Only one match today in the Stanbic T20, and while both Matabeleland Tuskers and Desert Vipers had outside chances of reaching the final (dependent on results elsewhere), those chances were taken from them by rain late in the day. Vipers at least got to complete their innings, after winning the toss and opting to bat, and posted 147/4. Raymond van Schoor got the side off to a decent start with 44, while Dwaine Pretorius ended the innings on 48 not-out, but support from others was lacking and the total wasn't as good as it could have been. Not that it mattered - Tuskers only got 17 balls under their belts before the rain drew a line under the day's play, and that was the end of that. Full scorecard below the cut.
Vipers 147/4 (20 overs; Pretorius 48*, Higgins 1/7, Williams 1/7), Tuskers 23/1 (4.1/20 overs; Coventry 15*, Klazinga 0/6). No result - match abandoned (rain).
Day Five of the Stanbic T20, and the first match of the day was a close-fought bottom-of-the-table clash between Midwest Rhinos and Matabeleland Tuskers, with both sides needing to give their campaigns a boost if they were to keep their hopes of reaching the final alive. Tuskers won the toss and opted to field, and soon drew early blood as Rhinos lost Rikki Wessels (8) and Mluleki Nkala (0) early in the innings. Vusi Sibanda once again proved the rock around which Rhinos could base their efforts, though, adding 61, while in the lower order Malcolm Waller (33) and Ollie Rayner (24) both made useful contributions that lifted their side to 152/8 from their 20 overs - a higher total than had looked likely earlier in the morning. Chris Mpofu made the best inroads with the ball, taking 4/17 for Tuskers. The loss of Sean Williams in their first over saw Tuskers off to a wobbly start in their chase, but Gavin Ewing's 40 off 28 balls got things moving in the right direction and, despite the loss of several cheap wickets in the middle order, the side were there or thereabouts throughout their chase. It was the lower order trio of Andy Blignaut (26), Tawanda Mupariwa (19) and Keegan Meth (30*) who finished the chase off, with Meth scoring the winning runs with Tuskers needing 3 runs off the final ball to secure the win. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 152/8 (20 overs; Sibanda 61, Mpofu 4/17), Tuskers 154/8 (20 overs; Ewing 40, Cremer 2/14). Tuskers win by 2 wickets.
Southern Rocks trounced Matabeleland Tuskers in the second match of the day to leave the day to leave the tournament table perfectly poised, as Andy Blignaut's magic failed to strike twice. Rocks won the toss and opted to bat, after rain delayed the start of play (although thankfully not by enough to shorten the match). The side got off to a blistering start, thanks to a 104-run opening partnership between Chamu Chibhabha (82*) and Sikandar Raza (53). Once Raza departed, clean-bowled by Sean Williams (2/16), the wickets began to fall regularly, but by then the heavy lifting had already been done, and Rocks finished on an impressive 166/4. Tuskers' reply got off to a bad start with the loss of Gavin Ewing on the 2nd ball of the innings, while fellow opener Mark Vermeulen soon followed. Sean Williams was the only player to manage a decent innings, scoring 39, and by the time Andy Blignaut departed for just 4, batting at 6th, the writing was on the wall. Tuskers did manage to see out their 20 overs, but finished well behind the target on 123/9. That gave Rocks a 43-run victory, and left all six sides in the competition tied on 2 points each and separated only by net run rate - although with Tuskers having played more matches than any other side and already being anchored to the bottom of the table, their prospects are already looking bleak. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rocks 166/4 (20 overs; Chibhabha 82*, Williams 2/16), Tuskers 123/9 (20 overs; Williams 39, Ireland 3/25). Rocks win by 43 runs.
I'll confess, I haven't been a fan of many of the steady stream of 'rebel' players returning to the Zimbabwe cricket scene, especially those who hadn't played competitively since leaving the side - before most of them appeared, I had big doubts about how many of them could live up to their reputations after so long out of the saddle, and Andy Blignaut certainly slotted into that category. Today, in his first match for Tuskers, he answered his doubters in dramatic style. Tuskers were put into bat after Mountaineers won the toss, and were merely okay until Blignaut arrived at the crease. At that point, the side were on 62/4 with just under 9 overs to face, and looking at a mediocre score. Blignaut and his partner Greg Strydom saw out the innings, though, with Strydom adding 29 from 26 balls, while Blignaut flayed the Mountaineers bowlers to all parts of the ground - and out of it, on several occasions - as he powered his way to 63* off just 32 balls - a rate of almost 2/ball. His fireworks display saw Tuskers to 157/4, and left Mountaineers with a mountain to climb - a mountain they immediately stumbled on, when they lost their openers (the brothers Masakadza) for just 12 on the board. Tatenda Taibu (62) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (35) did their best to rebuild the innings, but they barely managed to keep up with the required run rate, and once their partnership was broken a steady stream of wickets made the result inevitable. Mountaineers finished on 143/8 giving Tuskers a 14-run win and a much needed morale boost. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 157/4 (20 overs; Blignaut 63*, Maruma 1/9), Mountaineers 143/8 (20 overs; Taibu 62, Mpofu 3/18). Tuskers win by 14 runs.
The second match of the day at Harare Sports Club was Mashonaland Eagles versus Matabeleland Tuskers, with Tuskers looking to find the sort of form that has so far evaded them in both longer forms of the game. Eagles won the toss and opted to field, allowing Tuskers to set the pace for the match, but with wickets falling regularly (including four run-outs) they were unable to do so. A decidedly out-of-form Sean Williams topped the scoring with 44 as the side stuttered their way to 118/7 from their 20 overs. Needing 119 to win, Eagles never really seemed to be in trouble, powering their way to the target within 18 overs. Elton Chigumbura lived up to his "Boom Boom" nickname, firing 48 off just 34 balls and ensuring that Eagles eased home with 15 balls to spare. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 118/7 (20 overs; Williams 44*, Chigumbura 2/27), Eagles 121/5 (17.3 overs; Chigumbura 48*, Dabengwa 2/13). Eagles win by 5 wickets.
Matabeleland Tuskers deprived Mashonaland Eagles of their unbeated record in the latest round of Logan Cup matches, although any joy at the win should be tempered by it being over a clearly second-string Eagles side, as coach Chris Silverwood opted to rest his top players with his side already assured of top place in the tournament table and a place in the final. Put into bat after Eagles won the toss, Tuskers set a first-innings total of 425 before declaring with 2 wickets in hand, with Keith Dabengwa leading from the front with 136, and Bornaparte Mujuru (71) and Dion Ebrahim (74) also making significant contributions. Innocent Chinyoka (4/83) was the most effective of an Eagles attack that saw 9 different bowlers have a go.
The Eagles batting was even less effective than the bowling, too. In their first innings, they were bowled out for 264, falling short of the follow-on target and being forced to bat again as a result. Prince Masvaure led the first-innings scoring with 94, while Ryan Butterworth's 102 in the second added at least some respectability to the score as Eagles were bowled out again, this time for an even 300. Chris Mpofu claimed a 5-wicket haul in the second innings to top the bowling figures for Tuskers.
Eagles' capitulation left Tuskers with a fairly easy 140 to chase to win, which they managed for the loss of three wickets. Mujuru again played a key role with the bat, scoring 61 not-out as Tuskers eased home. That ends the 'regular season' for Eagles, who have a bye for the final round of matches but can rest assured that they can't be caught by the sides behind them, while Tuskers go on to play Rocks in a dead rubber that shouldn't affect their final standings. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 425/8 decl (105.2 overs; Dabengwa 136, Chinyoka 4/83) & 142/3 (32.4 overs; Mujuru 61*, Munyede 1/14), Eagles 264 (96.4 overs; Masvaure 94, Nyumbu 3/77) & 300 (following on; 102.3 overs; Butterworth 102, Mpofu 5/75). Tuskers win by 7 wickets.
A draw against Matabeleland Tuskers in Bulawayo saw Mountaineers lose some ground on Eagles in the tournament table. Batting first, Gregory Strydom (54) and Thabo Mboyi (50*) helped Tuskers to 236 in their first innings, after which Tatenda Taibu's 95 led Mountaineers' reply, as the side posted 265 to claim a small first-innings lead. Tawanda Mupariwa took a career-best 6/52. Dion Ebrahim (114) led Tusker's reply, with enough coming from the other players for the side to reach 303/8 before declaring - although the declaration came with the knowledge that Mountaineers had little chance of reaching their target (275) in the time remaining. Sure enough, the clock ran out with the visitors on 104/4, led by Hamilton Masakadza's unbeaten 57. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 236 (77.5 overs; Strydom 54, Maruma 3/31) & 303/8 decl (88.4 overs; Ebrahim 114, Utseya 4/70), Mountaineers 265 (92.3 overs; Taibu 95, Mpofu 3/67) & 104/4 (31 overs; H Masakadza 57*, Meth 3/26). Match drawn.
The Tuskers senior team may be having a shocker of a season, but with a healthy surplus of top-name players on their roster, the franchise's 'B' side made short work of Rhinos 'B' at Bulawayo Athletic Club last week, winnings by an innings and 66 runs. Tuskers won the toss and opted to field, and Rhinos - anchored by George Banda (72) and Duncan Robertson (64) - managed to post 231 in their first innings. Godwin Mamhiyo took 3/33 to lead the bowling figures for Tuskers.
In their first innings, though, Tuskers were clearly in command. Bolstered by former national players Terrence Duffin (91) and Mark Vermeulen (81), the side posted 393/9 before declaring, with three other players passing the 50 mark along the way. That left Rhinos chasing 162 just to make Rhinos bat again - but a woeful second innings that saw them add just 96 to their total saw victory handed to the home side, Godwin Mamhiyo again leading the bowling with 5/34. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 231 (72 overs; Banda 72, Mamhiyo 3/33) & 96 (32 overs; Banda 13, Mamhiyo 5/34), Tuskers 393/9 decl (74.5 overs; Duffin 91, Banda 3/23). Tuskers 'B' win by an innings and 66 runs.
Tuskers got off to a flier in their match against Rhinos, thanks to an impressive 158 by Keith Dabengwa, but failed to make the most of their early advantage, eventually falling to a convincing 8-wicket loss against Rhinos. Batting first after winning the toss, Tuskers suffered an early blow when #2 batsman Gavin Ewing was forced to retire hurt early in the match (he was able to return later), but with Dabengwa on form the side were looking good on 293/5 when he finally struck out, bowled by Ed Rainsford (2/43). Keegan Meth's 66 towards the end of the innings also helped propel the side to 337, when Tuskers declared, clearly feeling they had enough on the board to mount a good challenge. Rhinos were quick to dispel any such notion, though - while the home side suffered a lower-order collapse, the last six wickets falling for 73 runs, the good work had already been done by the top, with Vusi Sibanda (131) continuing his amazing series with another ton, and Brendan Taylor (104) also passing the century mark - the pair added 160 for the 4th wicket, and that was enough to give Rhinos the upper hand.
They didn't waste the opportunity, either, going on to bowl out Tuskers for 240 in their second innings and leaving themselves a target of 170 to win when their turn to bat came around again. Once again it was Sibanda that led the charge, adding an unbeaten 77, with Mluleki Nkala contributing 54 as Rhinos reached their target for the loss of just 2 wickets. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 337/8 decl (101.4 overs; Dabengwa 158, Cremer 4/133) & 240 (88.5 overs; Ebrahim 77, Muzarabani 3/29), Rhinos 408 (129.2 overs; Sibanda 131, Taylor 104, Meth 5/26) & 172/2 (32 overs; Nkala 54, Nyumbu 1/23). Rhinos win by 8 wickets.
Andy Blignaut has been training with the Matabeleland Tuskers with a view to playing for the side, according to the Sunday News, although he'll have to prove his fitness before being selected for the team. Vumindaba Moyo, Tuskers' convenor, confirmed the news:
"We are currently assessing Andy Blignaut. He is certainly not going to walk into the team."
Assuming he's up to form, Blignaut would be a real asset to a struggling Tuskers side, although he seems unlikely to appear for them before the MetBank T20 competition gets under way in March.
Sunday News - Blignaut in bid to resuscitate career