LOGAN CUP MATCH: MASHONALAND EAGLES VERSUS MATABELELAND TUSKERS
Day One at Harare Sports Club, Tuesday 29 January 2013 Close of Play: Matabeleland Tuskers (268) vs Mashonaland Eagles (14/2)
Hosts Mashonaland Eagles will resume their first innings 251 runs behind and with eight wickets in hand, in their Logan Cup match against Matabeleland Tuskers, at the Harare Sports Club.
Eagles won the toss on day one and sent Tuskers in to bat. The visitors were dismissed for 268 runs, with Sean Williams celebrating his call-up to the Test squad for the tour to West Indies with a half-century. He eventually perished on 69, crafted from 95 balls with seven of them fours, when Forster Mutizwa caught him off the bowling of Raymond Price.
Also adding to the Tuskers cause were Bilal Shafayat with 51 runs, Glen Querl 49 and Keegan Meth 30.
Price accounted for three of these top scorers, on his way to finishing with figures of four for 62 in 19.2 overs.
Shafayat fell to Mutombodzi who finished with two wickets, as did Prosper Utseya. The other two Tuskers wickets fell to Innocent Chinyoka and Nathan Waller.
At stumps, Eagles were on 17 for two. Keith Kondo was the first to go, when he was bowled by Querl two balls into the second over, before he could trouble the scorers. Fellow opener Cephas Zhuwao (14) then followed in the third over after he was caught by Querl off Meth.
Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe’s top attacking leg-spin bowler, is back in action again after another period of several months out of the game due to his troublesome knee. He played his first Logan Cup match of the season this past week, and took seven wickets, including five for 64 in the second innings. He spun and flighted the ball in fine form, although it must be admitted the batting opposing him was quite feeble.
“I’ve been happy with the way I have started, especially after coming back and not having bowled much for more than two months,” Graeme says. “The wicket got harder to bat on and [the ball] started spinning a bit more [in the second innings]. We built pressure from both ends, I thought, and I was lucky enough to get five.”
Which wicket gave Graeme the most pleasure? “Probably Prosper [Utseya],” he replies. “It looked like he was going to stick around for a while and drag the game on a bit, so it was nice to get him out. He was looking to play the ball through the off side, so I was trying to bowl further down leg so he would play across [the line] a bit into the leg side, and he did, and got a leading edge to extra [cover].”
Graeme’s long-standing knee problems have become quite well known. “I had a knee op about a year and a half ago,” he says, “and I was out for about seven or eight months with a big operation. It started getting better, but then it just got worse. Maybe I came back a bit too early and my knee wasn’t strong enough to handle all the cricket we were playing at that time.
“So I went in again and had another op. I did a lot of rehab in the last two months to get it strong enough to play again. I think it is strong enough now; I feel comfortable, a bit of pain, but hopefully that is nothing serious.” Hopefully it will see him through the tour of West Indies without any problems. “Hopefully! I would like it to get even stronger leading up to that tour, and hopefully get a lot of overs in and be ready for that.”
Graeme made his debut for Zimbabwe back in 2004/05 at the age of 18, at the time of the player rebellion. He was obviously very raw then, so how has his bowling developed since that time? “I think it’s more experience,” he says. “I know now what I am doing wrong if I am not bowling well; I don’t really need a coach there to tell me.”
And any new varieties in his bowling? “Not really. I think I have just become smarter in reading the batsman and working batsmen out, and that obviously comes from experience. My leg-spin is coming out fine, I think, and that has always taken lots of wickets for me. My googly has always been a big wicket-taker for me.”
No sliders or zooters or any other modern variation? “I do bowl a slider, but it’s quite hard on these pitches, because the ball doesn’t skid as much. It would be more effective on grassier wickets, maybe.” Is there any particular ground anywhere that he feels is ideal for his bowling? “Definitely in India. Asia is always a place where the ball skids as well as it turns. It’s always nice to go and bowl there, but when you do bowl there you are bowling at good players who have handled spin all their lives.”
He found runs painfully difficult to get in those days, especially at international level, where he had a batting average of below three then. But his batting has steadily improved, and he is now virtually an all-rounder, batting at number six for Mid-West Rhinos and often making consistent scores.
“I think it has [improved] a lot. There are coaches around like Grant [Flower] have helped me, and also that experience of what to do in certain situations. I think I am batting well enough and the time will come when I will score big runs.” His most productive stroke, he thinks, is probably the cut. “All round I think I have developed quite a bit.”
Does Graeme have any specific personal ambitions or targets? “In the short term I would like to go to West Indies and play all three forms of the game. Those wickets have helped me before and I have done well there before, so I will go there confident and hopefully have a good series and a good year.”
What about 100 Test wickets? “Yes, I would like to get as many as I can. I don’t really set myself targets like 100 wickets or anything like that. I think if I am bowling at my best those things will take care of themselves. I just make sure my game is in check before each series and each game.”
Despite his injury, Graeme was included in the squad to tour West Indies next month, and after a good start on his return he is very likely to be chosen – for the Test matches, at least. In the one-day matches Zimbabwe have two very good containing spin bowlers in Raymond Price and Prosper Utseya, and with a good line-up of pacemen nowadays will probably not be looking to play a third, unless the wicket and conditions are favourable for spin. But when it comes to bowling attacking spin, Graeme has no equal, and we wish him success and continued fitness.
LOGAN CUP MATCH: MID-WEST RHINOS v MASHONALAND EAGLES
Day 3 at Kwekwe Sports Club, 24 January 2013 Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (166 and 170) lost to Mid-West Rhinos (279 and 58/1) by nine wickets.
Less than an hour into the afternoon session of the third day, Mid-West Rhinos won by nine wickets their Logan Cup match against a Mashonaland Eagles team that they dominated throughout.
Set a target of 58 runs, Vusimuzi Sibanda and Mark Vermeulen took Rhinos home in a hurry.
The rest of the Mashonaland Eagles second innings was as colourless and devoid of real confidence as it has been all season in the Logan Cup. The general pattern was for the batsmen to come in, play passively and without flair or ambition for a while, reach double figures and then eventually get out to a rather soft dismissal.
This is especially disappointing in the case of a batsman with the talent and natural flair of Sikandar Raza Butt, the first man out this morning after his team resumed on their overnight total of 84 for four. He made a forgettable 15 off 48 balls before he drove a ball from Graeme Cremer to short extra cover, and Mashonaland Eagles were 97 for five.
Another wicket did not fall until the arrears had been wiped out – the captain Stuart Matsikenyeri being the next to go after spending nearly two hours over his 18 runs off 69 balls. He was bowled by a superb ball from Edward Rainsford that came back and clipped the off bail. It was the ball after Rainsford had been enraged when a close leg-before-wicket appeal had been rejected.
Matsikenyeri is another with the talent to do great things, but it is a talent which, sadly, has been in abeyance for most of this season.
The last few batsmen did show some positive intent, especially Nathan Waller, who was second top scorer with 28 off 30 balls. Of the others, only Chamunorwa Chibhabha had reached 20. The passive batting and shattered confidence of the top order is the main reason for his team’s dismal Logan Cup record this season. Cremer, wheeling away from the north end of the ground for most of the innings, took five for 64, always attacking and willing to concede runs to get a wicket – but the visiting batsmen did not challenge him much. Richard Muzhange finished off the innings for 170 on the stroke of lunch, taking the last three wickets in six balls.
Perhaps remembering how Mountaineers earlier in the season were all out for 26 when needing only 64 to beat Southern Rocks, Mid-West Rhinos were wary at the start of their innings.
They had 17 on the board when Innocent Chinyoka brought a ball back in enough to win an lbw decision against Jaik Mickleburgh (8). Mark Vermeulen was uninhibited, hammering Nathan Waller for two fours and a two off successive deliveries, while Sibanda responded by swinging a delivery from Prosper Utseya over the midwicket boundary. He then finished the match in a hurry, scoring the final 13 runs off five balls from Tinotenda Mutombodzi.
It was a fine victory by Mid-West Rhinos, but another unimpressive defeat for Mashonaland Eagles, who have now lost all five of their Logan Cup matches and seem to expect no better.
For Mid-West Rhinos, it is also fortuitous, in that Matabeleland Tuskers, at the head of the Logan Cup table, had their match against Southern Rocks rained off so Rhinos are now only six points behind them on the table.
Both teams have three matches to play: Matabeleland Tuskers are in pole position, but Mid-West Rhinos are well placed to take advantage if the Bulawayo team should slip up – or have their match washed out again.
In truth, Mid-West Rhinos do not appear to have the depth in their team this season to be Logan Cup champions, but strange things can happen.