Mawoyo was as usual more circumspect, but he played some impressive cover drives in particular. Hamilton Masakadza also found the covers to be a major scoring area and the pair pierced the field well. As Masakadza settled in, he made the pitch look easy as he dominated the bowling, running to his fifty off 49 balls.
Victory came with 23 overs to spare, with the pitch becoming easier and the weak Southern Rocks bowling being unable to take advantage of whatever assistance was left. Mawoyo played steadily to finish with 33, while Masakadza enjoyed himself to the extent of 83 off 78 balls, with eleven fours and two sixes. Once again fortune had favoured the big battalions and Southern Rocks finished their league fixtures with two defeats, and now had to wait on the other teams’ performances to see if they reach the Pro50 final alone, let alone host it.
Southern Rocks still head the table with 19 points after completing their programme, but Mashonaland Eagles and Mountaineers, both with a match in hand, have 18 and 17 points respectively. If they both win their final matches next week, Southern Rocks will have finished their season, and perhaps their very existence, on a sad note.