Mashonaland Eagles

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Tuskers v Eagles Rained Off

Another rain intervention, another no result, as today's MetBank Pro40 match between Matabeleland Tuskers and Mashonaland Eagles became the latest victim of the weather. Play did get started, with Eagles winning the toss and opting to field, but only 12 overs were bowled before the rain began, with the match being abandoned sometime later. Having lost two early wickets - Horton for 0 and Ewing for 9 - I doubt Tuskers would have been complaining too much. Both sides get 2 points from the abandonment, which moves Tuskers into second place ahead of Southern Rocks (who are on a bye this week), while Eagles remain rooted to the bottom of the table - and as they're on a bye during the final round of matches next week, they now have no possibility of reaching the semi-finals and are out of the competition. Scorecard, what there is of it, below the cut.
Tuskers 32/2 (12 overs; Duffin 12*, Keegan 2/12), Eagles did not bat. Match Abandoned.

Tuskers Beat Eagles, Mutizwa Century in Vain

A five wicket haul from lanky fast bowler Christopher Mpofu saw Matabeleland Tuskers romp to a 65 run win over Mashonalad Eagles inside three days in a Castle Logan Cup encounter at Queens Sports Club, despite a superb century from visiting captain Foster Mutizwa. Mpofu picked five for 80 runs including the big wicket of Mutizwa who top scored for his side with 116 runs to deny Mash Eagles what seemed a well deserved first win in the Logan Cup. Fellow seamer Tawanda Mupariwa weighed in with three crucial wickets as Tuskers collected all the points from the match.

With the heavy rains having pounded the pitch on Thursday night, a wet outfield saw the entire morning session being lost as no play was possible. Eagles declared their first innings on 32/1 and Tuskers who scored 339 in their first innings chose to forfeit their second innings, leaving Eagles with a victory target of 308 runs with one and a half days to achieve it.

After the early loss of Cephas Zhuwao, who had his off stump knocked over by Mupariwa, Mutizwa and Prince Masvaure put on 57 runs for the second wicket with some hard knocks. Mpofu broke the stand when he had Masvaure caught behind for 29 but the batsman was convinced that the ball had grazed his arm on the way to Adam Wheater and reluctantly walked off the field. Ryan Butterworth never looked settled and was in the middle for just five minutes before getting a low edge from a Bradley Staddon delivery to be taken at first slip by Paul Horton to depart for a seven ball duck.

Mutizwa continued to dominate the Tuskers bowlers and was strong on the off side, punishing anything on the off stump, dispatching 11 fours on his way to his half century off 77 deliveries. He raced to the 90s in no time but was stuck there for sometime as a rejuvenated Njabulo Ncube peppered him with some unplayable short balls. After facing up to 139 balls and hammering 17 fours, Mutizwa got to the century when he pulled Ncube for four through mid wicket.

None of the bowlers tried out by Tuskers skipper Gavin Ewing had an answer as Mutizwa and continued to flay them all over the park. Mpofu finally got Mutizwa when he had him snared at mid wicket by Ewing. World Cup bound Regis Chakabva got six runs before Mpofu bowled him and Mpofu had another wicket in the same over, getting a leg before wicket decision against Tinotenda Mutombodzi who was out for a two ball duck and suddenly the match swung in favour of Tuskers.

Mupariwa claimed the big of Andrew Hall, the former South African all-rounder getting an edge to Wheater. Mpofu had his five wickets, Chad Keegan edging and taken by Wheater and it was all over soon afterwards when Mupariwa induced Lamb to an edge which was caught by Wheater. Mark Mbofana did not bat after breaking a finger fielding on the first day. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 339 (141.5 overs; Wheater 90, Keegan 3/30) & forfeited innings, Eagles 32/1 dec (15 overs; Masvaure 17*, Mpofu 1/9) & 242 (67.2 overs; Mutizwa 116, Mpofu 5/80). Matabeleland Tuskers win by 65 runs.
[Match report via ZC]

Rhinos Succumb to Eagles

Rain ruined this match at Harare Sports Club, cutting the overs drastically and turning it, indirectly, into an easy win for Mashonaland Eagles. This was largely because Mid-West Rhinos were unable to adjust to the different match conditions and made a serious mess of their innings. It was a good all-round bowling performance by Eagles, and Regis Chakabva (47 not out) led their cruise to victory.

Jupiter Pluvius played games with the cricketers at the start of the match. Eagles won the toss and put Mid-West Rhinos in to bat, but the start was delayed by a shower. When play did begin, only fifteen balls were bowled before the rain returned. During that time the visitors lost the wicket of Gary Ballance, who fenced at and edged a ball from Douglas Hondo to the keeper, for four runs. For the next couple of hours the showers came and went, returning each time play was about to start, and more than two hours were lost before the rain relented. The match was reduced to 25 overs a side, rather too harsh a cut as, even had the match gone the full distance; it would have been over before four o’clock.

Rhinos were quite unable to re-programme themselves to play what was now almost a T20 match. The bowling was tight but the batsmen were too defensive and soon got themselves in trouble through their slow scoring. Taylor hit one six over wide long-on before hitting a catch straight at midwicket for 17 off 19 balls; the previous delivery Vusi Sibanda had gone for 5 off 20 balls. After 13 overs the score was a mere 52 for five. Remembrance Nyathi and Rikki Wessels then shared a useful partnership of 41 in nine overs, with Nyathi (29) the dominant partner before he fell to a fine catch by Prince Masvaure running from long-on. Wessels did not bat well at first and he kept finding the fielders, but in the end he found his timing and raced to 43 not out. He finished the innings with a six over midwicket, which took the total to 120 for seven – but that was hardly competitive, at less than five an over. There were two wickets each for Hondo, Andrew Hall and Raymond Price, with Hall much the most expensive. The bowling had been good, but was helped by poorly judged batting.

The Eagles batsmen were much better prepared mentally for their innings, and were helped by knowing exactly what their none-too-difficult target was. Cephas Zhuwao, the designated suicide pilot, hammered away for 34 off 26 balls (3 fours, 2 sixes) before skying a catch in the sixth over. In the next over Prince Masvaure was superbly caught by Sibanda in the gully and they had to consolidate – but at 42 for two they could afford the time to do so. Regis Chakabva and Forster Mutizwa did so capably, adding 43 until Mutizwa was unfortunately run out, accidentally off the bowler’s hand, for 17. With Greg Lamb as his new partner, Chakabva led the way to victory with 47 not out off 42 balls, and there were still 4.3 overs in hand. Play finished before 3.40, which emphasizes that the regulations concerning interrupted matches like these need amending. At least 30 overs per side could very comfortably have been played. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 120/7 (25/25 overs; Wessels 43*, Price 2/17), Eagles 121/3 (20.3/25 overs; Chakabva 47*, Taylor 1/2). Mashonaland Eagles win by 7 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]

Rhinos and Eagles Reach Stalemate

Disappointingly, the match between Mashonaland Eagles and Mid-West Rhinos at Harare Sports Club fizzled out in a tame draw. Andrew Hall’s fighting century saved the match for his team, and Mid-West Rhinos were unable to bowl out the home side, while the declaration came too late to give either side a reasonable chance of victory. Again Mash Eagles were indebted to their player-coach Hall for getting them off the hook in a tight position.

Overnight the match was in the balance, with Eagles on 192 for seven in their first innings, 225 runs ahead. Rhinos needed a quick breakthrough, but this they did not get. Hall, 89 overnight, simply carried on from where he left off, taking 25 minutes to reach his century, which took him 172 balls. Chad Keegan, his tail-end partner, continued to stick to the basics, playing straight and waiting for the loose ball, and this method stood him in good stead. Even the second new ball made no impression on the batsmen. They had added 137 for the eighth wicket before Keegan finally departed, Vusi Sibanda taking a fine diving return catch in his follow-through. Keegan’s 45 was the highest of the English professional’s career.

By now, with a lead of 290, Eagles were on even terms or better, this partnership having almost turned the game on its head. Raymond Price came in and scored 13 briskly before being caught off a sweep at short fine leg, and then came the declaration, at 274 for nine. Hall remained unbeaten with 127, scored off 211 balls and containing 12 fours, a typical fighting innings that almost certainly saved the match for his team. The best bowler was Ed Rainsford with three for 41 off 18 overs, tight accurate bowling throughout, while Graeme Cremer also took three wickets.

Rhinos now needed 308 to win in 64 overs, well over four runs an over on a pitch that had not really been good for quick scoring, and with a heavy outfield. It was not an enterprising declaration, as only a large and brilliant innings by somebody could have won Rhinos the match, and this would also make it harder for Eagles to bowl them out in the time remaining. It never looked like becoming an interesting finish.

The first ball of the innings, Chad Keegan to Brendan Taylor, kept quite low and the batsman had to jab down on it; this no doubt also convinced the visitors that the target was simply not a practical proposition. The pitch was now too flat to encourage the bowlers, apart from a bit of uneven bounce, so batting practice was the order of the day. Friday Kasteni made 17 off 68 balls before a leading edge brought a catch at backward point off Raymond Price, while Taylor, who has not made too many runs recently, was just happy to play a quiet game and regain his form. Gary Ballance was more inclined to enjoy himself, using his feet against the spin and showing enterprise, while Taylor was caught at square leg for 67. Ballance himself was caught at extra cover for 32, and when play was ended by mutual agreement an hour early, as provided for in the laws, Mid-West Rhinos were 137 for three and the match was further from a result than it had ever looked during the first three days. It was an unfortunate end to a good close match. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 319 (96.1 overs; Mbofana 68, Cremer 3/88) & 274/9d (93.5 overs; Hall 127*, Rainsford 3/41), Rhinos 286/9d (98.4 overs; Ballance 125, Hall 3/43) & 137/3 (49.5 overs; Taylor 67, Price 2/55). Match drawn.
[Match report via ZC]

Mountaineers Edge Eagles

It was another closely fought match between Mashonaland Eagles and Mountaineers, this time in the one-day competition, a match that swung from one side to the other until the penultimate over, when a burst of strokes from Prosper Utseya saw the visitors home with six balls to spare. Nick Compton’s superb century had given Mash Eagles a fine opportunity to make a big score, but the later batting failed and, well though they bowled, they could not halt the determined Mountaineers from recording another win.

Both teams were strengthened by the return of the leading players who had just completed their tour of Bangladesh. Eagles decided to bat on winning the toss in warm, dry, partly cloudy conditions. Tendai Chatara bowled a good opening spell that prevented the big hitter Cephas Zhuwao from taking charge, and soon had him slashing a catch to the keeper for 6.

Eagles’ total of 222, though, was composed almost entirely of the two partnerships that came next, with Compton playing the major part in both. First he added 98 in 19 overs with Simba Gupo, and then 73 in 11 overs with Forster Mutizwa, and while he was there his team looked likely to build a very challenging total. He scored heavily from pulls early in his innings, as some of the bowlers pitched too short, but also played orthodox strokes all round the wicket once the bowlers got the message. The 50 came up in the ninth over and the 100 in the 18th. Gupo batted well for 35 until he was out to a brilliant leaping one-handed batch by Timycen Maruma at long-on. Mutizwa then came in and gave Compton good support in his 29, and at one stage the total was 183 for two in the 33rd over.

At this point Compton (102) swept a catch and the innings went downhill from there, just at the point when they should have been destroying the bowling in the final over. In the last 7.1 overs seven wickets fell for 39 runs, with Shingi Masakadza being the main beneficiary, taking four of them for 32 runs in his five overs. Mountaineers had fought back very well and were no doubt relieved that their target was not nearly as difficult as had looked likely. The slide of the Mash Eagles batting at the end of the innings turned out to be crucial in the result.

Tino Mawoyo and Jonathan Beukes began the Mountaineers innings with great determination, against steadily bowling that gave nothing away, Chad Keegan being the tightest of all. The batsmen had to rely on keeping the scores moving with ones and twos, but they did keep their wickets intact. They were not parted until the 21st over, when Mawoyo, on 43, hit a low return catch to Tino Mutombodzi; the score was now 101 for one. The scoring rate slowly began to climb, and with ten overs to go 75 runs were needed – but with eight wickets still in hand, Greg Smith having gone for 13.

A critical moment occurred when Beukes, on 61, was dropped off a hard low chance to the fielder on the square-leg boundary. Maruma was threatening to take control when he sliced a hard catch into the covers for 25, quickly followed by Mark Vermeulen for 2. But the balance shifted again as Beukes kept accumulating while Shingi Masakadza hit at everything with much success. With three overs in hand, 17 were needed, and for the first time the required rate was below six an over. At this point Beukes, with a fine 86 off 102 balls, hit a return catch to Innocent Chinyoka and the match was wide open again.

Utseya scooped a vital boundary over the keeper, off Douglas Hondo, and then swung another four wide of mid-on, and the 12 required runs were completed from the penultimate over. Mountaineers had won with a final burst and an over to spare, Utseya scoring 11 off five balls and Masakadza 27 off 18. The home side had bowled well and Chinyoka had three wickets to his credit, but the Mountaineers after their good start had just enough power to get home in time. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 222/9 (40 overs; Compton 102, S Masakadza 4/32), Mountaineers 223/5 (39 overs; Beukes 86, Chinyoka 3/39). Mountaineers win by 5 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]

Mountaineers Claim Win Over Eagles

Despite batting collapses in both their innings, Mountaineers held on to claim a win over Mashonaland Eagles in the first of this week's Logan Cup games. Mountaineers opened the match with a below-par 283 in their first innings, composed of Greg Smith's 118 and Mark Vermeulen's 86 and not much else, as the rest of Mountaineers' lineup essentially crumbled. Eagles' bowlers shared the work, with Chad Keegan, Tino Mutombodzi and Prince Masvaure each taking two wickets. In reply, Eagles managed a nice, round 300 runs before themselves being bowled out, Mark Mbofana's 73 led the scoring in a more evenly-shared innings, while Silent Mujaji's 4/71 led the bowling figures for Mountaineers.

That gave Eagles the point for a first-innings lead, but at least at the start of their innings Mountaineers seemed set to finally break loose - the opening pair of Tino Mawoyo (82) and Bernard Mlambo (28) put on 71 for the first wicket, while Jonatahn Beukes added another 52, and at one point Mountaineers were nicely placed at 144/2. From there, though, it was all downhill, as batsman after batsman departed without reaching double figures. Natsai Mushangwe's 17 from 15 balls was as near to "resistance" as the middle and lower order offered on the way to being bowled out for 218, setting Eagles a target of 202 to win - a target that seemed very gettable, based on their first innings performance.

Cricket has a way of surprising, though, and Eagles' second turn with the bat ended up mirroring Mountaineers' in many ways, with just Mark Mbofana (64*) managing a score of any note - Simbarashe Gupo was the next-highest scorer, with just 23 - as Eagles were bundled out for 158, handing Mountaineers a 43-run win that secured their place at the top of the tournament table and added another layer of misery to Eagles' season. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 283 (77.5 overs; Smith 118, Masvaure 2/32) & 218 (62 overs; Mawoyo 82, Mutombodzi 4/35), Eagles 300 (114.5 overs; Mbofana 73, Mujaji 4/71) & 158 (77.1 overs; Mbofana 64*, Chatara 4/21). Mountaineers win by 43 runs.

Compton Secures Win for Eagles

This was rather a disappointing match, spoiled by intermittent rain throughout the day and the poor performance of the Southern Rocks team - but then there were very few spectators to be disappointed anyway. Midweek matches in isolation do this tournament no favours at all. Mashonaland Eagles were on top almost from the start, with brilliant batting from Forster Mutizwa and Nick Compton in particular, while only a magnificent fighting innings from Steve Tikolo saved Southern Rocks from serious degradation.

These two teams are actually at the bottom of the competition table, although Southern Rocks began the match with eight points from two victories, while Eagles had no points from their four matches, all lost. With the weather uncertain, Southern Rocks put Eagles in to bat on winning the toss. Once again they soon dropped a catch, as Cephas Zhuwawo was let off a hard airborne hit at backward point; he was soon celebrating with a six over long-off. Simba Gupo also had a fortunate escape, edging a ball just over slip to the boundary, but at 47 in the eighth over Zhuwao was bowled by Brian Vitori for 17; he had not altogether batted in his usual devastating style, taking 23 balls for his runs.

Gupo, who has not had much success at franchise level, batted well for his innings, especially as it was interrupted several times by brief rain breaks. He made 54 off 67 balls before being out to an overhead catch at midwicket off Robertson Chinyengetere. Then came the match-winning of the innings, between Mutizwa and Compton. Mutizwa batted with wonderful fluency, at one stage hitting Bruce Tembo for two successive sixes, and raced to 62 off 49 balls before sweeping a catch to the fieldsman at deep square leg. Compton's 50 also brought up the 200 in the 36th over, and by the end of the innings he had reached 90 (80 balls), many of the later runs coming with outrageous reverse shots or swings over the wicket-keeper's head. The total reached a very useful 257 for six, with Tafadzwa Kamungozi taking four for 44 with the benefit of wickets in the last few overs when the batsmen were slogging.

Southern Rocks never looked like making a challenge. They lost Steve Marillier, lbw to the first ball of the innings, and three wickets were down for 38 in the seventh over, all to Chad Keegan. This included Sikandar Raza, the man Eagles feared most for his ability to carve the bowling to pieces, the catch taken by the bowler himself after the batsman had skied a ball straight up. The inexperienced Roy Kaia did his best, but was unable to score at any pace, and once again a face-saving operation was needed by Tikolo, coming in far too low in the order at number seven. The two were sharing a useful partnership that had reached 45 when the light drizzle through which play had taken place for some time again worsened and they left the field at 98 for five in the 23rd over.

After the interval, Tikolo showed what might have happened had he batted at, say, number four, as he quietly tore the bowling to pieces, hitting boundaries almost at will, and this finally encouraged Kaia to hit out as well. The partnership finally came to an end for 102 in 15 overs, as Kaia was run out off a no-ball, for a promising 40. Then came more rain - it would have saved trouble to call the match off at this point and let everyone go home, but the laws must be followed, and it was another 20 minutes before the inevitable became official and the match was awarded to Eagles on Duckworth-Lewis. Tikolo the Great finished with 68 not out off 55 balls, and his team 161 for six in the 30th over. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 257/6 (40 overs; Compton 90*, Kamungozi 4/44), Rocks 161/6 (29.2 overs; Tikolo 68*, Keegan 3/21). Mashonaland Eagles win by 36 runs (D/L method).
[Match report via ZC]

Rocks and Eagles Play Out Draw

Another match, another draw, although at least Mashonaland Eagles and Southern Rocks managed to more or less get the full four days' play out of their match in Harare. The match wasn't much to write home about, though, with a handful of good individual performances bein wrapped up in mediocre team scores. Batting first after being put into bat by Rocks, Eagles' woeful form outside the Twenty20 game continued as they were bowled out for 202, with Mike Chinouya and Robertson Chinyengetere each taking three wickets. Forster Mutizwa's 48 from 49 balls was the highlight of Eagles' innings, while several other players got starts but failed to push on. With one point on offer for the first-innings lead, though (the only point the game would provide), Rocks chased well, with fifties from Stuart Matsikenyeri (54) and captain Steve Tikolo (57) proving the difference between the sides as Rocks reached 238 before their own innings ended. Innocent Chinyoka took 4/53 for Eagles.

For most of their second innings, Eagles managed to be even worse than the first - it wasn't until the 7th-wicket pair of Nick Compton (136*) and Trevor Garwe (65) hit the crease that Eagles showed any sign of fight. They went on to add 188 for the 7th wicket, and when Garwe eventually fell Eagles declared on 292/7, setting Rocks a target of 257 to win - difficult with the time that was left to them at that point, but doable. While Stuart Matsikenyeri again led the fight, though, adding 80, three ducks from the top 5 batsmen put paid to Rocks' chances of a successful chase and the match was called off as a draw once the minimum number of overs had been bowled.

That leaves Southern Rocks as the only team to take a point (and just one at that) from this week's round of matches, although that still leaves them propping up the table a point behind Eagles, who are similarly without a win. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 202 (73.3 overs; Mutizwa 48, Chinyengetere 3/15) & 292/7d (84.3 overs; Compton 136*, Chinouya 3/42), Rocks 238 (90.1 overs; Tikolo 57, Chinyoka 4/53) & 137/4 (44 overs; Matsikenyeri 80*, Masvaure 2/17). Match drawn.

Eagles Crowned Stanbic 20 Series Champions

The huge crowd at Harare Sports Club had a thrilling final to applaud, as in a match that swung one way and then the other, with the result in doubt until the final ball. The hero in the end was Andrew Hall, who followed a fine innings with some superb death bowling that proved too much for Rhinos, who at one stage had been cruising to victory. A couple of careless strokes and some panic threw away a good advantage and they were left to rue the fallibilities of mind that cost them the trophy. Commendably the Mashonaland Eagles had a phenomenal return from what seemed to be their second Stanbic Bank 20 series final without any silverware.

Eagles had the good fortune to win the toss and were therefore able to bat first in good conditions. Rhinos started well, having the big-hitting Cephas Zhuwawo very well caught by deep square leg Gary Ballance for 1 in the first over, but then came the crucial partnership of 85 between Nick Compton and Prince Masvaure. They wisely played themselves in and then began to attack; at ten overs the score was 68 for one, about par for the course in this tournament. Shortly afterwards Compton reached his fifty off 43 balls. Masvaure was finally caught off a lofted drive for 32 off 30 balls, a fine effort by a player who has not had much success recently but was still entrusted with the number three position.

This began a minor collapse that swung the balance temporarily in favour of Rhinos. There was some fine catching, and then came the run-out of Compton, which could have proved fatal to Eagles. He had a mix-up with Forster Mutizwa, both batsmen finishing at the same end, and it appeared to be Compton's fault. As he had been batting so well, it would have been a sporting gesture had Mutizwa run through and sacrificed himself for the good of his team, but he declined. Compton departed for 74 off 55 balls (4 fours, 3 sixes), and his team were now in some trouble at 116 for six in the 17th over.

Typically, Hall came to the rescue. He kept the score moving and then, off the final poor over of the innings from Paul Franks - who did at least finish with two dot balls - hit 22 runs, not counting a no-ball. Was this to be the over that cost Rhinos the match? Hall finished with 39 not out off 17 balls. This enabled Eagles to finish with 167 for seven, not an impossible target but one which gave Eagles the advantage, especially considering the tension of a final. Malcolm Waller took two wickets, while Ed Rainsford and Brendan Taylor were the most economical bowlers.

In front of a crowd probably similar in number to the previous season's seven to eight thousand, Rhinos made a confident start. Taylor produced most of the early strokeplay, as usual, until he chipped a fairly simple catch to mid-on and departed for 27 off 16 balls. Gary Ballance continued the job with Sibanda until he was run out for 20 by a good throw from Masvaure; 60 for two after seven overs.

This brought together the two heroes of the semi-final, Sibanda and Vincent, and from the start they looked totally confident of taking their team home to victory. Sibanda in particular appeared to be right back in his best form, batting with class and assurance, making the bowling look easy. After ten overs the score was 90 for two, well ahead of the 68 Eagles had produced at a similar stage. But having looked so good, Sibanda threw his wicket away to a catch on the midwicket boundary for 46, scored off 30 balls. Rhinos were now 122 for three in the 15th over, and the stand had realized 62 in just over seven overs. Little did Rhinos know it, but this was the turning point of the match.

Once again, though, an unnecessary wicket led to a collapse. Solomon Mire was bowled for 3, heaving at a ball from Raymond Price, and then Rikki Wessels ran himself out first ball. With five down, 29 were needed off the last three overs - Hall to bowl two of them; the odds favoured Eagles again. Vincent was now the key man for Rhinos, but he drove a hard low catch to long-off and was gone for 39. However Waller batted superbly in this crisis, leaving seven to win off Hall's final over, with three wickets left. It was just too much, and Rhinos in the end lost by one run a match they should have won. Hall finished with figures of none for 27; only T20 cricket can produce such an anomaly for the bowler who won the match. Waller, with 20 not out off 10 balls, deserved better, but the fault lay further up the order. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 167/7 (20 overs; Compton 74, Waller 2/23), Rhinos 166/6 (20 overs; Sibanda 46, Price 1/22). Mashonaland Eagles win by 1 run.
[Match report via ZC]

Eagles Through to the Finals

It was ironic that, in a T20 tournament, the most exciting match should have been that with the lowest scores. What at one stage appeared to be a virtual walkover for Mash Eagles ended in a cliff-hanger, as both teams batted poorly on a moist pitch.

Matabeleland Tuskers seemed to have thrown it away when they crumbled for 70, but a superb fightback by the Tuskers seamers, in particular Chris Mpofu and Keegan Meth, shattered the Eagles’ batting, and it took a nail-biting last-wicket partnership between Raymond Price and Douglas Hondo to scramble together the last seven runs for victory.

Overnight rain had dampened the pitch and Mash Eagles had good reason to put the Tuskers in to bat; in fact, the pitch always looked difficult to score runs on. The Tuskers, however, brought about their own destruction. Paul Horton hit a boundary and then hit a hard catch straight at cover. Charles Coventry slashed at his first ball and skied a catch to backward point, and the score was 7 for two in the second over. Gavin Ewing couldn’t get going at all and faced ten balls without scoring, before lofting a catch to deep cover. There seemed to be no plan to work the ball around the field to keep the score moving in difficult conditions.

Then followed some inexplicable cricket by the two English professionals, Neil Carter and Adam Wheater, men who should know that T20 cricket allows no time to dig in and graft. Incredibly, after ten overs the score was a mere 32 for three, with these two sharing a stand of 28 in almost eight overs. Wheater was finally run out for 13 off 24 balls, while Carter fell later in the same way for 25 off 33 balls; incredibly he was the fastest scorer of the innings – except for last man Njabulo Ncube, 2 off two balls. The final total of 70 did them little credit. Andrew Hall and Hondo took three cheap wickets apiece but, well as they bowled, they were very flattered.

To give them their due, the Tuskers came out fighting hard with their bowling and fielding, and Mash Eagles likewise seemed to have little idea or plan of how best to score runs; perhaps facing such a small target they did not feel they needed one. In fact, their batsmen had less excuse than the Tuskers, as they were under less pressure to score quickly. In the fifth over Eagles were 11 for four, all to catches from miscued attacking strokes. Mpofu and Meth bowled superbly, but again the batsmen were culpable. Tuskers wisely bowled these two out, and Mpofu should have made a further breakthrough in his final over as Ryan ten Doeschate on 4 edged a catch straight to first slip, and it went down. This was to prove crucial. After the eight overs by the opening bowlers Eagles were 19 for four, and it was now the duty of the other bowlers to continue the good work. Both bowlers took two wickets for only 9 runs.

Tawanda Mupariwa and Ncube both responded well, and four overs later each had taken a wicket, including that of Ryan Butterworth, hero of Eagles’ two previous matches, lbw to Mupariwa for 8. At 36 for six, Eagles themselves were now in trouble. Andrew Hall now marched in, determined to restore sanity. His confidence rubbed off on ten Doeschate, and in no time runs were flowing as normal. Just as Eagles seemed set to win, Ten Doeschate, after another life at slip, fell for 26, and Greg Lamb was brilliantly run out by Ncube; 57 for eight in the 16th over. With seven runs to go came the vital blow, Hall caught at the wicket off Ncube, and the last pair of Price and Hondo came together. Amid great tension the runs all came in singles until Price slashed a ball from Mupariwa over the slips for the winning boundary amid tremendous excitement. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 70 (19.2 overs; Carter 25, Hall 3/12), Eagles 74/9 (18.3 overs; ten Doeschate 26, Mpofu 2/9, Meth 2/9). Mashonaland Eagles win by 1 wicket.
[Match report via ZC]

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