A brilliant innings of 86 by Richmond Mutumbami led the way for an impressive total of 279 for eight wickets by Mountaineers in their Pro50 Championship match against Rhinos at Harare Sports Club today.
Not even an equally fine century from Prince Masvaure could tear this match from Mountaineers’ grasp, and they went on to record their third victory of the competition in a close finish by 10 runs.
On an overcast morning Mountaineers won the toss and decided to bat, opening as usual with Joylord Gumbie and Kevin Kasuza, who made a cautious start against the bowling of Carl Mumba and Tafara Chingwara.
The score was only nine in the fifth over when Mumba moved a ball back in to Kasuza and trapped him lbw for four.
Most of the early runs came from pulls and cuts, as the bowlers tended to pitch too short at times.
Gumbie had scored 17, with the total 38 in the 13th over, when he drove a short ball from Mumba off the back foot, but failed to keep it down and hit it straight to cover.
Mutumbami, in next, was the first batsman able to get the score moving quickly, and he played his strokes freely and manoeuvred the ball well around the field for many well-judged singles.
They added 52 runs in just over 10 overs when Tendai Chisoro broke through by bowling Roy Kaia for 34; 98 for three in the 25th over.
With Kudzai Sauramba as his new partner, Mutumbami continued to play strongly and reached his fifty off 47 balls.
Sauramba (3) did not last long, driving a low return catch to Trevor Chibvongodze; 115 for four.
Mutumbami continued to bat in superb style and it came as a surprise when, on 86, Mumba managed to bring a ball back from outside the off stump to bowl him.
He had faced only 77 balls and hit four sixes, all over long-on, and four fours; the score was 171 for five in the 37th over.
Donald Tiripano only lasted three balls for two runs before he drove a catch on the off side.
The innings was now rather at a crossroads, and Gary Chirimuuta and Shingi Masakadza batted with good sense and skill to stabilise their team.
The pair added 38 runs to take the score to 211 before Chirimuuta skyed a catch off Mumba for 23.
William Mashinge was out to hit the ball from the start, and he quickly outshone Masakadza, who was playing a more restrained game than usual and concentrating on ones and twos.
Mashinge pillaged Mumba for 23 runs in an over, including two sixes and two fours.
Given the close finish, it may just have been this over that decided the match.
In the next over, however, Chisoro returned to have Mashinge caught by long-on running in to hold a skyer, having scored 39 off 23 balls; 260 for eight in the 49th over.
Off the final delivery of the innings a couple of frantic misfields allowed the batsmen to run five altogether, giving the innings a comical ending.
Masakadza finished with 44 not out off 43 balls, and his brother Wellington with two not out; the total was 279 for eight wickets, a challenging target for Rhinos.
Mumba, despite his pasting by Mashinge, finished with four wickets for 53 runs, while Chisoro, the most economical as usual, had two for 40.
Chibvongodze and Masvaure opened the Rhinos challenge against the bowling of Tiripano and Victor Nyauchi.
They made only eight, however, before Chibvongodze (3) was superbly run out by a direct hit from Sauramba.
Tarisai Musakanda scored only four before he drove a low return catch to Nyauchi and at 12 for two after six overs Rhinos were in considerable trouble.
Masvaure and PJ Moor dug in, but at the risk of worsening their run rate, already over six per over.
Moor continued to struggle, but Masvaure, taking most of the bowling, hit out selectively, using his feet well to force away balls, and actually reached his 50 off 50 balls when the total was 66.
Suddenly Moor decided he was well set and began to attack in fine style, hitting three sixes in five balls off the spinners Wellington Masakadza and Kaia.
By the 25-over mark this pair had remarkably put Rhinos back on course again, having reached 131 for two wickets, with the run rate now below six again.
A skilfully placed single past square leg took Masvaure to what was remarkably his first one-day century, scored off 97 balls, with the team score now on 161.
Unfortunately he then seemed to lose concentration: he wafted at the next ball he faced, from Nyauchi, and edged a simple catch to the wicketkeeper.
His round 100 had come off 98 balls and contained 12 fours and a six; Rhinos were now 161 for three in the 32nd over, and the required run rate had now risen to over six again.
Remembrance Nyathi came in next, and soon afterwards Moor reached his first half-century of the season, which took him 69 balls.
There his innings ended, though, as he was then dismissed lbw by Shingi Masakadza, and at 171 for four in the 34th over, the balance had swung back towards Mountaineers.
It was scarcely good cricket for the two leading batsmen both to lose their wickets immediately after reaching their personal landmarks with the match in a crucial position.
Nyathi and Nyasha Mayavo now had to start all over again, no easy taking with more than seven runs an over now required for victory.
Both batsmen settled in, but the required run rate rose steadily, and Mountaineers kept the score under control.
It did not help matters when Nyathi, having just reached his 50 off 48 balls — not fast enough to put his team ahead — was hit on the helmet by a bouncer from Nyathi, and had to retire hurt.
Twenty-four runs were required from the last two overs, and 17 off the final over, bowled Nyauchi.
Neville Madziva (4) tried to hit a six, but was caught on the midwicket boundary.
Only six runs were managed, the score finishing on 269 for five wickets and the match was over.
Nyauchi was the most successful bowler, and also the most economical, with three wickets for 37 runs.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Under-19 star Wesley Madhevere, playing only his second List A match after making his debut at the weekend, put in a splending all-round performance to inspire Eagles to victory over Rangers by 111 runs in the other Pro50 Championship match played today at Old Georgians Sports Club.
He scored his maiden half-century and sealed his player-of-the-match performance with a four-wicket haul.
A light drizzle and wet outfield delayed the start of the match, which had to be reduced to 36 overs per side.
Rangers, still looking for their first win in Zimbabwe’s premier domestic competitions and playing at their home ground for the first time, won the toss and elected to field.
Eagles opening batsman Tinashe Kamunhukamwe continued with his fine form with the bat, scoring 45, with three fours and two sixes, off 34 balls.
When the defending champions appeared to be in danger of crumbling after being reduced to 80 for four – with Regis Chakabva (12), Kudzai Maunze (4), Kamunhukamwe (45) and Tony Munyonga (11) all gone within 13 overs – then stepped up Madhevere, in tandem with the veteran Elton Chigumbura.
They shared a fifth-wicket stand of 114 runs that rescued Eagles and effectively put them in the driver’s seat.
Madhevere’s sensational innings ended with him having scored 57 off 55 deliveries, a knock that included two fours and three sixes.
Chigumbura made 70, with three fours and four sixes, off 69 balls, as Eagles went on to finish with a total of 252 for six wickets from their 36 overs.
That target was always going to be a mammoth task for Rangers and losing their most experienced star player, Brendan Taylor, trapped lbw for two, made their chase more difficult.
Only Marshal Takodza showed resistance, top-scoring with 56 not out, including six boundaries, as the rest of the Rangers batsmen struggled to cope with the Eagles attack.
Daniel Zvidzai and Johnathan Campbell chipped in with 26 and 20 respectively before Rangers were all out for 141 in 32 overs, handing Eagles victory by 111 runs.
Madhevere took four wickets for 28 runs off the six overs he bowled, while Tapiwa Mufudza finished with three scalps for 37 off eight overs.