The weather was cloudy throughout the day and there was a strong wind, which grew more unpleasant as the day progressed. The home authorities used the same pitch that had been used for the match against Mashonaland Eagles the previous week, but it still had quite good carry and was quite good for batting, although one end of the pitch gave the bowlers more movement than the other. Unfortunately for Southern Rocks, they failed badly to make proper use of it after deciding to bat. They were without Mark Vermeulen, who has back trouble, while Mid-West Rhinos, who had a bye in the previous round of matches, at last welcomed back Edward Rainsford after his injury sustained in a World Cup warm-up match.
Chinouya, back on what was his home ground last season, bowled with pace and skill for Mid-West Rhinos, and removed both openers in his first spell, to catches at the wicket and second slip respectively. He had the use of the end that helped the bowlers, but during the afternoon when he changed ends he was the only bowler able to make the ball deviate from the straight. When he rested, Neville Madziva also did well from the ‘helpful’ end, and two more wickets were down for 63 at lunch. Chamu Chibhabha, not out on 34, was the only batsman so far to reach double figures.
After the break came the only period of the innings when Southern Rocks held the upper hand, as for nearly two hours Chibhabha and Robertson Chinyengetere held firm as they added 62 together, almost doubling the score. Chibhabha played one of his best innings well, showing good stroke selection, waiting patiently for the bad ball and hitting it very well. Chinyengetere did what he does best, simply hanging in there and providing solid support for his partner. Chinouya finally returned to trap Chibhabha lbw for 74, scored off 152 balls with 11 fours; Southern Rocks were now 125 for five.
Vusi Sibanda temporarily left the field with contact lens trouble, and Roland Benade came on as substitute. He then took two catches in ten minutes, the first a superb one low down at backward point to remove Chinyengetere for 18, and then another at short cover off the new batsman Hilary Matanga. The innings then almost went into freefall, the score slumping to 127 for seven at tea, with the strokeless captain Alister Maregwede hanging on but entirely passive.
After tea Tinashe Panyangara hit a bright 14 before holing out at long-on, while Maregwede was last out, caught low down in the gully, for just 3 runs off 54 balls. It was a sad sight to see this former Test batsman reduced to strokeless immobility, as he has been for most of the last two years. Last season he lost his place in the team, only to return this year as captain, but he will need to regain the confidence to take control when batting in the middle if he is to save his place and his career. Chinouya finished with figures of five for 26, a worthy reward for his efforts, while the off-spinner Simon Mugava had four for 30. The total was 150, a disappointing effort on this pitch.
Mid-West Rhinos also failed to make a good start, as in the sixth over Panyangara knocked out Steve Marillier’s leg stump when he still had not scored; 9 for one. Vusi Sibanda decided to play for the close, while Gary Ballance, fresh from a successful season with Yorkshire, was more adventurous. Both survived to the close, when the score was 41 for one, and Mid-West Rhinos are well placed to take a big lead on the second day, if their batsmen are up to the task.