Takashinga Cricket Club has been crowned the 2020/21 National Premier League (NPL) champions.
The Highfield-based side finished the inaugural season of the elite club competition equal on points with MidWest but claimed the title thanks to their superior head-to-head record.
Both sides won six times and each recorded two losses during the competition, leaving the result of their meeting as the decisive factor for the championship.
Takashinga also had a better net run rate of +1.502, compared to MidWest’s plus +0.698.
The curtain came down on the NPL campaign on Sunday, with four matches being played across the country.
That saw Rainbow Sharks sealing a third-place finish following their victory over Easterns, who had to settle for number five.
Harare Kings got the better of Queens Sports Club to end in the fourth position, with the latter finishing on number eight.
Gladiators and Amakhosi are sixth and seventh respectively, while Great Zimbabwe Patriots anchor the final standings having won only a single match throughout the campaign.
Easterns – 103 all out in 25.5 overs (baxton Gopito 54*, Tinashe Muchawaya 10, Clive Chitumba 6; Brandon Mavuta 4/0, Victor Nyauchi 3/14, Daniel Jakiel 1/25)
Rainbow Sharks – 109-1 in 11.3 overs (Gareth Chirawu 57*, Brandon Mavuta 37, Parudo Mugore 12*; John Masara 1/30)
Rainbow Sharks won by nine wickets
Victor Nyauchi began the rout, Brandon Mavuta had a fine all-round match and Gareth Chirawu finished off the game with a brutal fifty as Rainbow Sharks raced to an overwhelming victory over Easterns at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
Baxton Gopito, the tall, aggressive Easterns left-handed opening batsman, hit Daniel Jakiel for two fours in the opening over as his team were put in to bat.
The prolific Kevin Kasuza made only two before a ball from Nyauchi lifted on him unexpectedly and Brandon Mavuta at second slip took a fine low diving catch off the edge of the bat.
The next man, Spencer Magodo, failed to score, as he tried to pull a short ball from Nyauchi and lobbed an easy catch to midwicket.
He was followed two balls later as Nyauchi moved a ball in to dismiss Tinashe Chiora lbw, while Kudzai Sauramba, who played a no-ball from Nyauchi on to his stumps, was then caught in the slips by Mavuta off Jakiel for one, and Easterns were in deep trouble at 22 for four.
Definate Mawadzi gave Gopito good defensive support, taking the score to 53 before he was lbw to Robertson Chinyengetere for three.
Wickets continued to fall at one end, with Tinashe Muchawaya (10 off 10 balls) the only batsman apart from Gopito able to reach double figures.
Mavuta finished off the innings for 103 by dismissing the last four batsmen, the final three without a run between them, and the magnificent Gopito carried his bat right through to finish not out with 54.
He faced 69 balls and hit eight fours, taking a few risks but appearing to be batting on quite another planet from his team-mates.
The only criticism of his innings is perhaps that he needed to shield his helpless partners rather more effectively, as they faced 87 balls between them to his 69.
Nyauchi, who had given Rainbow such a fine start with his pace, took three for 14 in seven overs.
Mavuta had four out in 2.5 overs without conceding a run – Gopito did not face a ball from him.
Rainbow almost made a bad start, as Mavuta, opening the batting, skyed his first ball high towards square leg, but no fielder was close enough to catch it.
Mavuta and Chirawu were certainly eager to finish the match quickly, as they hit out at almost anything, and a couple of difficult chances were missed in the field.
The batsmen got away with many aerial shots, not troubling to keep the ball on the ground, and after five overs the score was 53.
They put on 75 in seven overs before Mavuta had one swing too many and was bowled by John Masara for 37.
Chirawu ran to his fifty off only 29 balls, and then finished the match with a big slog-sweep for six over midwicket.
It had taken Rainbow only 11.3 overs to complete their fourth victory of the competition.
Gladiators – 81 all out in 27.2 overs (Masimba Maruvatsanga 17, Tony Munyonga 14, Saleem Nihute 12; Ainsley Ndlovu 5/11, Stephen Chimhamhiwa 3/11, Ernest Masuku 1/22)
Amakhosi – 73 all out in 20 overs (Nkosana Mpofu 18, Stephen Chimhamhiwa 13*, John Nyumbu 9; Malcom Chikuwa 7/16, Owen Muzondo 2/27)
Gladiators won by eight runs
The left-arm spinner Malcom Chikuwa was the match-winner in a remarkable victory for Gladiators over Amakhosi of Bulawayo at Kwekwe Sports Club.
After Gladiators had collapsed for a meagre total of 81, Chikuwa came good with the ball and skittled out Amakhosi for 73, taking seven wickets himself for only 16 runs.
The only time the bat ever looked to master the ball in this match was when Saleem Nihute (12) and Tony Munyonga (14) were putting on 35 for Gladiators’ second wicket in the morning.
Steve Chimhamhiwa dismissed them both, while the main damage was done by another left-arm spinner, Ainsley Ndlovu, who whipped out five batsmen for only 11 runs.
Amakhosi made a disastrous start as they chased their small target, losing three wickets for 10 runs before their opener, Nkosana Mpofu, still there, found good defensive support for a while from Allan Chigoma before the latter was out for four at a total of 35.
But Mpofu went for 18 with the score 42, and the middle order fell to pieces against Chikuwa.
Eight men were out for 51, but Gladiators were not safe yet, as there were brief rallies from John Nyumbu (9) and Steve Chimhamhiwa (13 not out), before the last wicket went down for 73, leaving Gladiators unexpected victors.
Gladiators started the competition with four successive defeats, and have now finished it with four successive victories.
MidWest – 145 all out in 36.3 overs (Nyasha Mayavo 51, Tashinga Musekiwa 29, Manson Chikowero 21; Andre Odendaal 4/27, Nkosilathi Nungu 4/31, Gabriel Jaya 1/39)
Great Zimbabwe Patriots – 129 all out in 44 overs (William Mashinge 35, Nelson Chimbirimbiri 23, Gabriel Jaya 9; Trevor Chibvongodze 4/31, Tashinga Musekiwa 2/14, Jabulisa Tshuma 2/26)
MidWest won by 16 runs
Nyasha Mayavo’s score of 51, opening the batting for MidWest, played a vital role in his team’s narrow victory over Great Zimbabwe at Old Hararians Sports Club.
MidWest knew that they needed to win this game to finish as runners-up – even if they matched Takashinga on points, the latter had already sealed the championship before the final round of matches was played due to a better head-to-head record against the Kwekwe-based side.
As for Great Zimbabwe, who finish at the bottom of the NPL table, they missed a golden opportunity to end the season with what should have been only their second victory in this competition.
MidWest lost Takudzwa Kaitano to the first ball of the match, and Tarisai Musakanda made only 12 and Remembrance Nyathi zero — five were out for 64 — so for Mayavo the responsibility was huge.
He didn’t lose his strokes, but played positive cricket, scoring 51 off 61 balls, and, with help from the all-rounders Tashinga Musekiwa and Manson Chikowero, they took the score to 145, not good, but something at least to bowl against.
With William Mashinge batting steadily and well, Great Zimbabwe looked like winners when their score reached 78 with only two men out.
But then their middle order fell apart, with Trevor Chibvongodze the most successful of the bowlers, and six wickets were down for 91.
André Odendaal fought hard for his nine runs, but nobody else down the list made as many, and MidWest could at least feel a kind of painful pleasure to know that, though they could not top Takashinga, they had at least pulled this match out of the fire.
Queens – 211-6 in 42 overs (Tanatswa Bechani 63, Simbarashe Haukozi 37, Gift Mavhaire 34; Kuda Chirume 2/46, Patrick Mambo 1/29, Ashfaq Patel 1/30)
Harare Kings – 212-6 in 33 overs (Johnathan Campbell 57, Prince Masvaure 49, Cephas Zhuwao 48; Chris Mpofu 2/21, Tanatswa Bechani 2/49, Ian Fuzane 1/28)
Harare Kings won by four wickets
Although not the highest scorer, Prince Masvaure perhaps played the most valuable innings for Harare Kings in their victory in the one match of the day where batsmen flourished.
Harare Kings had a stiff target of 212 to win, and they lost Zaheer Tufail for eight and their new star Nick Welch for only two, bowled by Tanatswa Bechani, but Masvaure held firm to restore the foundation of the innings with 48, with a good end result for his team.
Queens had also lost two early wickets, but Bechani, a good all-round man, scored a sound 63 not out, helped by some good hitting from Simbarashe Haukozi and Ian Fuzane lower in the order, and Queens must have felt cautiously happy with 211 – remembering the strength of their opponents’ batting.
As noted above, Masvaure played the major part in offsetting a rather poor start, and Cephas Zhuwao showed some of his best shots in scoring 48, with two sixes and six fours.
Just as fluent, though, was Johnathan Campbell, who scored 57 off 44 balls to put his team ahead of the clock, and the finisher was Nadim Patel, who brought Kings roaring home to victory with 32 not out off 15 balls.
It was a good batting day for the royalty, as the Kings beat the Queens with 423 runs scored.