LOGAN CUP: Rhinos wallop Eagles inside two days
Harare Metropolitan Eagles – 92 and 111 all out in 45.2 overs (Gary Chirimuuta 27, Elton Chigumbura 26, Tino Mutombodzi 18; Brandon Mavuta 3/11, Carl Mumba 3/32, Graeme Cremer 2/32)
Midlands Rhinos – 195 and 9 for 1 in 1.5 overs (Brandon Mavuta 8, Tafadzwa Kaitano 1*; Jalat Khan 1/8)
Midlands Rhinos won by nine wickets
Mashonaland teams over the years have to their credit some remarkable comebacks after looking certain to lose a match.
But this match against Midlands Rhinos at Kwekwe Sports Club was not one of them. Beaten in two days, on a pitch that should have been good for batting.
A good all-round bowling performance by the home side meant that Harare Metropolitan Eagles never looked like setting them a testing target.
None of their batsmen made the bowlers work really hard to remove them, and their highest individual score for the match was only 27.
Play began with Rhinos on 183 for nine wickets in their first innings, in reply to the Eagles total of 92; Neville Madziva had 24 and the last man Mike Chinouya had played 17 balls without scoring in a valuable supporting role.
The day began with the usual cat-and-mouse games that are played in such situations, as the fielding side concentrated more on trying to keep Madziva away from the bowling rather than getting him out, and the batsmen rejecting singles that would put Chinouya on strike.
In the fifth over after the start Madziva drove a ball from Jalat Khan through extra cover to give his team a lead of over 100, but in the next over Chinouya was given out lbw to the only ball Tino Mutombodzi bowled in the innings.
He failed to score, but his 22-ball innings was a most valuable one for his team, enabling the last wicket to put on 35 runs, the highest partnership since the fall of the second wicket.
Madziva played well for his 36 not out and the total was 195, a lead of 103.
That is a good lead, especially in a low-scoring match, but it was far short of what was needed to put Eagles out of the match altogether – a good recovery in their second innings was still possible, especially on a pitch that was basically good for batting.
However, the Logan Cup champions on this occasion proved quite unequal to that task.
Nathan Waller, who had been the sixth bowler used and was not put on again on the second day due to stiffness after his long spell on the first day, took five wickets for 22 runs, while Khan had four for 63.
The same two batsmen now became Rhinos’ opening bowlers, faced by Joylord Gumbie and Kudzai Maunze.
Chinouya was again too much for Gumbie; in his second over he brought a ball back to trap him lbw, again without a run on the board.
Three balls later the new batsman, Gary Chirimuuta, carved a ball down the third man for three to put the first runs on the board.
The batsmen were virtually strokeless, partly because there was much good bowling, but even when the odd loose ball came they were unable to put it away effectively.
In the eighth over, with the total on nine, Maunze (3 off 22 balls) was not happy to be given out caught down the leg side off Madziva’s bowling.
Sikandar Raza came in next and drove his first ball through extra cover for three to take the score into double figures.
After 19 runs came off 12 overs, Chirimuuta began to open out, hitting Carl Mumba for three fours in an over, two of them pulls off short balls.
By lunch Eagles had recovered somewhat to 42 for two wickets, with Chirimuuta on 23 and Raza on 10.
After lunch Chirimuuta hit Graeme Cremer for four to bring up the fifty in the 22nd over, but the next ball, beautifully flighted, had him caught at slip for 27, the highest score of the match for his team so far — and it was not to be beaten.
Raza followed for 12 in Cremer’s next over, going for a big hit but only skying a catch to cover off the outside edge; 52 for four.
Elton Chigumbura, joining Mutombodzi, decided to attack, and struck Cremer for three well-judged fours in the first six balls he faced.
As long as Chigumbura was there, continuing to attack the bowling, he appeared to be the one man left capable of turning the match around.
But, when he had reached 26, which included six fours, he tried one pull too many, and dragged a ball from Mumba on to his stumps via the bottom edge.
Eagles were 91 for five, still 12 runs behind.
Mutombodzi (18) was the next to go, with the score on 96, lofting a pull off Mumba to be caught near the midwicket boundary.
With the fall of this wicket, it was clear that only a most remarkable turnaround could save Eagles from defeat now.
Nathan Waller concentrated solely on defence, facing 22 balls for just a single, but then he chopped a ball from Brandon Mavuta into the slips to reduce the score to 98 for seven, and still five runs behind.
In the following over, without a run added, Mumba made a ball lift sharply to catch the shoulder of Khan’s bat, and he was caught in the slips for one.
Trevor Garwe decided to hit out, but with mixed success.
The hundred came up, and then Garwe drove a four wide of mid-off to take his team ahead, but with only two wickets left.
But he was then bowled by Mavuta for seven; 106 for nine.
Two sloggers were in now, in the persons of Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi and Taurai Muzarabani, and it was not long before Munyaradzi (2) slogged a ball from Mavuta high to long-on, and the innings was over.
Muzarabani was not out with four, the total was 111 and Midlands Rhinos needed just nine runs to win.
Mumba and Mavuta both took three wickets each, and Cremer two.
Eagles gave Khan their first over, while Rhinos sent in Mavuta and Kaitano to get the runs.
Mavuta, facing, took two balls to level the scores as he hammered Khan for two boundaries.
Then he became a little too fancy, attempted a reverse sweep and was caught at slip off the glove.
Raza took the next over, and Kaitano took a great heave at the first ball and was almost bowled; off the third he was almost stumped.
The lunacy came to an end as he edged the fourth delivery wide of the slips, and Rhinos claimed their victory over the champions by nine wickets.
Essentially, Rhinos won this match through their fine bowling, while Eagles lost it with their poor batting.
Harare Eagles coach Stanley Timoni blamed his batsmen for their failure to occupy the crease or follow the team plan.
Midlands Rhinos coach Robin Brown was obviously pleased with the victory, and especially his bowlers, but felt his team should have batted better in the middle order.
The greatest weakness in Zimbabwe’s domestic cricket at present is the batting, with far too few batsmen prepared to knuckle down and work for their runs.
Much more skill and patience is needed in building an innings and in shot selection, while all the franchise coaches feel that many players are not dedicated enough and especially tend to surrender their wickets too easily.