Midwest Rhinos

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Rhinos Claim First Pro40 Win as Rocks Crumble

After being denied the win in the Logan Cup meeting earlier in the week, MidWest Rhinos made no mistakes in their Pro40 match-up against Southern Rocks today, claiming an 18-run victory and getting their one-day season off to a winning start. Batting first after losing the toss, Rhinos posted a competitive 239/8 from their 40 overs, led by Malcom Waller's rapid fire 94 - his career-best List A score so far, coming off just 82 balls. Support in the lower order came from Friday Kasteni (52), and while the rest of the batting wasn't quite so impressive there was enough there to leave Rocks facing an imposing total. Blessing Mawhire's 3/40 led the bowling.

In reply, Rocks faltered early with the loss of Sikandar Raza on the 5th ball of the innings (the first of Solomon Mire's three wickets), but were steadied for a while by Tatenda Taibu, who top-scored for his side with 56. He departed with the score on 119/4, though, and from there a steady stream of lost wickets ultimately led to Rocks' demise. Rhinos captain Brendan Taylor, usually found behind the wickets, took the ball for a chug and ended up leading the bowling for his side, taking 4/35 as Rocks were bowled out for 221 with an over to spare. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 239/8 (40 overs; Waller 94, Mahwire 3/40), Rocks 221 (39 overs; Taibu 56, Taylor 4/35). MidWest Rhinos win by 18 runs.

Rocks Hold On for Draw After Rhino Rampage

Southern Rocks battled their way to a well-earned draw in their Logan Cup match against MidWest Rhinos, saving the match after a Rhinos first-innings that should have all but secured their victory. Batting first after losing the toss, Rhinos spent the best part of two days batting their way to a massive 609/7 before declaring, with three players batting their way past the hundred mark - Brendan Taylor, top-scoring on 185; Vusi Sibanda with 128, and Malcolm Waller with 116. Rocks' bowling simply had no answer for the Rhinos, although Steve Tikolo's 3/82 at least helped limit the damage.

Rocks didn't help themselves in their first innings, either. Tatenda Taibu's 67 and supporting knock of 51 by Sikandar Raza provided the backbone of the innings, but there was precious little support elsewhere as they were bowled out for 287. Graeme Cremer continued his recent good form, taking 5/101. Rhinos enforced the follow-on and left Rocks needing to bat out 4 sessions to save the match, and at the time it would have been a brave man to bet on them managing to do so - but, led by #1 batsman Steve Marillier, who carried his bat until close of play, Rocks managed to upset the odds and deny Rhinos their victory. Marillier score 148 not-out, with Craig Ervine finally finding some form to add 46 of his own as Rock took the slow and steady approach, eschewing risks in the name of keeping their chances alive. And it worked. Ian Nicolson took 3/33 for Rhinos, but the Rhinos attack couldn't find enough holes in the Rocks batsmens' defences before time ran out. Full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 609/7 decl (147.5 overs; Taylor 185, Tikolo 3/82), Rocks 287 (85.5 overs; Taibu 67, Cremer 5/101) & 282/5 (f/o, 119 overs; Marillier 148*, Nicolson 3/33). Match drawn.

Rhinos Announce New Signings

On a quest to collect their first piece of silverware in the upcoming domestic season, Midwest Rhinos have signed foreign based players Paul Franks and Gary Ballance who were playing in England as well as Ian Nicholson and Solomon Mire from the Australian Premier League.

The four's addition to the Rhinos line-up are some of the efforts franchise CEO, Kenyon Ziehl is making to intensify preparations for the 2010/11 domestic season.

Newly appointed head coach Jason Gillespie insisted that one of the main areas in the oncoming season will be to vastly improve the team's performance.

"My focus is on the Rhinos and getting things in place, first and foremost we will be looking to enjoy our cricket and become an entertaining side to watch," said Gillespie.

After concluding the season at third place in all domestic competitions it is beyond the obvious that the team has the potential to get at least a trophy in the next season. The acquisition of the new players is part of Midwest Rhinos expedition to convert their performances to at least one title.

Franks is a right handed seamer and comes in to replace Mike Chinouya who left the Kwekwe based team to join the Southern Rocks while Ballance formerly of Yorkshire and also a Zimbabwean citizen will be expected to strengthen the top order batting which was found wanting last season.

"Ballance's experience will provide stability in the team's batting line-up and raise the quality of opening partnerships in the batting line-up, I was not too happy that we could not win any titles and we are not taking any chances this time around," said Ziehl.

The Rhinos batting line-up also includes Zimbabwe national players such as Vusimuzi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, while Malcolm Waller and Rikki Wessels were some of the best batsmen in the league last season.

Nicholson is another fast bowler who has been playing in the Australian premier League for the past three years and is expected to bring the cutting edge in an already potent bowling attack comprising of Edward Rainsford and Graeme Cremer. Meanwhile Solomon Mire, an all rounder will be making his return to local cricket after leaving for Australia to further his game.
[Source: ZC]

Q&A with Donald and Gillespie

There was a press conference at HSC this morning for the official 'unveiling' of Alan Donald and Jason Gillespie as Rhinos and Mountaineers coaches respectively - obviously, I wasn't able to get there myself, but here are a few key quotes:

Reaction towards the appointment as a franchise head coach in Zimbabwe
Jason Gillespie (MidWest Rhinos)
“I was delighted to take the opportunity, it’s fantastic because the cricket in Zimbabwe is very much on the up and to be a part of it is very humbling. I have been telling the people in Australia that I’ve only been here for a few days and the atmosphere here on cricket and everything is really exciting and as a new coach it really exciting and something we can sink our teeth in. ”

Alan Donald (Mountaineers)
“I did not hesitate one inch and I agree with Jason [Gillespie], we were commentating in Dubai talking about the situation in Zimbabwe and the efforts being made to get cricket where it belongs. It has been a very good move for me and I did not hesitate to make the move.”

On their roles as coaches in Zimbabwe
Jason Gillespie
“Although my main role will be to focus on the Midwest Rhinos but as coaches we have a role to develop the game at all levels and if I can be a part of that in any small way I will certainly jump on that. Midwest Rhinos have a lot of young players and my role is to help them achieve their goals both as individuals and a collective group and if i can be a part of that and work at grass roots level then that will be a real bonus.”

What impression they have on fast bowlers in Zimbabwe
Alan Donald
“I’ve been watching the triangular between Zimbabwe, India and Sri Lanka and I’ve already been talking about a few guys. We will be bumping into a lot of guys along the way and we will certainly identify the talent that is around. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is got what it takes to play at the highest level-test cricket.”

Notions on their assigned teams
Alan Donald
“I am coming into a team that has two out of three so no pressure at all. That is also the challenge after a dream season like that and you win two trophies, not only is the pressure for the coach but the team as well. I believe that I can maintain the attitude and intensity levels at the franchise for the guys to respond to the responsibility that lies this season and winning becomes a culture. For me one of things I need to do is to make a lot of the youngsters thinks like international cricketers or prepare like international cricketers and that is my aim to try and get that mentality straight up there.”

Jason Gillespie
“My focus is on the Rhinos and getting things in place, first and foremost we will be looking to enjoy our cricket and the number one focus is to be an entertaining side. We want people to walk away and say that we really play positive cricket and we were entertained today. That will be our focus and we are really excited about that.”
[Source: ZC]

Ian Nicolson and Gary Balance Heading for Rhinos?

Speaking to Newsday, Alistair Campbell has welcomed the return of a number of "exiled" players for this year's domestic season - and in doing so has indicated that Midwest Rhinos have secured the talents of Ian Nicolson and Gary Balance:

"We have always maintained an open-door-policy with any of the players who would want to be considered for selection. We will not be considering what happened in the past. As long as the players are interested and show that they have what it takes through their performances we will be considering them.

"Gary (Balance) needs clearance but he has a Zimbabwean passport while Tinashe (Panyangara) and Nicolson are bowlers who have shown the potential of bowling very quick. We have recently been struggling to find genuinely quick bowlers and they could be the solution."

Campbell also spoke of the recent Zimbabwe XI trip to Netherlands and Canada, being particularly impressed with Craig Ervine:

"It was good to see some good performances from Stuart Matsikenyeri who has recently been struggling to get the runs. Craig Ervine was in such phenomenal form with the bat which could make him cement his place in the national team while young Shingirai Masakadza is improving overtime."

Good news all round, then - the new franchise system certainly seems to have garnered the support of players, both Zimbabwean and foreign, and that can only be good for the standard of play.
Newsday - Return of former internationals welcomed

Jason Gillespie Signed as New Rhinos Coach

Former Aussie fast bowler Jason "Dizzy" Gillespie has been signed to coach MidWest Rhinos for the upcoming season, replacing Andy Waller, who is currently on duty with Zimbabwe XI as their assistant coach. Gillespie was most recently coach of the South Australian Outbacks, but apparently jumped at the chance to take on the Zimbabwean side:

"I am looking forward to working with the players and staff at the Mid West Rhinos and to continuing the development of the team as a force in Zimbabwean cricket. I see this as a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the continued progress of Zimbabwean cricket and their pursuit of getting their ICC Test status back.

"I have spoken with Heath Streak and Alistair Campbell, both former international players, and they have both talked of the untapped potential within the current Zimbabwe domestic system. I look forward to helping progress Zimbabwe at both domestic and ultimately international level."

Another sign of Zimbabwe's rehabilitation in the cricketing world, I think. That said, I can't help but wonder what Andy Waller did wrong to merit being replaced, as Rhinos certainly had no lack of success under him last season.

UPDATE: Dizzy spoke to Fox Sports News in Australia about his move - here's the clip:

Australian Cricketers Association - Dizzy to coach Rhinos in Zimbabwe

Mountaineers Win Faithwear MetBank Series

An hour before lunch, Mountaineers appeared to be certain winners of the Faithwear-Met Bank Trophy final after bowling Mid West Rhinos out for 144. At the interval, Mid West appeared certain winners after taking six Mountaineers wickets for only 66 runs. Yet, after all, in this incredible final where the balance swung so strongly from one side to another, it was Mountaineers after all who took the trophy. Helped by some strange bowling changes, the two bowling all-rounders Prosper Utseya and Shingi Masakadza shared a magnificent and totally unexpected unbroken partnership of 83 for the eighth wicket that took the home side home.

Mountaineers won the toss and decided to field, despite the apparently good batting conditions: the weather was hot and sunny, while the pitch looked flat. The first few overs certainly suggested this would be a batsman's game: Vusi Sibanda drove the first ball through the covers for three, and a total of ten runs came off that opening over from Shingi Masakadza. But it did not last long; Sibanda, though looking in superb form, fatally moved across his stumps to aim a straight ball to leg and was lbw to Tendai Chitara for 19 off 23 balls; 33 for one.

Brendan Taylor made a cautious start, and then ran out his partner, Friday Kasteni (16), calling him unexpectedly for a quick run for an overthrow. Briefly the bat took over again, with Taylor pulling Shingi Masakadza for a four and six in quick succession; his new partner, Rikki Wessels, hit a big six off Njabulo Ncube, only to swat a catch to cover in the same over. Then came another run out, with Taylor again culpable, calling Malcolm Waller for a risky single to the vacant slips while disregarding the speed of Tatenda Taibu. After these running misadventures, Taylor owed it to his team to play a major innings - but he then holed out on the midwicket boundary off the bowling of Ncube, and Mid West were 69 for five in the 15th over, after just 80 minutes' play. All their specialist batsmen had gone and the match looked as good as over.

Graeme Cremer and Bothwell Chapungu now got their heads down and put on a useful partnership in a seemingly hopeless cause. Chapungu played some good aggressive strokes, with wise discrimination, and made 27 off 36 balls before edging a catch to the keeper off Utseya. He was destined to be the top scorer of the innings. Cremer, in an hour, scored a determined 19 before getting a thick outside edge to a drive and lobbing an easy catch into the covers. Taurai Muzarabani, 19 not out, was the only other batsman to make a significant contribution, and the innings closed for a mere 144 in less than 36 overs.

Mountaineers had done well in the field, though without quite touching their best, helped by a poor display from the Mid West top order and poor running. The Mid West coach, Andy Waller, did not feel it was big-match nerves; "just poor cricket," he said. Utseya was the best of the Mountaineers bowlers, taking three for 24 with his nagging accuracy and just letting the batsmen get themselves out under the pressure. It looked like a dismally one-sided final and a formality for the home team.

Unfortunately for Mountaineers, their batsmen seemed to think the same thing. It was the sort of match where, if Mid West had made 100 more runs, Mountaineers would probably have knuckled down and got them. But the batting of their top order suggested they were over-confident and eager to finish the match as soon as possible. Mid West for their part came out fighting.

They opened the bowling with the leg-spinner Cremer opposite Ed Rainsford, their two best bowlers. Tinotenda Mawoyo immediately lofted Cremer for two leg-side fours, both only yards short of six, but the captain and bowler did not panic. Cremer adjusted, while Mawoyo failed to do so. He lived dangerously, dropped off a low chance at backward point on 16, and then slicing a catch into the covers off Rainsford for 21. His partner Stuart Matsikenyeri swatted a ball from Cremer straight to midwicket, and two wickets had fallen at 29.

Taibu also showed too little discrimination in his strokeplay, and was bowled for 12, having a big swing at a ball from Cremer. At the other end Rainsford had a good battle with Hamilton Masakadza, which ended in victory for the bowler; Masakadza skied a catch to mid-on for 11. This was the big wicket, and at this point the balance of the match swung from the home side to the visitors. The score was 56 for four.

Incredibly, Mountaineers continued the same senseless tactics that had got them into trouble in the first place. Timycen Maruma hit Rainsford for two fours; two balls later he was yorked for 9, and the score was 64 for five, in only the eleventh over. Rainsford and Cremer continued to bowl, Mid West knowing they now held the whip hand; Mountaineers still continued their march of the lemmings. Steven Nyamuzinga gave a low chance to second slip off Rainsford before slicing a catch to backward point, still without scoring, and now lunch was taken at 66 for six. Fine bowling and suicidal batting had turned the match on its head.

After lunch Rainsford and Cremer, who had still only bowled six overs each, finished their allotted ten, for one more wicket, Natsai Mushangwe going lbw to Cremer for one, departing with obvious dissent. Then Utseya and Shingi Masakadza showed that Mountaineers had not altogether given up hope and shared a partnership of great determination. Both players have first-class centuries to their credit, so Mid West knew that the match was not theirs yet. Muzarabani and Mike Chinouya took over the attack and bowled with purpose, but were resisted with great determination. A four through the covers by Masakadza off Muzarabani brought up the 100 in the 27th over.

This was now the best cricket in the match, with both teams fully concentrated and fighting for the final supremacy that would win the match and the trophy. Masakadza grew in confidence, some fine drives taking him past Chapangu's 27 to become the highest scorer of the match. 120 was posted in the 32nd over, and slowly Mountaineers regained hope. One or two false strokes almost resulted in catches, but the batsmen survived. Perhaps Sibanda erred in removing Muzarabani and Chinouya too soon, as the other bowlers tried made no impression, and even Wessels was called upon to turn his arm over, a quixotic decision. The match was clearly slipping away from Mid West again.

With eight runs needed for victory, Muzarabani was finally brought back. But it was not a good over and five came from it - four in singles and a no-ball. In the next over Mountaineers seized their incredible victory, as Masakadza lofted a ball from Waller high over mid-on for six. With the help and guidance of the national captain, who was unbeaten on 30, with his 41 he had dragged back for his team the victory and the trophy they had so nearly thrown away. They were wildly acclaimed by an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred that had swollen during the day.

Full scorecard & photos below the cut.
Rhinos 144 (35.5/50 overs; Chapungu 27, Utseya 3/24), Mountaineers 149/7 (37.5/50 overs; S Masakadza 41*, Rainsford 4/48). Mountaineers win by 3 wickets.

Rhinos Make a Comeback

In a thrilling Faithwear semi-final at Kwekwe Sports Club, Mid West Rhinos in some measure atoned for their failure to win the Logan Cup final the previous weekend by scraping home by two wickets against the same opposition, Mashonaland Eagles. They were the better side all round on the day, but so nearly threw away the match at the death due to two stupid run-outs and self-doubt. Despite fine batting from Vusi Sibanda and Rikki Wessels, it took the ninth-wicket pair of Ed Rainsford, who had again bowled superbly, and Simon Mugava to cobble together the last 14 runs to ensure they face Mountaineers in Mutare on Saturday for the one-day competition final.

Mid West won the toss and put Mashonaland in to bat on what appeared to be a flat pitch. There was a good crowd from the start, most of it comprising several hundred schoolchildren, most of them well-behaved and adding to the atmosphere with their enthusiastic chanting and dancing. The start was not promising for Mid West, as they fumbled a run-out in the first over as the batsmen dithered over their opening run, and then Cephas Zhuwawo survived a low chance to third man with the score at 10.

However, there was a little early movement for the bowlers, and Rainsford and Taurai Muzarabani, bowling superbly, had the batsmen very wary, if rarely in real trouble. The first boundary did not come until the eighth over, when Zhuwawo slogged a ball from Muzarabani for six over long on. In the same bowler's following over he pulled a big six over square leg, but off the very next ball edged a low catch to first slip. He made 17 and Mashonaland were 30 for one. His opening partner, Prince Masvaure, did not survive him long, caught at mid-off for 13. Ryan Butterworth was superbly caught low at short extra cover when Mike Chinouya came on to bowl, and Mashonaland were suddenly 40 for three.

Mid West continued the pressure, fine bowling backed by tight fielding. Chinouya took another two wickets, having Forster Mutizwa caught off a slice to third man for 12 and Greg Lamb caught driving to mid-off for five; he was rested after bowling five overs for 20 runs and three wickets, and surprisingly was not called on again. Graeme Cremer was now bowling superbly at the other end, and he it was who took out the big fish. Elton Chigumbura, who had so often steadied his team throughout the season when needed, tried to sweep him, only to lob a catch to the keeper. Mashonaland were now in real trouble at 77 for six in the 24th over. Chigumbura later said that his top order failed to read the pitch successfully: it was slow and did not favour driving.

Now, though, the bowling lost some of its intensity, while the batsmen learned better what game plan to use on it. Regis Chakabva stepped in where his seniors failed and hit a superb 62 off 52 balls (2 fours and 3 sixes), supported by Mark Mbofana with 23, and the pair nearly doubled the score. Their partnership ended in a run-out, Mbofana being the victim, and Chakabva quickly followed, perhaps unsettled by it. From 153 for eight, though, Trevor Garwe (19) and Raymond Price (34 not out) forged an invaluable partnership of 44, with Price in particular showing some innovative strokes, notably the reverse sweep, which unsettled the bowlers. This enabled Mashonaland to save face with a final total of 221 for nine. Rainsford, with only 29 conceded off ten overs, was most unlucky not to take a wicket; he is on present form probably the best seamer in the country at present. There were two wickets for Muzarabani, expensive at the end - the neglected Chinouya in retrospect might have been a better choice for the death overs - and Cremer.

Mid West, in their push for the final, which will take place in Mutare on Saturday, had the worst of starts when Innocent Chikunya, without a run on the board, slashed at the fourth ball of the innings, well outside the off stump from Chigumbura, and was easily taken by the keeper. They nearly lost Brendan Taylor at 12 from a hard chance to mid-on, but this was one of several misfields by Mashonaland. Taylor showed, apparently, great confidence right from the start, but played some risky strokes; however, this may just have been an excess of adrenalin, as he settled down to play more judiciously. Sibanda was less flamboyant but sounder, showing good shot selection.

Price came on to bowl a tight leg-stump line and restrict the scoring, and soon captured the wicket of Taylor, who holed out at deepish extra cover. He made 31 from 34 balls and the score was 78 for two in the 14th over. The hundred came up in the 19th, at which point Wessels was missed off the simplest of chances at mid-on. It now looked as if this pair was well settled, but disaster came as a mix-up between the batsmen led to Sibanda being run out for 56 off 76 balls. Next ball Malcolm Waller was caught at slip, Butterworth being the bowler, and the balance of the match was suddenly changed, Mid West now stuttering at 117 for four in the 24th over.

Wessels, who refused to sacrifice himself for his captain, who was in such fine form, now had a moral responsibility to see his side through to victory. He and Cremer steadied the innings and built a sound partnership together. They added 72 together before, ironically, more poor running and another run-out saw the departure of Cremer for a valuable 22, just as Mid West were looking well set for victory. Wessels himself soon followed for 70, the leg-spinner Tino Mutombodzi taking a sharp return catch, and once again Mid West were in danger at 199 for six, 23 more needed with seven overs left and an unreliable tail to bat.

Friday Kasteni, the left-hander in such poor form recently, was the one recognized batsman left. A sharp pull for four off Chigumbura, returning for the death, showed he was not without confidence - but then the very next ball he tried a similar stroke to the wrong ball and popped up a simple catch to midwicket. This was trouble indeed now, with the two opening bowlers Rainsford and Muzarabani together. The ground erupted when Muzarabani swept Mutombodzi for a risky four, only for him to fall to a smart stumping next ball, with 14 still needed. But, with more than five overs left, at least they were not under pressure from the run rate.

It now looked as if the Mashonaland juggernaut would do it again as the novice Mugava joined Rainsford, talented but very inconsistent with the bat. Surprisingly, though, it was an over from Chigumbura, usually so reliable in a crisis, that gave Mid West their burst to victory. It included a high leg-side wide that went through to the boundary and some loose deliveries that went for runs and relieved the pressure. Finally a mishit by Rainsford brought three runs to the vacant fine-leg position off Mutombodzi, and Mid West were through to the final by the skin of their teeth - or by the thick inside edge of the bat. Full scorecard below the cut.
Eagles 221/9 (50 overs; Chakabva 62, Chinouya 3/20), Rhinos 222/8 (46.3 overs; Wessels 70, Chigumbura 2/42). Rhinos win by 2 wickets.
[Source: ZC]

Eagles win Logan Cup

After looking like a dull draw on the third and fourth day of this five-day final, the Logan Cup final unexpectedly sprang to life on the final day, as Midwest Rhinos came close to pulling off what would have been an incredible victory.

The miracle did not quite happen, but the day belonged to the underdogs from start to finish. Firstly superb batting by Rikki Wessels and Graeme Cremer enabled them to declare their second innings closed, and then, due to good bowling and fielding and some very poor batting by the Mashonaland Eagles top order, they broke through and had the newly crowned champions struggling to save the match to the very end. In the end only the fighting spirit and skill of Forster Mutizwa and Mark Mbofana saw them through to safety at 67 for six wickets - and the Logan Cup trophy.

Overnight Mid West were 174 for five; they had not looked like making a bid for victory on the previous day and now they were in real danger of defeat, without much batting left. But Wessels was still there, and was joined by Cremer. Wessels was nearly caught off an aerial cut early on, the ball just evading the fielder, but perhaps he too was afraid of his team subsiding, as he batted more positively this morning and went to his fifty off 114 balls. Cremer was at first concerned solely with defence, and it took him a full hour and a half to reach double figures, which came with a pull for four off Douglas Hondo; he celebrated with a straight drive for another boundary next ball. The pair added 92 during the morning session, and no wicket fell.

The pair continued in good style after lunch, with Wessels reverse-sweeping Raymond Price for three off the second ball after lunch. Cremer reached his fifty off 118 balls, and this was closely followed by Wessels' century off 176; he celebrated with a straight six off Greg Lamb. Shortly afterwards, knowing a declaration was imminent, Cremer gave his wicket away, stumped off Price, for 56, and the players left the field. The total was 335 for six wickets declared, and the pair had added an invaluable 161. Wessels was unbeaten with 108 and Price finished with one wicket for 43 off 33.3 overs, 17 of them maidens.

Perhaps the problem with Mashonaland was that they didn't actually need to win this match to secure the Logan Cup, having topped the log, and so their policy was one of "We'll see how it goes before trying for victory." They needed 249 to win off a minimum of 44 overs, and they wanted to take no risk of losing the match. Perhaps this double-mindedness distracted them. Once again their opening partnership failed, both openers falling for 7 with the total at 18, and both caught at second slip, Prince Masvaure off Taurai Muzarabani and Ishmael Senzere off Cremer. Moments later Ryan Butterworth (1) mistimed a pull to midwicket, Mid West suddenly glimpsed victory, and tea was taken at 21 for three.

One would have expected the powerful, experienced Mashonaland side to take the situation calmly, play soundly and make sure of the draw on a good pitch, especially with the presence at the crease of their captain Elton Chigumbura, whose calm mature batting had always saved the situation for his side earlier in the season when the match was in the balance. Chigumbura got off the mark with a pull for six of Muzarabani, and then went for a big hit off Cremer, only to sky the ball to mid-off and depart for 10. When Regis Chakabva was lbw to the googly later in the same over, Mashonaland were 36 for five in the thirteenth over and the alarm bells were really ringing now.

Still in was Forster Mutizwa, though not looking very secure, and Greg Lamb, with a groin injury, had yet to bat. If there was to be a result, only Midwest could win now. Could Mashonaland survive their unexpected crisis? Ed Rainsford replaced Muzarabani, but he could not repeat his magic of the previous day, perhaps trying to bowl too fast and pitching too short. Still, Mutizwa nearly pulled a catch to mid-on, but then the batsmen settled in and looked increasingly solid, although still having the occasional close call. Surprisingly, Mid West accepted a draw with six overs still to be bowled; having done so much in one day, they did not pursue it right to the end. Cremer finished with three for 20 off 17 overs. Mutizwa faced 102 balls for his 18, Mbofana 84 for his 8 runs, and both were undefeated, having spent 99 precious minutes together. At the last ditch, they saved the Logan Cup for Mashonaland. Photos and full scorecard below the cut.
Rhinos 364 (118.2 overs; Taylor 131, Masvaure 3/49) & 335/6 decl (112.3 overs; Wessels 108*, Butterworth 2/26), Eagles 451 (168.1 overs; Lamb 159, Rainsford 6/66) & 67/5 (40 overs; Mutizwa 18*, Cremer 3/20). Match drawn.
[Source: ZC. All photographs in this article ©ZC.]

Midwest Rhinos in Final as Taylor Cuts Through Mountaineers Bowlers

The Logan Cup season finished in bitter disappointment for Mountaineers, who had anticipated a place in the final, only to be pipped at the post by Midwest Rhinos, who beat them by eight wickets in three days at Mutare Sports Club. Struggling after two days, Mountaineers had no great heroics in their second innings and, despite early jitters, Rhinos got home mainly on the back of a devastating innings of 62 not out from Brendan Taylor.

Mountaineers resumed their second innings on 62 for three wickets, still 64 runs behind the Rhinos innings total. Things entered badly from the start, as Stuart Matsikenyeri (17) was dismissed lbw to Ed Rainsford without any addition to the score. Hamilton Masakadza took his responsibilities so seriously that he took 49 balls and 65 minutes to get off the mark, before he finally forced a ball through the covers for four. Soon after that he lost Timycen Maruma, who played on to Rainsford, playing back, for 4; Mountaineers were now 75 for five and looked to be tumbling headlong towards an early defeat.

They should have been worse off still, as Prosper Utseya was dropped off a sharp chance to second slip before he had scored, the ball travelling for four. Rhinos paid quite heavily for this error, as the pair almost doubled the total while in partnership, putting on 62 runs together. The deficit was erased just before lunch, so Mountaineers went in for the break just six runs ahead and with a little more hope of making a fight of it.

The afternoon session all but extinguished their hopes. Neither batsman lasted long after lunch. Utseya was the first to go, caught in the gully off Rainsford for 32, but the celebrations really took off with the fall of Masakadza. He had batted with the utmost restraint for 37 off 135 balls in just over three hours, but he fell another victim to Rainsford, pushing at a ball moving away outside off stump to give the wicketkeeper a straight-forward catch. Mountaineers had slumped to 144/7 and defeat seemed imminent.

But now was the time for real defiance. Shingi Masakadza and Natsai Mushangwe laid into the bowling with a vengeance, sharing the highest partnership of the innings as they hammered 73 together. Again, catches went down, until Masakadza finally sliced a low catch to third man to depart for 27. Mushangwe, the leading partner, raced to 53 off 49 balls, but was then adjudged lbw next ball; Taurai Muzarabani dismissed them both. The last wicket fell for 230, leaving Rhinos with 105 runs to win. Rainsford was the best bowler, taking four vital wickets for 46 and showing great determination and skill.

Rhinos have shown some fragile batting this season, so the target was not a foregone conclusion; the pitch was taking a bit of spin, and no respectable side should have been bowled out chasing that target unless they choked. Mountaineers went on the attack from the start, using Utseya as their second bowler with close fielders, and the openers seemed rendered strokeless. Bothwell Chapungu, nonplussed by a spinner from Utseya, was clean bowled for 2, but Brendan Taylor was taking no nonsense. He swung successive balls from Utseya over the pavilion for six, and continued to assault the spinner, despite losing Friday Kasteni, lbw padding up to Shingi Masakadza for 4.

Vusi Sibanda was almost a sleeping partner as Taylor laid into the bowlers, racing to his fifty off 34 balls. His off-side drives and leg-side flicks and pulls were particularly impressive. It was an off-driven four by Sibanda, followed by four byes from a wild delivery down the leg side, that finally took Rhinos to a well-earned victory and a place in next week's Logan Cup final against Mashonaland Eagles. Taylor finished unbeaten on 62 (42 balls) and Sibanda 23.
Mountaineers 212 (56.3 overs; Maruma 59, Rainsford 3/41) & 230 (69.3 overs; Mushangwe 53, Rainsford 4/46), Rhinos 338 (104.2 overs; Waller 117, Chitara 5/42) & 106/2 (17.4 overs; Taylor 62*, Utseya 1/28). Rhinos win by 8 wickets.

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