Midlands Rhinos – 131 all out in 50.1 overs (PJ Moor 58, Remembrance Nyathi 21, Tinashe Panyangara 19; Shingi Masakadza 5/52, Natsai M’shangwe 3/9, Tendai Chatara 2/29)
Manicaland Mountaineers – 74 for 3 in 28.3 overs (Innocent Kaia 33, Kevin Kasuza 18, Vusi Sibanda 16; Carl Mumba 2/29, Tinashe Panyangara 1/1)
Stumps – Day 1
Shingi Masakadza found his best form with the ball to give Manicaland Mountaineers an early advantage in their match against Midlands Rhinos at Mutare Sports Club on Wednesday.
He removed the visitors’ first three batsmen in quick time, so that the Midlands team were always battling to stay in the game on the first day, which ended with the home side enjoying a clear advantage, at 74 for three in reply to the Rhinos’ total of 131.
This should be a vital match of the season, as the two teams occupy the two top places in the Logan Cup table, and both come off victories in their last matches.
Unfortunately the value of the contest is badly compromised, because it clashes with the Mashonaland West tour of Malaysia and Singapore, and both sides have lost leading players, with Rhinos particularly affected.
Rhinos are missing Graeme Cremer, Malcolm Waller, Neville Madziva and Nyasha Mayavo, while Tendai Chisoro has a contract in England, so they are forced to play Prince Masvaure, who has not recovered properly from the eye injury he received after being hit on the helmet a month ago.
Mountaineers are without Hamilton Masakadza and Tino Mawoyo, but they have such reserve strength that their least experienced player is Innocent Kaia, who is playing his 18th first-class match.
Rhinos won the toss and decided to bat on a dry sunny day, in good conditions, but they could scarcely have made a worse start.
There was a bit of movement both in the air and off the pitch, which proved fatal to the visitors’ top order.
In the second over Shingi Masakadza dismissed Tendai Maruma (5), who edged the first ball to the wicketkeeper.
Four balls later Tarisai Musakanda continued his disastrous Logan Cup form by edging the ball into the slips, with the score still on six, now for two wickets.
Bothwell Chapungu managed only a single off 10 balls before he lost patience and attempted a big hit against Shingi Masakadza – the ball flew high over backward point and he was brilliantly caught by Wellington Masakadza, who ran backwards a long distance towards the third-man boundary and dived full-length to catch the ball.
Masvaure and PJ Moor concentrated on survival, and Masakadza finished his excellent opening spell with figures of 5-1-7-3, bowling with accuracy and finding movement in the pitch.
After morning drinks Moor seemed to feel he was now free to play his strokes, and drove Tendai Chatara for two off-side fours in an over, and followed this with another two boundaries from an over from Shingi Masakadza, beginning a second spell.
At this point he had scored 25 out of a total of 38 for three.
The 50 came up in the 20th over, another boundary from Moor taking him to 33.
Masvaure barely budged from solid defence, playing admirably considering his handicap, and at lunch the total had reached 63 for three, with Moor on 42 and Masvaure 12.
A cut for four off Masakadza brought Moor his well-deserved fifty off 85 balls, the total then being 69.
Masvaure was to score 17 off 78 balls before he was given out caught in the slips off Chatara, an invaluable defensive innings for his team, which was now on 80 for four.
Five runs later Moor was dismissed, given out lbw as he stepped down the pitch to Chatara and tried to turn him on the leg side.
He made 58, and his team was now back in trouble at 85 for five.
Remembrance Nyathi and the left-handed James Bruce were the new batsmen, and the former, captaining his team, was soon under way with confidence.
Bruce, however, hitting across the line, was trapped lbw to Shingi Masakadza without scoring.
Lbw seemed to be an infectious mode of dismissal, for Nyathi, after making an assured 21, poked forward to a ball from the leg-spinner Natsai M’shangwe, and also fell lbw; 120 for seven.
Tinashe Panyangara pulled a ball from Donald Tiripano for a leg-side six, but Brandon Mavuta (2) edged M’shangwe to slip, a classical leg-spinner’s dismissal; 129 for eight.
Carl Mumba also fell to M’shangwe, without scoring, as he lost patience and tried to hit him out of the ground, only to sky a catch to mid-off; 131 for nine.
This example was followed by Panyangara (19), to the next ball he faced, as he too skyed the ball, this time from Wellington Masakadza, to mid-off, and the rather sorry innings was surrendered for 131.
This was particularly bad cricket, on the point of tea, as Rhinos particularly wanted their eighth-wicket pair to survive until the interval, so that they could continue their innings instead of having to bowl throughout a prolonged final session.
Shingi Masakadza with four for 52 was the most successful of the bowlers, but M’shangwe had the fine figures of three for nine, while Chatara dismissed two batsmen.
Moor’s 58 stood out, and he alone saved his team from complete disaster, the next-best score being 21 from Nyathi.
Tea was taken. Then Panyangara and Chinouya bowled with real purpose to the Mountaineers openers Kevin Kasuza and Innocent Kaia, who played them with great caution.
Only two runs, singles to Kasuza, came off the first five overs, until Kaia gradually got the measure of the attack and began to push the score along.
Kasuza still played with great caution, but his partner soon found his fluency and played some fine strokes, especially on the leg side.
Drinks were taken after 17 overs with the score 43 without loss, but it cost Mountaineers a wicket, as Kaia, who had 33 of them off 47 balls, edged the first ball after the break, from Carl Mumba, to the wicketkeeper.
The dogged Kasuza at this stage had scored seven off 57 balls.
Roy Kaia, in next, also played the dogged game, until Kasuza suddenly pulled one ball from Mumba to the boundary and slashed the next over the slips for another four.
But that was the end of his efforts, as in Mumba’s next over he edged a ball to the keeper and departed for 18, scored off 70 balls, making the score 56 for two.
Vusi Sibanda came in to bat with about 20 monkeys inside the boundary between the sightscreen and deep cover point.
He drove two fours, one through extra cover, and the monkeys wisely decided to go somewhere safer.
However, Sibanda as so often flattered only to deceive, and having scored 16, all in boundaries, he drove at a ball from Panyangara outside the off stump and hit a catch straight to third slip; 74 for three.
If he had held on for another six balls he would have lived to bat on the second day, as at that point the umpires decided the light was too poor for play, and they left the field with the score still at 74.
Roy Kaia was still there, unbeaten on four off 35 balls, while Timycen Maruma had joined him at the wicket.
Mountaineers will be aiming to bat for most, if not all, of the second day, so as to build a match-winning lead and earn themselves a big lead at the top of the Logan Cup table.