by John Ward at Mutare Sports Club,
Close of play, Day 1: Mountaineers (308/3) v Southern Rocks.
At the start of this match, Mountaineers needed just one point from their last two matches to make sure they won the Logan Cup for the first time, and, in reality, it was unlikely that the weak and disheartened Southern Rocks team would be able to stop them.
A superb century from Hamilton Masakadza on the opening day went a long way towards achieving this goal, and only three wickets went down all day in a total of 308 runs.
Recent pitches at Mutare Sports Club have favoured bowlers significantly, as prolonged heavy rains have hampered preparations, and the matches against Matabeleland Tuskers last week and the one-day match on yesterday saw the batsmen struggle. So both captains considered it very important on Tuesday to win the toss and put the opposition in to bat first. Southern Rocks were no doubt delighted to win the toss this time, only to find that the pitch for this match was slow, but actually gave little help to the bowlers.
It was important for Southern Rocks to get an early breakthrough, but this did not happen. Mountaineers, suspicious of the pitch, began their innings with extreme caution.
After eight overs, only six runs had been scored and a confident appeal against Kevin Kasuza for a catch at the wicket off the bowling of Luke Jongwe had been rejected. After this, the batsmen realised that the pitch held no terrors and began to get the innings moving. Not long before lunch the first wicket fell, as Kevin Kasuza reached for a ball from Tinashe Panyangara just outside the off stump, and edged it to the keeper: 46 for one.
Tinotenda Mawoyo was looking steady most of the time, again scoring most of his runs through off-side drives, but every now and then he would grope or flash outside the off stump and was fortunate not to get an edge. Lunch came with the score at 64 for one, Hamilton Masakadza having joined the captain.
Just after lunch Masakadza, on 23, drove a delivery from Tafadzwa Kamungozi for six, and attempted another powerful drive off the next ball, but was dropped off a hard low chance to wide mid-on. Southern Rocks were to rue this lapse – difficult as the chance was – for a long time.
Mawoyo brought up his fifty off 127 balls, which also took the total to 100 after three hours’ play. Masakadza also reached the half-century not long after, off 70 balls, after hitting Kamungozi for three successive fours. Mawoyo on 56 edged a ball low between the wicketkeeper and first slip, another difficult but possible chance, and by tea Mountaineers were sitting pretty on 200, with Mawoyo on 82 and Masakadza on 99.
At least Southern Rocks did a little better in the final session. The first ball after the break saw Masakadza take a single to reach his 19th first-class century, off 112 balls. To the second, Mawoyo groped forward and was bowled by Joseph Musorosekwa, his first wicket in first-class cricket in his second match. The partnership had put on 155 runs together for the second wicket.
With a quiet Timycen Maruma joining him, Masakadza mastered the bowling completely, reaching his third fifty off 47 balls with the greatest of ease. It came as a real surprise when, on 156, he drove at a ball from Tendai Chisoro and was bowled. He had faced 178 balls and hit 23 fours and a six. The score was now 281 for three.
Forster Mutizwa, very short on confidence, took 32 balls to get off the mark, and the scoring rate slowed right down. The day finished with a whimper, the last 14 overs since the dismissal of Masakadza bringing only 27 runs, from a team that had lost only three wickets all day. Mountaineers finished on 308 for three, with Maruma on 34 and Mutizwa on 12.
Panyangara once again stood head and shoulders above the other bowlers, taking one wicket so far for only 34 runs off 22 overs; Mountaineers followed the obvious policy of keeping him out while gorging themselves off the innocuous offerings from the other end.