An hour after the start, with Mashonaland Eagles reeling on 34 for five, this match looked likely to be a brief, one-sided contest. It was indeed one-sided – but in favour of the side that had begun so badly. The difference was made by Elton Chigumbura, who scored a fine, disciplined rather than devastating century and totally turned the game around for his team. With Vusi Sibanda and Gary Ballance failing, the limited Midwest Rhinos' batting slithered weakly to defeat, giving the home side the Coca-Cola Pro50 trophy, which they deserved after dominating the league competition. Again Zimbabwe's three franchise cricketing tournaments have been won by three different winners during a season.
Eagles had home advantage for this final, as they had won six of their eight league matches against five by Rhinos, and were four points ahead. Rhinos won the toss, usually a great advantage on the Harare Sports Club ground which traditionally helps the seamers in the first hour, and predictably put the opposition in to bat. They had more reason than usual to hope for assistance from the pitch early on, as there had been much rain during the week and another downpour overnight. There was some movement in the early overs, but for a while Edward Rainsford and Mike Chinouya suffered some frustration. Eagles took the positive step of sending in their two main attacking batsmen, Sikandar Raza and Cephas Zhuwao, to open the batting, rather than saving them for later when the pitch was easier. This seemed to be paying off as they put on 31 in eight overs, although both were beaten at times.
Then Raza (20) fatally shouldered arms to a ball from Rainsford that came back in and knocked out his off stump. This started what has this season been a typical collapse as in the course of three overs the score slumped to 34 for five, with the loss in quick succession of Forster Mutizwa (0), Zhuwao (11), Tino Mutombodzi (0) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (0). It looked like curtains for Eagles, unless something very special happened – and it did.
The rest of the innings revolved around Chigumbura. First he found a good partner in Regis Chakabva (20), who helped him add 58 to steady the innings. Nathan Waller hit an aggressive 26 off 24 balls, including two sixes in an over from Graeme Cremer, but when Raymond Price went for 4, the score was 129 for eight in the 32nd over.
Then came the partnership that was to turn the match. With only Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa, of negligible batting skill, to come, Innocent Chinyoka hung in and played a fine supporting innings. They were to add 91 in an unbroken partnership that took Eagles to an unexpected total of 220 for eight. Chinyoka provided solid support and a few very good strokes while Chigumbura took charge. He never totally dominated the match as he can do, but played with excellent shot selection and judgment, with very few false strokes. He hit just nine fours in what was actually his first century in 220 official (List A) one-day matches. His century came off 112 balls in the penultimate over of the innings, and he finished with 104 not out.
Apart from a few brief lapses, Rhinos continued to bowl well to the end. Despite a poor and expensive start to his second spell, Rainsford finished with three for 35, while there were two wickets each for Chinouya and Richard Muzhange. There was some brilliant fielding at times, although a few lapses crept in towards the end of the innings.
Eagles quickly took charge when Rhinos batted. Vusi Sibanda lifted a firm return catch to Gumunyu-Manatsa off the second ball he faced, while Steve Marillier hit a six over square leg and was then lbw playing across a ball from Chinyoka. Two wickets were down for six runs and it was clear that the destiny of this match in all probability depended on whether Gary Ballance could, under this pressure, play yet another major innings in his very dominant season. Very cautious, Ballance took 12 balls to get off the mark and continued to play with care. But, off his 18th ball and with only four runs to his account, he suddenly snapped, flashed at a wide ball outside the off stump from Chinyoka, and edged to the keeper. 19 for three and game over – or as good as. Unless a near-miracle were to occur, with all due respect to Malcolm Waller, Rhinos do not have the depth in batting to recover from such a situation as this. They have no Chigumbura down the order to work wonders.
Knowing the match was lost, the rest of the top order had little fight to offer. Waller made 10 and Roly Benade showed some spirit to make 20. The Mashonaland juggernaut rolled on, halted temporarily by some good hitting from Cremer (47) and Rainsford (38) after seven wickets had fallen for 60 and Mashonaland Eagles knew they had the trophy in the bag. Chigumbura had the best figures of three for 27, although he bowled too many short balls. The match was over with almost eight overs to spare, and Mid-West Rhinos remain the only franchise which has yet to win a trophy. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 220/8 (50 overs; Chigumbura 104*, Rainsford 3/56), Rhinos 157 (42.1 overs; Cremer 47, Chigumbura 3/27). Mashonaland Eagles win by 63 runs.
[Match report via ZC]
Southern Rocks may be an embarassment in the 4-day game, but their one-day season hasn't been quite so bad - their win over Mountaineers in the final round sees them finish a respectable 3rd in the table (let's hear it for mid-table mediocrity), while leaving the usually-mighty Mountaineers languishing in last place. See the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 134 (29.4 overs; Maruma 72, Matanga 2/13), Rocks 135/9 (38.1 overs; Chibhabha 39, Mushangwe 4/41). Southern Rocks win by 1 wicket.
Midwest Rhinos secured their place in the Pro50 final (to face Eagles) with a 3-wicket win over Tuskers on Saturday. See the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 81 (21.1 overs; Dabengwa 24, Chinouya 5/35), Rhinos 82/7 (24.5 overs; Ballance 22, Ncube 5/35). Midwest Rhinos win by 3 wickets.
A dismal innings by Eagles made life easier for Tuskers in this match than it should have been - although Tuskers had their own batting woes to deal with. See the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 144 (46.2 overs; Garwe 40, Ewing 3/8), Tuskers 145/5 (37.3 overs; Chari 47*, Chinyoka 2/42). Matabeleland Tuskers win by 5 wickets.
A Mountaineers lower-order collapse ensured victory for Rhinos in their match against Mountaineers. Being a wee bit behind on my updates, I'm going to cheat a little and point you to the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 313/5 (50 overs; Ballance 120, Mujaji 2/51), Mountaineers 260 (44.2 overs; Pettini 71, Muzhange 4/55). Midwest Rhinos win by 53 runs.
Southern Rocks finally got a number in a column other than 'L', with a draw in their rain-affected match against Mountaineers - although it was purely the rain that prevented another thumping loss. For more, see the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 412/9d (155 overs; Maruma 143, Tiripano 102*, Matanga 3/52), Rocks 145 (51.5 overs; Chinyengetere 28*, Tiripano 3/13) & 114/6 (f/o; 62 overs; Masvaure 20, Chatara 3/16). Match drawn.
Rhinos deflated Tuskers championship win a little with a convincing win in the final round of Logan Cup matched last week. Being a wee bit behind on my updates, I'm going to cheat a little and point you to the Cricinfo match report. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 116 (53.4 overs; Ballance 39, Staddon 4/18) & 296 (104.4 overs; Ballance 62, Ncube 3/62), Tuskers 115 (43.2 overs; Trenchard 41, Muzhange 5/30) & 143 (53.3 overs; Horton 38, Mugava 6/41). Midwest Rhinos win by 154 runs.
New Zealand became only the 3rd team to win a T20 International chasing 200+, and in the process dashed Zimbabwe's chances of salvaging a consolation win from their disastrous Kiwi tour. Batting first, Zimbabwe has reached an impressive 200/2, with Brendan Taylor (75* off 43 balls) and Hamilton Masakadza (62 off 42) both claiming fifties - by far the most impressive batting performance of the tour, and a score that in most T20 matches would have been enough to secure victory. But New Zealand have been dominant all tour, and weren't about to lie down - especially when they'd already proven in the preceding matches that they had the mark of the Zimbabwean bowlers.
To their credit, they kept the Kiwi run rate to around the required rate for the full innings, and took their chances when they came - a remarkable direct-hit throw from the boundary saw Keegan Meth claim James Franklin's scalp by runout after he'd top-scored for NZ with 60 (from 37 balls); Elton Chigumbura struck on his first ball to remove Nicol while also taking the scalp of former Zimbabwean Colin de Grandhomme (who also found himself on the receiving end of some "comments" from a chatty Ray Price; and Kyle Jarvis took 2 wicketes in 2 balls in the penultimate over to put some late pressure on the home side. But Taylor's tactic of changing bowlers almost ever over never seemed to gain much in the way of results - and handing the ball to Shingi Masakadza in the final over with NZ requiring 14 to win when Shingi had only bowled 1 other over in the match (which went for 16) seemed risky. Sure enough, two fours and a six later the match was over, and Zimbabwe were left to rue how close it had been. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 200/2 (20 overs; Taylor 75*, Hira 1/31), New Zealand 202/5 (19.4 overs; Franklin 60, Chigumbura 2/23). New Zealand win by 5 wickets.
Zimbabwe are still without a win on this tour, and still facing an inquiry into their performances when they get back home, but the first T20 international against New Zealand finally saw some fight - at least from Hamilton Masakadza (53 from 36 balls) and Elton Chigumbura (48 from 24 balls), who helped see their side to a halfway-respectable 159/8 from their 20 overs. It wasn't enough, unfortunately, as the usual bowling woes that this series has seen allowed New Zealand to chase the target with time to spare - with Guptill (91* off 54 balls) carrying his bat for the innings, no Zimbabwean bowler went for less that 8.5/over, and Jarvis - the only wicket-taker - went for over 10/over. Hardly impressive, but credit for there finally being some promising signs. Full scorecard below the cut.
Zimbabwe 159/8 (20 overs; H Masakadza 53, Bates 3/31), New Zealand 160/3 (16.5 overs; Guptill 91*, Jarvis 2/32. New Zealand win by 7 wickets.