Against the odds, he almost took Southern Rocks to an unexpected victory, but with too little support from the middle order he fell at a crucial stage. Then, when the match appeared as good as over, a spirited innings by Tendai Chisoro and some guts from the last pair led to a remarkable tie.
Southern Rocks were without all three of their frontline seamers, all of whom broke down during that match. Their bowling was to be opened by Robertson Chinyengetere, a useful but part-time seamer, and Bruce Tembo from the second team. Their ordeal was made worse by losing the toss, Mid-West Rhinos deciding to bat on a warm sunny morning on a flat batting pitch.
Had Southern Rocks held all their catches, they may well have been able to contain the Mid-West Rhinos innings within reasonable bounds, even with their threadbare attack; as it was, with several chances going down and a few sloppy pieces of work in the field, they had no chance. The visitors may have been a little overconfident as some of their batsmen did not climb in as they should have done. Steve Marillier fell early, making 20 off 22 balls before clipping a ball straight back to the bowler, Tendai Chisoro. Then Vusi Sibanda, not in his best form, skied a catch to mid-off, which was dropped, although the sun was probably in the fielder’s eyes. Gary Ballance, after playing himself in, went in for some big hitting, and survived a chance on the midwicket boundary. He was eventually run out for 46 thanks to some superb work from Taibu. Sibanda made 47, rarely looking at his best apart from a superb straight six.
The innings really took off when Brendan Taylor (55) and Malcolm Waller were together and added 79 in ten overs. Simon Mugava made a quick 24, but the best innings was undoubtedly that of Waller, who chose his shots well in making an unbeaten 86 off 87 balls, with ten fours and a six. The 300 came up in the final over, the grand total being 305 for eight wickets. Roy Kaia removed Riki Wessels and Remembrance Nyathi cheaply, briefly stemming the flood, but none of the other bowlers had much success.
Roy Kaia began Southern Rocks’ seemingly hopeless run chase with a bang, going for his shots and playing them very well. The 50 went up in the eighth over, most of them to Kaia, but soon afterwards he was out, caught at the wicket off Mike Chinouya, for 31 off 33 balls. Immediately the run rate dropped, and soon Ian Nicolson produced a fast and lethal yorker to remove Chamu Chibhabha for 20.
Then came the partnership between Chinyengetere and Taibu that really got a lively crowd of about a hundred excited. Taibu played the leading role, as expected, playing his shots with panache and running like a hare between wickets. He hit two straight sixes and no bowler could tame him. There were a few fumbles in the field and one possible chance that the fielder apparently picked up late. They kept close to the required run rate of over six an over, and clearly Taibu was the key figure – if he went, there may well be nobody else to take the team home.
The 200 went up in the 35th over, with two wickets in hand. The stand was broken at 166, though, as Nicolson returned to produce another fine yorker that bowled Chinyengetere for 58. At 229 for three, 77 were still needed in 12 overs. Shortly afterwards, in partnership with Richie Mutumbami, Taibu reached his century off 92 balls. The scoring rate slowed, though, as wickets fell at the other end, and when almost nine an over were needed, Taibu hit out in desperation, only to loft a catch to deep midwicket for 106 in the 45th over. He faced 102 balls and hit nine fours and two sixes. It looked like game over for the Rocks.
However, Tendai Chisoro began to find the middle of his bat and kept the excitement going to the last over, though, when Southern Rocks still had 11 runs needed. Edward Rainsford bowled well and Chisoro, after missing the first two deliveries, skied the third for a catch. The last pair were hardly expected to do the job, but an edged boundary helped. Five were needed off the final ball – only for Rainsford to bowl a yorker that shot through the gap between bat and pad, evaded the wicket-keeper and went through for four byes to bring about a remarkable tie.
Nicolson’s two wicket-taking yorkers were vital for Mid-West Rhinos, while Simon Mugava did just as vital a job, his three wickets causing the middle-order collapse that cost Southern Rocks the match.