Newly crowned champions Tuskers finish Pro50 campaign in style

Harare Metropolitan Eagles – 208 all out in 44.2 overs (Chamu Chibhabha 65, Nathan Waller 48; John Nyumbu 3/17, Brian Vitori 3/30, Sean Williams 2/54)

Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers – 209-1 in 38.5 overs (Brian Chari 105*, Craig Ervine 57*, Nkosana Mpofu 28; Talent Munyoro 1/39)

Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers won by nine wickets

Excellent batting by Brian Chari, with 105 not out, and Craig Ervine, 57 not out, today led the new Pro50 champions, Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers, to a straight-forward nine-wicket victory over a disappointing Harare Metropolitan Eagles team at Harare Sports Club in their final match in this competition.

This was a wonderful turnaround in form for Tuskers, who had finished at the bottom of the Logan Cup log, but won five of their six Pro50 matches.

This match began with Tuskers already crowned champions, but with complacency being a danger, while Eagles, last season’s champions, firmly at the foot of the table and only capable of moving from it if they won and Mountaineers lost in Kwekwe.

On a cool sunny morning Eagles won the toss and decided to bat.

Regis Chakabva and Chamu Chibhabha faced the bowling of Brian Vitori, the man whose seven-wicket haul had destroyed their batting the last time the teams met, in Bulawayo.

The first over was quite eventful.  Chakabva turned the second ball for four backward of square leg.

There followed two wides; Chakabva (4) unwisely shouldered arms to the next legitimate delivery, which came back off the pitch and removed his off stump; six for one.

Chibhabha and Tino Mutombodzi took things quietly until in the sixth over when Mutombodzi drove Thabo Mboyi for a lofted four between the bowler and mid-off.

Mutombodzi scored 16 before he was caught in two minds by a ball from Chris Mpofu and ended up popping the ball up on the off side, for cover to run in and just hold the ball before it hit the ground; 44 for two in the 11th over.

Chibhabha was batting well, but when he had 27 he enjoyed a fortunate escape, as he mistimed a pull, but the fielder at deep midwicket was late in running in for a catch, and was unable to hold it.

He celebrated by scoring 10 off the next over, from Mpofu.

Sikandar Raza gave him good support for a while, but when he had scored 16 he chopped a ball from the left-arm spinner Sean Williams on to his stumps, the score then being 99 for three in the 21st over.

In the next over Chibhabha took a single that brought him his fifty off 70 balls, and which also brought up the team hundred.

Kudzai Maunze, who has not yet adjusted to the one-day game, scored six before he tried to sweep Williams and was bowled; 119 for four in the 27th over.

In the next over Tuskers struck a great blow when they removed Chibhabha for 65 – he slightly checked a drive off the left-hander Ainsley Ndlovu and was caught low down in the covers.

He scored his runs off 90 balls, hitting eight fours, and the total was 123 for five.

Nathan Waller came in next and was quickly dropped off a very lofted drive, with the long-off fielder failing to hold the ball off the bowling of Williams.

Waller got it right in the next over with a vengeance, as he hit Ndlovu for three successive sixes between cow corner and long-on, each of them high hits well over the boundary.

When John Nyumbu came on to bowl, Waller was again reprieved as he sent up a huge skyer between the bowler and mid-on – the mid-on fielder went for it but misjudged it so badly he scarcely got a hand to it.

Elton Chigumbura had been playing a quiet game at the other end, allowing Waller to have his head, but he fell for nine, at 161 for six in the 34th over, trying to cut Nyumbu and being bowled.

Waller continued to live by the sword, hitting Williams for a six on to the roof of the chairman’s stand and a four, but later in the same over sent up a huge skyer to deep midwicket, and Tuskers finally found a capable fielder there in Mpofu.

Waller scored 48 off 35 balls, with four sixes and two fours, and left his team at 180 for seven in the 38th over.

This also left Eagles with four tail-enders to play out more than 12 overs between them, with Herbert Chikomba and Cuthbert Musoko now at the crease.

They did not do too badly for rank tail-enders, hitting out boldly and taking the score to 200 in the 43rd over, helped by another dropped catch, Musoko being missed at mid-on.

But the pace of Vitori then proved too much for Chikomba, bowling him out for eight.

In the next over Musoko was bowled by Nyumbu for 15, at 204, and Brighton Zhawi had a full go at two balls from Vitori; the first he slashed for four and the second bowled him, ending the Eagles innings at 208 in the 45th over.

The erratic Vitori took three wickets for 30, and Nyumbu three for 17, while Williams also took two expensive wickets.

Chibhabha scored 65 and Waller 48. The next best score was only 16, which gives its own explanation for the disappointing total.

After lunch, Nkosana Mpofu and Chari opened the batting for Tuskers against the bowling of Musoko and Zhawi.

Mpofu has rarely played his best in one-day cricket, and with Chari one never knows what one will get.

On this occasion both played well, with Chari looking particularly good and striking Zhawi for six over long-off.

They put on 81 together in 16 overs before the new Eagles man, Talent Munyoro, broke through, bowling Mpofu leg stump for 28 with a ball of good full length.

Ervine replaced him and looked at ease from the start.

A lofted straight drive for four by Ervine brought up the hundred in the 19th over, and in the following over Chari reached his fifty off 57 balls.

When the spinners Chikomba and Raza came on, the run rate slowed down, but it was only a temporary respite, as soon they were plundering the bowling and putting the result beyond doubt.

It took Ervine only 42 balls to reach his fifty, and Chari made a late bid for his century as victory approached, hitting Musoko for four and six to reach 90.

A cross-batted swat for four past mid-on brought him his hundred, which at first went unrecognized as the scoreboard was behind.

It took him another boundary, a lofted straight drive off Mutombodzi, to bring deserved recognition for the landmark.

One run later, Tuskers were home to a fine victory to crown a triumphant one-day tournament.

Chari faced 123 balls for his unbeaten 105, and Ervine’s 57 came off 62.

Munyoro took the only wicket, but none of the bowlers had figures to remember, although Chikomba with 29 runs off his seven overs was the most economical.

At the end of the match, Tuskers received the Pro50 Championship trophy, popped the champagne and the celebrations were in full swing.

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