LOGAN CUP DAY 2: Shingi Masakadza, Maruma batting performances leave Rhinos up against it
Midlands Rhinos – 131 & 33-2 in 13 overs (Bothwell Chapungu 21, Tendai Maruma 10; Wellington Masakadza 1/4, Natsai M’shangwe 1/11)
Manicaland Mountaineers – 327 all out in 100.2 overs (Timycen Maruma 87, Shingi Masakadza 61*, Donald Tiripano 52; James Bruce 4/37, Carl Mumba 3/84, Tinashe Panyangara 2/45)
Stumps – Day 2: Midlands Rhinos trail by 163 runs with eight wickets remaining
Shingi Masakadza was again the outstanding performer of the day, this time with the bat, as Manicaland Mountaineers enjoyed another good day and will confidently expect victory over the depleted Midlands Rhinos team tomorrow at Mutare Sports Club.
Masakadza hammered a powerful unbeaten innings of 61, after Timycen Maruma and Donald Tiripano had both scored good fifties, to take his team to a total of 327 and a lead of almost 200 over their rivals.
In the final hour their spinners removed the Midlands openers to strengthen further their grip on this match.
In the morning Mountaineers resumed their first innings on 74 for three, in reply to the Rhinos’ total of 131; Roy Kaia had four and Timycen Maruma had yet to score.
Both batsmen played with great care against good seam bowling by Mike Chinouya and Tinashe Panyangara, scoring six runs in the first half-hour.
The first boundary of the morning, an on-drive by Maruma off Chinouya, came after 45 minutes, although a little earlier poor fielding had turned a single by Kaia into a four including three overthrows.
The hundred came up in the 43rd over.
After all the laborious batting, the partnership was broken after putting on 44 runs, as Kaia poked at a ball outside the off stump from the left-arm seamer James Bruce, and edged a straight-forward catch to the keeper.
He scored 19 off 91 balls and the score was 118 for four wickets.
Foster Mutizwa scored only a single before he was beaten in his forward defensive stroke against Carl Mumba, and also caught at the wicket; 119 for five.
Tiripano played one or two rather frenetic strokes, but was still there at lunch with 10; the total was now 143 for five wickets, a lead of 12 runs, while Maruma had batted throughout the morning session for 37 runs.
The first incident of the afternoon session occurred when Tiripano swung a ball from Brandon Mavuta over the square-leg boundary for six.
Both batsmen were now seeking to get on top of the bowling, and Maruma reached his fifty half an hour after lunch, off 106 balls.
Panyangara, however, was bowling with superb accuracy, and most of the runs had to come from the other end, and the unfortunate Mavuta had to bear the brunt of this.
Tiripano then decided it was time to go after Panyangara, and drove him for two fours in an over.
The hundred partnership came up, closely followed by Tiripano’s fifty off 82 balls.
Tiripano did not last much longer, as Bruce came on again and immediately had him caught in the gully for 52, the total then being 230 for six, 99 runs ahead.
Maruma was now within sight of a century, but he did not last much longer, as Bruce removed him too, edging the ball to second slip.
He made 87 off 168 balls, with 10 fours, a fine innings after a slow but very determined start; the score was now 245 for seven.
Three balls later Bruce struck again, this time winning an lbw decision against Natsai M’shangwe, for seven.
Mountaineers went in to tea having suddenly been reduced to 246 for eight wickets, but even so they were now 115 runs ahead.
Play resumed with the Masakadza brothers in partnership.
On the whole, Wellington played a passive role while Shingi chose to attack, at one point slashing a ball from Chinouya over the short boundary at deep point for six.
Shingi’s innings may well have hammered the nails into the Midlands team’s coffin.
He hit with ever increasing power, blasting Chinouya out of the attack, and reached his fifty off 41 balls with two powerfully driven boundaries off the previously unhittable Panyangara.
Mavuta finally broke the partnership by having Wellington caught at the wicket for 10, his share of the invaluable partnership of 65.
On 60 Shingi was missed off a very difficult chance when he pulled a ball from Panyangara hard to deep square leg.
Off the next ball, however, the last man, Tendai Chatara (3), drove a catch to mid-on and the innings closed for 327, a lead of 196 on the first innings.
Shingi finished with 61 not out off 51 balls, with 11 fours and a six.
The inexperienced Bruce, the surprise star of the bowling, finished with four wickets for 37 runs, while there were three wickets for Mumba and two for Panyangara.
The pitch was still very flat and good for batting, but, given the poor batting performances by the Logan Cup teams this season, Rhinos no doubt thought they had a mountain to climb as they went in the second time 196 runs behind.
Bothwell Chapungu and Tendai Maruma in the past have formed one of the most dynamic opening pairs in first-class cricket, but Maruma at least seemed determined at first to play out the full two remaining days for a draw.
First appearances were to prove deceptive, though, as it did not last long.
Maruma blocked his first 22 balls with scarcely an attempt to score, but then pulled a short ball from Shingi Masakadza for four.
Chapungu played a mixed game, blocking carefully at times, and then unleashing a terrific heavy at a ball he fancied.
After six overs of pace, Mountaineers brought on their spinners, partly because the light was deteriorating and perhaps also as a genuine tactical move.
The move proved successful, as Chapungu (21) aimed an expansive drive at a full-length delivery from Wellington Masakadza and had his off stump knocked back; 33 for one.
Maruma at the other end suddenly decided to throw his wicket away, playing a couple of risky strokes against M’shangwe, before playing all around a delivery that bowled him for 10.
This was very poor cricket by the Rhinos openers, who should have been determined to play out the day, but did their team a serious disservice by their undisciplined strokes.
Mountaineers now were fired up, moving in for the kill as they surrounded the bat, making unwarranted noises at every delivery.
However, Tarisai Musakanda and the night-watchman Panyangara stayed in without scoring by means of careful defence until the umpires called them in for poor light.
Midlands Rhinos finished the day at 33 for two and, despite the placid pitch, look likely to go down to defeat on the third day.
It is to be hoped there is some fight left in the remainder of the team, because the conditions should favour batsmen with the will to succeed.
Zimbabwe Cricket report