The Eagles had slumped to a mediocre 147-run total in the first innings, leaving them with a deficit of 214 by the close of second day, and the pair rescued them from the jaws of a third-day defeat.
Southern Rocks extended their lead to 339 runs, Mark Vermeulen (64) and Chamunorwa Chibhabha (66) top-scoring for the home side before their innings prematurely crumbled from the middle order to the tail. Fast bowlers have been the most lethal so far in this match in Masvingo; the same apparatus has been used by both teams in a back and forth tussle. Kyle Jarvis and Nathan Waller took three wickets apiece to prevent further damage on a shaken Eagles team and the Rocks were all out for 219.
The pitch conditions are favouring the bowlers and a lead of more than 300 runs could have certainly take the pressure off the bowlers, but having a day and a half to reach the target requires batsmen to exercise extreme caution and patience while looking for runs. The Eagles openers did not survive long enough to put this theory into practice.
Tinashe Panyangara added two more wickets to his name from the three he had already taken in the first innings. He found the edge of Simbarashe Gupo’s bat from the third ball of his first over and then trapped Sikandar Raza lbw in his second over; both batsmen went out for ducks. Taurai Muzarabani was the next seamer to strike, getting Stuart Matsikenyeri lbw for 14 runs with team having just scored 26. At this stage the match was leaning towards a possible Rocks victory by the end of the day.
One of the many turning points in this match will be the potentially match-saving partnership between Chigumbura and Mutizwa for the fourth wicket. They put together 115 runs, which still stands as the best hope that the visitors have in this match. Mutizwa is unbeaten on 70 from 149 balls with 40 of his runs coming from fours. Chigumbura, however, picked up the tempo a little slower than his partner, scoring an unbeaten 53 off 91 balls featuring only four boundaries.
Zimbabwe’s domestic first-class competition has been the prop holding up the return to Test cricket and it is imperative that players within the national team sphere maintain a high standard of performance. For Mash Eagles, the two batsmen have played their role exceptionally well, simultaneously conditioning themselves for the upcoming October/November New Zealand tour of Zimbabwe.