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.
Eagles suffered the intervention of rain in their run-chase against Rhinos in the other Pro50 match of the weekend, but it came too late to save Rhinos, with Eagles just managing to complete the 20 overs required to ensure a result. Rhinos had posted 189 earlier, with their top order suffering an uncharacteristic collapse before Roland Benade (67), Nyasha Mayavo (38) and Simon Mugava (31) dug in in the lower order to bring some respectability to the score. Trevor Garwe and Nathan Waller did the damage for Eagles, taking 3 wickets apiece. Eagles openers Cephas Zhuwao (58) and Simbarashe Gupo (30) led Eagles reply, with both falling shortly before the rain intervened - but with the Duckworth-Lewis calculations setting Eagles a target of 61, they were well ahead and easily took the points. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 189/9 (50/50 overs; Benade 67, Garwe 3/24) ,Eagles 102/2 (20/20 overs; Zhuwao 58, Muzhange 1/34). Mashonaland Eagles win by 42 runs (D/L method).
Tuskers eased to an 8-wicket win over the Southern Rocks in the latest round of Pro50 matches, although it wasn't enough to lift them off the bottom of the tournament table. Put into bat, Rocks scored 123 before being bowled out in the 40th over - a performance more akin to the woeful form they've had in the Logan Cup this season, and far short of a competitive total. Tendai Chisoro top-scored with 25, while the wickets were shared around the Tuskers bowlers, with Gavin Ewing's 3/24 being the best of the bunch. Tuskers lost two wickets of their own while chasing down the target, but the result was never really in doubt, with Tuskers securing the points in the 31st over. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rocks 123 (39.2 overs; Chisoro 25, Ewing 3/24), Tuskers 127/2 (30.4 overs; Ewing 49*, Masvaure 1/6). Matabeleland Tuskers win by 8 wickets.
Another match, another loss for Southern Rocks, this time a 7-wicket Pro50 loss to Rhinos. Put into bat, Rocks scored 211, with Richmond Mutambami's 82 forming the backbone of the innings. Robertson Chinyengetere added 30and that was about it as far as notable knocks went. Richard Muzhange and Simon Mugave took three apiece for Rhinos, whose chase of the target was never in doubt - the top three all scoring 50+, including 58 from in-the-doghouse Vusi Sibanda, and 77* from Gary Ballance. Rhinos reached the target in the 43rd over, with just 3 wickets lost. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rocks 211 (48.3 overs; Mutumbami 82, Muzhange 3/30), Rhinos 212/3 (42.2 overs; Ballance 77*, Matanga 2/43). Midwest Rhinos win by 7 wickets.
After going all to pieces in their Logan Cup encounter during the week, Mountaineers didn't manage much better in the Pro50 rematch on Saturday. Mountaineers won the toss and put Eagles in to bat, managing to restrict them to 218 (after having them at 11/4 in the 4th over); Sikandar Raza and Elton Chigumbura top-scored, both with 58, while Tendai Chatara demolished the Eagles top order on the way to taking 5/38. That should have given Mountaineers a decent chance, but a collapse from 56/1 to 58/4 in the 13th & 14th overs killed their momentum. From there, Eagles made steady progress at chipping away at the remaining batsmen, and when rain intervened at the end of the 33rd over, Mountaineers were already sliding to defeat on 133/8. That proved to be the end of play, and when the Duckworth-Lewis calculations were done, Mountaineers were 59 runs short of the revised target of 193. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 218 (49.3/50 overs; Sikandar Raza 58, Chigumbura 58, Chatara 5/38), Mountaineers (33/33 overs; Pettini 33, Jarvis 3/49). Mashonaland Eagles win by 59 runs (D/L method).
They may be in-form in the other forms of the game, but Tuskers' poor run in the Pro50 continued at the weekend with a huge loss to the resurgent Mountaineers. Put into bat after Mountaineers won the toss, Tuskers posted 199 before being bowled out in the 46th over; Terry Duffin and Charles Coventry top-scored, both with 34, but Tendai Chatara's 5/39 with the ball proved key in restricting Tuskers.
Come Mountaineers' innings, Tuskers struck early to remove openers Phil Mustard and Jethro Mawudzi at the end of the 3rd over (on to run-out, the other caught by Coventry off the bowling of Querl), but those were the final wickets to fall: from there, Hamilton Masakadza (64*) and Kevin Kasuza (110* off 91 balls) blitzed their way to an easy Mountaineers win, reaching the target in the 32nd over. Tuskers remain rooted to the bottom of the table, while Mountaineers are now level on 10 points with Southern Rocks. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 197 (45.1 overs; Duffin 34, Coventry 34, Chatara 5/39), Mountaineers 199/2 (31.3 overs; Kasuza 110*, H Masakadza 64*, Querl 1/52). Mountaineers win by 8 wickets.