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]
After the thrills of the low-scoring semi-final in the morning, the afternoon brought a less exciting match for the second finalist, but one much more spectacular in the way of strokeplay. Brilliant batting by Vusi Sibanda and Lou Vincent in a third-wicket partnership of 139 runs took Mid-West Rhinos into the final against Mash Eagles with ease, leaving Southern Rocks to play Matabeleland Tuskers for third place the following morning.
Southern Rocks won the toss and took the usual course of batting; the sun was out and the conditions had dried since the drama of the morning’s match. Sikander Raza again gave the Rocks a cracking start, although for a briefer time than usual; with 13 off 11 balls, including three fours, he sent up a skyer to mid-on. Tatenda Taibu came in next, rather than Elton Chigumbura, and the rest of the innings was the story of his batting, with a series of partners who generally did not last long.
Southern Rocks now have a batting order full of star-studded names, all internationals apart from Sikander Raza, who has been the most consistent and spectacular of all this tournament. But in this innings none of them lasted long with Taibu until Steve Tikolo came in, and immediately launched into some brilliant strokes. Rarely has he played like this in a T20 match, as he raced to 27 off 13 balls before being run out. Taibu was out for 57, caught in the deep in the final over, off 51 balls. The final total was 151 for eight, an average score in this tournament, but less than Rocks’ potential or many past performances. There was a feeling it might not be enough, with their limited bowling attack – as long as the Rhinos kept their nerve. Of the Mid-West Rhinos bowling, Brendan Taylor’s two for 17 off his four overs was most effective.
Mid-West Rhinos did not make a good start, and before the end of the third over they had lost both openers for 13 runs. Gary Ballance (1)fell to a brilliant reflex catch by Chris Harris in the gully, while Taylor was caught by the keeper off a fine glance down the leg side for 7. Sibanda, who has had little luck recently, settled in with Vincent and the two set about the recovery. At first they batted cautiously, apart from a pull for six by Sibanda almost immediately he came in, and with a total of 53 for two at the ten-over mark the required run rate was almost exactly ten an over; if they lost a couple of wickets, they would be in trouble.
But the gamble paid off, and they now began to attack the bowling brilliantly. Sibanda took the lead, reaching his fifty off 39 balls and clearing the boundary with ease at times. Vincent took 44 balls for his fifty, but then sailed past Sibanda in the fifties and hit a gigantic six high over the media centre. Sibanda almost equalled this by hitting another delivery on to the roof of the building at the city end of the ground, and so dominant were the batsmen that Mid-West Rhinos raced to victory with nine balls in hand. 92 runs came off the last 7½ overs; Sibanda finished with 60 off 44 balls and Vincent 75 off 55. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rocks 151/8 (20 overs; Taibu 57, Taylor 2/17), Rhinos 152/2 (18.3 overs; Vincent 75*, Chinouya 1/26). Midwest Rhinos win by 8 wickets
[Match report via ZC]
In a remarkable match, Mid-West Rhinos climbed out of the grave and won a place in the finals at the expense of Mountaineers when they narrowly beat Matabeleland Tuskers in a rain-affected match. The Bulawayo team looked certain to win after a disappointing batting performance by the Rhinos, but the rain came at the wrong time for them. It appeared the over-confidence brought about their downfall, as some careless strokes cost vital wickets, Graeme Cremer took full advantage with four vital wickets, and the Tuskers’ batting collapsed in dismal fashion.
Mid-West Rhinos as usual batted on winning the toss, and Brendan Taylor got them off to a dynamic start. He scored most of the runs and when his partner, Gary Ballance (8), was bowled by a slow yorker from Chris Mpofu after five overs, the score was 39 for one. Vusi Sibanda’s bad luck continued, as he was run out for 3, but soon afterwards Taylor reached his fifty off 33 balls. Lou Vincent swung two successive deliveries from John Nyumbu for six, but the wily off-spinner immediately had his revenge, trapping him lbw next ball.
This began a steady slide of wickets that never stopped. Taylor was out for 61 off 45 balls, bowled swinging across the line to the medium-pace of Brad Staddon, and none of the other batsmen reached 20. It was a disappointing batting display, and Staddon finished with the remarkable but rather flattering figures of four for 17. Rhinos were dismissed for 148 with a ball in hand, giving Tuskers an excellent chance of becoming only the second team in this tournament to chase a target successfully.
Ed Rainsford quickly struck back with the ball for the Rhinos, trapping Neil Carter lbw in the first over of the Tuskers’ innings. He almost had Charles Coventry caught from a miscued pull, but the ball fell between the fielders, and Coventry then set about demolishing the attack. Paul Horton wisely played his usual steady game and made sure his aggressive partner had most of the strike. Soon, though, a light rain began falling and the light worsened; eventually, after 5.2 overs with the score at 43 for one, the players gave up the unequal struggle and left the field.
After nearly an hour’s break, the rain finally stopped and the players took the field again, the new target being 110 in 14 overs. Coventry promptly hit two fours and a six off the four remaining balls of Rainsford’s over, but then degenerated into slogging and was caught in the deep off Paul Franks for 41 off 26 balls. Then came another blow, as Paul Horton was run out attempting a second run, and the score was now 62 for three. Stephen Trenchard was lbw, and after ten overs the score was 78 for four; another 32 needed off four overs.
Then Cremer stepped in, dismissing Keith Dabengwa and Keegan Meth with successive deliveries; 83 for six. A single later Brad Staddon was run out, and suddenly the match had swung completely and the Rhinos were favourites to win. Adam Wheater was the Tuskers’ only specialist batsman left, and when he holed out on the midwicket boundary with the score on 92, they were as good as dead. The tail collapsed like a pack of cards and Rhinos were back from the dead, Cremer taking four wickets for 17 runs. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 148 (19.5/20 overs; Taylor 61, Staddon 4/17), Tuskers 94 (13.2/14 overs; target 110; Coventry 41, Cremer 4/17). Midwest Rhinos win by 15 runs (D/L method).
[Match report via ZC]
For the second successive match, Ryan Butterworth was the hero. In the closest match of the tournament to date he came to the crease when Mash Eagles had their backs to the ball, and hammered a magnificent unbeaten 52 off just 20 balls (six sixes) to take his team to victory over Mid-West Rhinos with an over to spare. The balance of the match had swung throughout the afternoon, but it was sealed in the end by this superb innings in a crisis.
Mid-West Rhinos won the toss and, as is now usual, decided to bat. For a long time their innings seemed to be going nowhere. Andrew Hall bowled a fine opening spell, removing Lou Vincent in his first over, and wickets fell at regular intervals. The only one of the top order to show much batting form was Brendan Taylor, and he was largely culpable in the run-out of Gary Ballance, whose call for a quick but reasonable single he rejected. At the ten-over mark the score was only 69 for four, but then Taylor speeded up and had made 55 off 37 balls when he himself was run out. This left Rhinos 108 for five after 14 overs.
The Rhinos do bat deep, though. Malcolm Waller played well for 22 in support of Taylor , but the real boost came in an unbroken seventh-wicket partnership of 51 in four overs between Riki Wessels and Paul Franks. Wessels in particular was dynamic, hammering an unbeaten 33 off 15 balls and finishing the innings with a four and two sixes off the last three balls. Considering their start, the final total of 174 for six was much better than they would have expected. Hall was the best bowler, with three for 32.
Cephas Zhuwawo began the run-chase for Mash Eagles with a bang, hammering a four and two sixes in Ed Rainsford’s opening over, but he skied a catch to third man in the next over. Wickets continued to fall, including that of Andrew Hall (1), who dragged the ball on to his stumps trying to pull a short one from Ian Nicolson. From 26 for three, though, Nick Compton and Regis Chakabva dragged the Eagles back on track with a fighting partnership. After ten overs the score was 83 for three, back on track.
Moments later Compton reached his fifty, off only 31 balls, and was then caught on the extra-cover boundary, and Chakabva soon followed for 23, taken at deep midwicket – and then Ryan ten Doeschate hit the next ball straight to long-on, both these wickets to Taylor. The balance had swung back towards the Rhinos as Eagles reeled at 99 for six. But together now were Butterworth and Forster Mutizwa, the heroes of the previous day. As they settled in and then began to attack, the odds began to favour the Eagles again.
At 150 in the 18th over, though, Mutizwa fatally tried to sweep Graeme Cremer and was bowled for 25. Greg Lamb came in, and 21 were needed from the last two overs. For Butterworth – no problem. He drove Taylor for four sixes off five balls and the match was over with six balls in hand. Taylor had bowled well until now, as had Nicolson and Cremer, but on the day it was Butterworth who emerged triumphant for his team. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 174/6 (20 overs; Taylor 55, Hall 3/32), Eagles 178/7 (19 overs; Butterworth 52*, Taylor 3/38). Mashonaland Eagles win by 3 wickets.
[Match report via ZC]
Day two of the Stanbic T20, and Midwest Rhinos got off the mark with a win over the Southern Rocks. Batting first after winning the toss, it has to be said that Rhinos' innings wasn't the most convincing - Rikki Wessels' unbeaten 47 was the pick of the bunch, but with a number of batsmen failing to get going - once again including captain Vusi Sibanda (9), whose woeful run of form continues - it had seemed as though the final total of 149/6 would be a fairly easy target for Rocks to chase.
As with yesterday's match, though, Rocks failed to fire with the bat, and this time even Lara (23) couldn't manage a decent knock. Craig Ervine (25*) was the best of a poor bunch, and while a late flurry brought Rocks closer to the target than it had at times looked they would get, they were still 11 runs short when their innings came to an end. Ian Nicolson took 3/18, and Malcolm Waller 3/23, to keep Rocks in check as wickets fell regularly through the innings.
That leaves Rocks rooted to the bottom of the table, while Rhinos go third, level on points with Mountaineers and Eagles but trailing on net run rate. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 149/6 (20 overs; Wessels 47*, Harris 2/11), Rocks 138/9 (20 overs; Ervine 25*, Nicolson 3/18). Midwest Rhinos win by 11 runs.
The second match of the day saw reigning champion Mountaineers take on MidWest Rhinos, and Mountaineers set out to stamp their authority on the tournament right from the start. Batting first after winning the toss, Hamilton Masakadza's unbeaten 96 anchored their innings as the side powered they way to 191/5 from their 20 overs - and it could have been more were it not for a middle-order collapse in the final overs. Graeme Cremer was again best with the ball for Rhinos, taking 3/26.
Rhinos' reply got off to the worst possible start with Brendan Taylor falling for a first-ball duck; Lou Vincent (3) and Vusi Sibanda (6) didn't hang around long either, and that poor beginning left Rhinos well behind the curve right from the start. They never looking likely to win, and with wickets falling regularly throughout it was only ever a question of whether they'd be bowled out or at least see out their innings. Some resistance came from Solomon Mire (31), Malcolm Waller (31) and Riki Wessels (45*), but by the time they set off their fireworks the match was already dead. Tinashe Panyangara took 3/24 to lead Mountaineers' bowling figures, as they secured a 35-run win and top place in the tournament table at the end of round one. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 191/5 (20 overs; H Masakadza 96*, Cremer 3/26), Rhinos 156/9 (20 overs; Wessels 45*, Panyangara 3/24). Mountaineers win by 35 runs.
Mountaineers claimed victory in their rain-affected Pro40 match against MidWest Rhinos today, after powering their way to 301/7 from their 40 overs. Batting first after being put in by Rhinos, four Mountaineers batsmen reached the 50 mark - Tino Mawoyo (50), Jonathan Beukes (67), Greg Smith (57) and Timycen Maruma (59) - to make sure that Rhinos were always going to be facing an uphill battle to win the match. Chasing, Rhinos got off to a quick start thanks to opening duo Brendan Taylor (67) and Gary Ballance (24), but once they were removed the brakes went on and the run rate quickly fell back below what was required. Rain intervened during the 28th over, with Rhinos on 177/6, and with that being the end of play it fell to Duckworth and Lewis to resolve matters - and Rhinos fell some way short. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 301/7 (40/40 overs; Beukes 67, Waller 2/34), Rhinos 177/6 (27.4/27.4 overs; Taylor 67, Mushangwe 3/30). Mountaineers win by 43 runs (D/L method).
Tons by Rhinos openers Brendan Taylor (110) and Gary Ballance (104) and forcing Mountaineers to follow on still didn't help this round's Logan Cup match between Rhinos in Mountaineers i Kwekwe reach a result. Rhinos reached 460/6 before declaring their first innings and bringing their batting for the match to an end, and after restricting Mountaineers to 191 in their first innings seemed on course for a comfortable win, but following-on Mountaineers finally found some backbone - in the form of Hamilton Masakadza - and batted out the match to secure the draw. Masakadza, batting at third, scored a massive 208 not out and hung around until the close of play on the final day, while Tino Mawoyo (55) and Mark Vermeulen (46) also made useful contributions. Graeme Cremer once again was top dog with the ball for Rhinos, taking 7/234 in the match, but the Mountaineers remained stubborn enough to deny Rhinos the win. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 460/6d (135 overs; Taylor 110, Maruma 2/68), Mountaineers 191 (69.5 overs; Smith 66, Cremer 3/73) & 446/7 (f/o; 138 overs; H Masakadza 208*, Cremer 4/161). Match Drawn.
Gary Ballance, nephew of the great Dave Houghton, has announced his arrival on the Zimbabwe cricket scene in magnificent fashion. After scoring two handsome fifties in the Logan Cup match against Mashonaland Eagles a few days earlier, he hit a magnificent 135 not out in the Metbank 40-over championship match that followed to lead his team, MidWest Rhinos, to a thrilling two-wicket victory over the same opposition at Kwekwe.
Had it not been for him, assisted by Rhinos captain Vusi Sibanda, Eagles would have won the match with ease, as man for man they played the better cricket. Their batting was more consistent, their bowling more accurate and their fielding better. But they were beaten by one superb innings, as can happen in one-day cricket, that snatched the match from their grasp.
Rhinos put the Eagles in to bat on winning the toss, but they do not have the bowling strength at present to take advantage of it. Taurai Muzarabani bowled quite well, but the others were not able to keep the Eagles batting in check. Rhinos had a lucky break when Friday Kasteni ran out Simbarashe Gupo early on, but the next three batsmen in the order all reached 50. Cephas Zhuwawo's 57 off 62 balls gave the Eagles a flying start, but even he was put in the shade when Forster Mutizwa came in and scored 50 off only 37 balls. Between them Prince Masvaure played soundly for 62, but the Rhinos fielders were guilty of dropping several chances. 248 for five looked a good score.
It would have been, too, but for the superb century by Ballance. Two wickets were down for 21, but then he shared a vital stand of 123 with Sibanda, who hit a fine 58 off 55 balls. When Sibanda left, the middle order steadily departed, and had Ballance gone, Eagles would have taken the match. But he stayed to the end, hitting another boundary to win the match with three balls to spare in the final over. He faced only 121 balls, and hit 12 fours and three sixes. Douggie Hondo was the best bowler of the match, taking three for 31 off his eight overs; he may have contained Ballance to an extent, but he could not dismiss him. Gary Ballance's future in Zimbabwe cricket will be very interesting to watch. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 248/5 (40 overs; Masvaure 62, Waller 1/36), Rhinos 252/8 (39.3 overs; Ballance 135, Hondo 3/31). MidWest Rhinos win by 2 wickets.
For a large chunk of this match it looked as though Rhinos had done enough to secure a win, but they and Eagles saw out a draw in their Logan Cup fixture in Kwekwe. The match was dominated by a few key performances on both sides - Rememberance Nyathi's 118 anchored Rhinos' first innings score of 351, while Andrew Hall's unbeaten 101 was the backbone of for Eagles' first knock. Eagles declared their first innings with just a three-run lead, giving Rhinos the chance to put the game beyond their reach - and Gary Balance (132), Friday Kasteni (56) and Vusi Sibanda (57) gave them a good chance of doing that. Rhinos made a sporting declaration at lunch on the final day, though, setting Eagles a target of 292 to chase for victory, within reach if they pushed themselves, and Forster Mutizwa's 84 off 92 balls set them up to do that. Mutizwa's departure saw Eagles lose steam, though, and the match was eventually called off as a draw late in the afternoon. The result leaves both sides on just 2 points each, far adrift of leader Mountaineers who are on 13. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 351 (108.2 overs; Nyathi 118, Garwe 3/75) & 294/4d (74 overs; Balance 132, Mutombodzi 3/137), Eagles 354/8d (112.5 overs; Hall 101*, Sibanda 2/22) & 187/5 (52 overs; Mutizwa 84, Muzarabani 3/33). Match drawn.