Harare Metropolitan Eagles – 231 in 87 overs (Kudzai Maunze 51, Elton Chigumbura 47, Cephas Zhuwao 28; William Mashinge 4/65, Shingi Masakadza 3/29, Clive Chitumba 2/40)
Manicaland Mountaineers – 277-9 in 84 overs (Kevin Kasuza 86, Natsai M’shangwe 66*, William Mashinge 31; Taurai Muzarabani 2/36, Brendon Timoni 2/50, Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi 2/67)
Stumps – Day 2: Manicaland Mountaineers lead by 46 runs with one wicket remaining in the first innings
Manicaland Mountaineers batted before lunch on the second day as if they were wading through a sea of mud, and were in danger of sinking until a fine 86 by Kevin Kasuza and some big hitting by Natsai M’shangwe transformed their innings and gave them an unexpected lead on first innings over Harare Metropolitan Eagles.
Mountaineers began their innings with a single scoreless over before the close of the first day, after dismissing Eagles for 231 on an untrustworthy pitch.
Mountaineers struggled for runs, and after 25 minutes of play lost their captain, Tino Mawoyo, trapped lbw by Taurai Muzarabani for three, with the total eight.
Kasuza came in, playing with great care, and only 20 runs were scored in the first hour.
Three maiden overs followed the drinks break, and the batsmen were in danger of allowing the bowlers to dominate them completely.
Muzarabani took a break with figures of one for six off nine overs.
Nyauchi tried to get the score moving, but with his score on 13 he lofted a catch to mid-on off Trevor Garwe; 25 for two.
Roy Kaia came in, but the scoring rate remained slow, with both batsmen showing great caution.
The heavy outfield certainly cost them runs, but they did not show much enterprise in working the ball round the field and keeping the score ticking over.
Several strokes from the batsmen that would usually have gone for four were slowed down or even stopped on the outfield so they only brought one or two.
Kaia managed just five runs off 28 balls, and was out to the last ball before lunch, when the uneven pitch produced a lifting delivery from Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi that took the edge of his bat and was caught by the keeper.
The score at lunch was 50 for three wickets off 28 overs, with Kasuza on 25.
After the break, Kudzai Sauramba did not last long, out lbw as he tried to turn a straight ball from Munyaradzi to leg, and at 58 for four Mountaineers had got themselves into some trouble.
At this point, it seems, Mountaineers decided that a change in policy was necessary if they were to prosper, and Kasuza and his new partner Foster Mutizwa actively began to look for quick singles to keep the score moving.
Unfortunately it didn’t work for Mutizwa, who made seven before a full-length ball from Muzarabani trapped him lbw; 69 for five, and in considerable trouble now.
Kasuza continued to play positively, while the debutant Clive Chitumba at the other end gave him useful defensive support.
He reached his fifty off 113 balls and then the team hundred came up in the 46th over.
After this Kasuza raced through the sixties with three fours in four deliveries from Herbert Chikomba and Brendon Timoni, and then swung another ball from Chikomba over square leg for six.
Unfortunately he threw his wicket away apparently through overconfidence; after hitting Timoni for another six, he swung at the next delivery and was caught at the wicket for 86.
He faced 154 balls and hit six fours and two sixes; the sixth-wicket partnership added 70 runs, of which Chitumba made eight, and it left Mountaineers on 139 for six as tea was taken.
After the break Shingi Masakadza nonchalantly swatted his first ball, from Timoni, over midwicket for six, causing a delay while the fielders tried in vain to find the ball by the fence of the ground.
Masakadza and Chitumba shared a brisk and useful partnership of 27 before Masakadza, trying to hit Garwe to leg, was adjudged lbw for 11; 166 for seven.
The batting became bogged down again now, with a boundary from William Mashinge being the only scoring shot in three overs, before Timoni bowled Chitumba for 20; 174 for eight, and still 57 runs behind on first innings.
As usual M’shangwe was eager to play his strokes, and this was one of his days, just when Mountaineers particularly needed it.
He attacked the seamers uninhibitedly, but then played with caution when the score reached 228 and the first-innings point was just a boundary stroke away.
The remaining four were taken in singles to give Mountaineers the lead, one point closer to the Logan Cup title, and M’shangwe celebrated by slogging the next delivery to the square-leg boundary.
Mashinge played a sound and more on the other hand innings in support, until finally he dabbed at a ball from Chikomba outside his off stump and popped up the simplest of catches to slip for 31, the score then being 250 for nine wickets; their invaluable ninth-wicket partnership was worth 80 runs, the highest of the innings.
M’shangwe belted the next ball he faced past long-on for four, to reach his fifty off 36 balls.
The adrenaline seemed to leave him at this point, as he and the last man Tafadzwa Kamungozi pottered around rather pointlessly at the crease when they might have been better advised to hit out, either adding useful runs quickly or getting out so their seamers could have a bowl at Eagles before the close of play.
Eagles for their part were quite happy to dawdle in the field in the hope that they wouldn’t be required to bat until the following morning.
However, the pair batted out the day without being dismissed, and when bad light ended play about eight minutes before time, the score was 277 for nine wickets, with M’shangwe on a career-best 66 and Kamungozi with six.
Mountaineers lead by 46 runs, but they have to bat last, so this match is still wide open.