Ray Price celebrates the dismissal of centurion Hamilton Masakadza:
More images below the cut...
Zimbabwe's revamped domestic season finally got underway on Monday, after a three-week delay, with Mash Eagles (formerly Northerns) taking on Mountaineers (formerly Easterns) at Harare Sports Club, with all eyes waiting to see how Eagles' "returning stars" would perform. It was a little disappointing, then, that the home side opted to stick mostly to players familiar from more recent times, with only Ryan Butterworth and Greg Lamb displacing more established players - and it was mostly the familiar faces that went on to make their mark in a game that was dominated by Mountaineers for three of the four innings.
Mountaineers won the toss and put Eagles in to bat, and made an early breakthrough when Samuel Mwakayeni fell with the score on 17. That marked the beginning of a steady stream of wickets for Mountaineers - while several Eagles batsmen got starts, it was only captain Elton Chigumbura (90) and Butterworth (63) that went on to post good scores, with only one other batsman breaking the 30 barrier. Shingirai Masakadza was on form with the ball, taking 3/70, with Prosper Utseya (free of captaincy duties in the domestic game) and Silent Mujaji chipping in with a pair apiece on the way to bowling the home side out for 317.
Where Eagles' batsmen weren't able to push on, though, Mountaineers - with their side packed with batting talent - were able to take full advantage. Tino Mawoyo and Bernard Mlambo provided early fodder for Eagles' bowling, but captain Hamilton Masakdaza's 188 was just one of several good knocks, as as Tatenda Taibu, Timycen Maruma and Stuart Matsikenyeri all posted half-tons. Mountaineers eventually declared on 493/7, with Elton Chigumbura's 2/95 leading Eagles' bowling figures.
Eagles' second innings managed to be worse than the first. Samuel Mwakayeni made amends for his first-innings failure by top-scoring this time out with 76 while Ray Price chipped in down the order with a useful 41, but those were the only innings of note on the way to the side being bowled out for 271 (Natsai Mushangwe taking 3/45). That left Mountaineers needing just 96 for victory, albeit with not much time left to chase it - but when faced with their first real challenge of the match, they choked, and very nearly handed victory to Eagles on a platter. In the 12 overs the side faced before close of play, they lost three wickets to run outs (as Forster Mutizwa, Eagles' keeper for the match, continues to make a name for himself), while Chigumbura and Price took two each to reduce Mountaineers to 45/7 at close. Oh, for a few more overs of play - but as it was, the match ended as a draw, with Mountaineers taking more points out of the match by virtue of their first-innings lead.
Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 317 (108.1 overs; Chigumbura 90, S Masakadza 3/70) & 271 (83.2 overs; Mwakayeni 76, Utseya 3/50)
Mountaineers 493/7 decl (150.5 overs; H Masakadza 188, Chigumbura 2/95) & 45/7 (12 overs; Maruma 17, Price 2/9). Match drawn.