By John Ward
Mashonaland Eagles v Matabeleland Tuskers
Logan Cup, Day 1, from Harare Sports Club, by John Ward
Close of play: Matabeleland Tuskers 178 v Mashonaland Eagles (132/2).
After their undistinguished defeat at the hands of Mashonaland Eagles in the Pro50 match yesterday, the team did not retreat to lick their wounds but came out fighting at the start of the four-day match. The leader of the assault was their left-arm quick bowler, Brian Vitori, who proved far too much for a weakened Matabeleland Tuskers team and took five cheap wickets. By the close Mashonaland Eagles were well in the driving seat, only 46 runs behind the Matabeleland Tuskers total of 178 with eight wickets still in hand.
Mashonaland Eagles won the toss and decided to put Matabeleland Tuskers in to bat, in sunny weather, on a good-looking pitch with a tinge of green. It soon proved to be a good move. Matabeleland Tuskers are without Sean Williams (shoulder injury), and Tawanda Mupariwa and Keith Dabengwa, who were both leaving to take up club contracts in England. Mashonaland Eagles are at full strength, with Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa returning to the team after a long absence through injury. Although recent history has strongly favoured Matabeleland Tuskers in Logan Cup matches, the loss of their three most experienced players left the visitors with only two players who have played more than 30 first-class matches, while Mashonaland Eagles have eight.
The bowlers were on top right from the start. Although still bowling some wayward deliveries, especially down the leg side, Brian Vitori was in fine form and troubled all the batsmen with his pace and sharp movement, especially back in to the right-hander. With his second ball he trapped the makeshift opening batsman Tonny Mupariwa lbw. Nkosana Mpofu, one of the team’s most promising young players, was dropped in the slips off Gumunyu-Manatsa when he had a single, and without adding to it was caught in the slips off Vitori, making the score 3 for two.
Matabeleland Tuskers batsmen were quite unable to master the fierce bowling of Vitori, with Gumunyu-Manatsa and Admire Manyumwa providing good support, and these three alternated throughout the morning session, which did result in a dismal over rate of eleven an hour. Brian Chari fought hard for his 23, while Godwill Mamhiyo, captain for this match, hit an enterprising 23, but the score at lunch was 86 for six, including a considerable number of extras, mostly off the bowling of Vitori, who bowled 11 no-balls.
John Nyumbu, as he has often done this season, came right with the bat when the top order had failed, although by now the seamers were naturally tiring. Thabo Mboyi (3) gave him good support in an eighth-wicket partnership of 78, and with Steve Chimhamhiwa as his partner he reached his second career fifty off 57 balls. He reached 60 off 73 balls before, going for a big leg-side hit, he holed out in the deep.
The last wicket added only two runs before Matabeleland Tuskers were all out on the stroke of tea for 178. After Nyumbu, the next highest score was 23. Vitori, although inconsistent, had bowled many superb deliveries and finished with figures of five for 52, with two wickets going to Manyumwa. It had, generally speaking, been a fine bowling performance and too much for the inexperienced Matabeleland Tuskers batsmen.
Sikandar Raza and Nick Welch looked to make a positive start to the Mashonaland Eagles innings, but with the score on 19 after five overs Welch moved fatally across his stumps to a ball from Chimhamhiwa to play it to leg, and was adjudged lbw. But the steadiness of Tawanda Mupariwa was missed and the Matabeleland Tuskers bowlers underwent some punishment as Raza and Joylord Gumbie attacked so joyfully that 50 was on the board after nine overs.
In a blaze of strokes, most notably the pull and the off-drive, Raza reached his fifty off 48 balls, and nobody was able to keep him quiet. The pair added 73 in 13 overs before Chimhamhiwa, with a cleverly disguised slower ball, had Gumbie driving a catch into the covers for 25; 92 for two.
This caused a dramatic drop in the scoring rate. Mark Vermeulen came out and played like a night-watchman, blocking most balls bowled to him, while for reasons best known to himself Raza went into his shell and runs now came at the rate of about two an over. The close of play came at half-past five, with eight overs still unbowled, due to an abysmal over rate by both teams. Mashonaland Eagles safely reached 132 for two wickets, with Raza on 84 – in his last Logan Cup match he hit an unbeaten double century – and Vermeulen 13.