by John Ward
Mashonaland Eagles v Matabeleland Tuskers
Logan Cup, Day 2, from Harare Sports Club
Close of play: Matabeleland Tuskers (178) v Mashonaland Eagles (472/5).
For several seasons now, Matabeleland Tuskers have generally defeated Mashonaland Eagles heavily in Logan Cup matches. Today, for Mashonaland Eagles, it was payback time. Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva and Elton Chigumbura all scored centuries as the unfortunate Matabeleland Tuskers bowlers toiled in vain, and by the close of play Mashonaland Eagles were 294 runs ahead on the first innings and still had five wickets in hand.
Mashonaland Eagles resumed on their overnight score of 132 for two wickets, with Raza on 84 and Mark Vermeulen on 13. Vermeulen sliced the first ball of the day, from Thabo Mboyi, just above head height between the slips to the boundary. Raza had no problems in reaching his century; quite the reverse, in fact, as he hit three successive boundaries off Steve Chimhamhiwa to reach three figures off only 115 balls. However, he went for 109, slashing a ball from Kevin Kandala hard and low to backward point. He faced 123 balls altogether, and hit 14 fours and two sixes.
The score was now 177 for three, and it took only two more runs for Mashonaland Eagles to secure the first-innings point. Vermeulen played rather a strange innings, sometimes playing his strokes with ease and scoring freely, and sometimes very quiet; he complained later about the softness of the ball. Finally he slashed carelessly at a delivery from Chimhamhiwa and was caught in the gully for 42, scored off 103 balls.
Lunch came with the score at 237 for four, Chakabva on 31 and Chigumbura on 18. The afternoon session saw a feature all too rare in Zimbabwean cricket this season, that of two batsmen patiently accumulating runs with determination and concentration. The batting was steady, the bad balls were hit for four and in between they kept the score moving with well-run ones and twos. The bowlers did their best and there was much good fielding, but the batsmen were totally in control. Tea came twenty minutes early due to bad light, and by that time Mashonaland Eagles were in a very powerful position, with a score of 352 for four, Chakabva on 92 and Chigumbura on 67, the partnership at this stage being worth 148 runs.
Afterwards the pair continued to play the same way, except when Chakabva, on 95, pulled a ball from Chimhamhiwa to deep midwicket, giving the fielder there the easiest chance that is possible in such a position, only for it to go straight down. Later in the over Chakabva took a two and then a four, thus reaching his century off 149 balls. Having reached 104, Chakabva drove a straightforward catch to mid-on and the partnership ended at 175. He faced 152 balls and hit 11 fours.
The second new ball was only taken after 96 overs, with the score at 398 for five. Immediately Chigumbura, on 88, had a similar experience to Chakabva, skying a big hit for which backward point scarcely had to move – and that chance too went down. In both instances the batsmen were so convinced they would be caught that they did not even attempt to run. Three overs later Chigumbura, on 99, miscued a stroke to point, a difficult chance to the fielder, who could not hold it, and the batsmen this time completed the necessary single. Chigumbura took 155 balls over his century.
Kandala, bowling at a brisk medium pace from the city end, made several deliveries lift sharply on the batsmen, which is very bad news for Matabeleland Tuskers when they face their second innings – especially if Brian Vitori bowls from that end. Another large stand took place, with Tino Mutombodzi batting aggressively along with Chigumbura. At about half-past four Godwill Mamhiyo, the Matabeleland Tuskers acting captain, put Thabo Mboyi on to bowl, perhaps in the hope that his pace might save his team from further slaughter in the fading light; if this was the intention, it worked, as the players left the field 25 minutes early.
The score was then 472 for five wickets, with Chigumbura on 120 and Mutombodzi 46. It had been a totally disheartening day for Matabeleland Tuskers, who now face almost certain heavy defeat.