Bowlers dominate opening day of Logan Cup final
Stumps Mountaineers 56 for 4 (Masakadza 18*, Maruma 0*, Meth 4-14) v Matabeleland Tuskers 195 (Mabuza 54, Mupariwa 34, Mushangwe 3-44, Chatara 3-58)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The bowlers dominated the opening day of the Logan Cup final between Mountaineers and Matabeleland Tuskers at Mutare Sports Club, with 14 wickets falling for 251 runs in the course of the day. Mark Mabuza's 54, and some stubborn lower-order resistance, took Tuskers to 195 after they had been reduced to 118 for 7. Mountaineers had the ascendancy after the first innings, but in less than a session swing bowler Keegan Meth brought his team strongly back into the game with four quick wickets to reduce Mountaineers to 56 for 4 at stumps.
Mountaineers had their full team fit and available, but Matabeleland Tuskers were badly depleted, especially in their top-order batting. Their regular captain Gavin Ewing has a dislocated shoulder, so Keith Dabengwa took over the reins. Terry Duffin and Sean Williams are yet to recover from injuries they picked up during the World Cup, while the English professionals Paul Horton and Adam Wheater, who had both done outstanding jobs for the franchise this season, have gone back to England for the start of the county season. Williams has only played three matches for the team, but the others are the four leading run-scorers for Matabeleland Tuskers in 2010-11 - a very serious blow.
After Tuskers won the toss and decided to bat on a hot, sunny day, the makeshift opening pair of Mark Mabuza and Brad Staddon began in defensive fashion, digging in deep, although both had lucky escapes when mistimed pulls dropped clear of the fielders. They seemed to have weathered the new ball and were starting to look actively for runs when, after almost an hour, Staddon's forward defence was beaten by a ball from Shingi Masakadza that took the edge and was taken by the keeper. Charles Coventry took a single from his first ball and from his next, the first bowled in the match by Natsai Mushangwe, he went for an extravagant drive and was caught at the wicket, a soft dismissal.
Wickets fell regularly thereafter, and 71 for 4 at lunch became 103 for 6 when Mabuza was finally out for 54, scored off 130 balls. He had played the anchor role very capably, but found no partner able to assist him for long. The seventh wicket went down at 118 and a total of 150 looked unlikely when Chris Mpofu came in at No. 9, but it proved to be the start of a fightback that was as good as anything that could be imagined considering the personnel involved. Mpofu played a good defensive role while Tawanda Mupariwa took any scoring opportunities on offer, choosing the right ball to hit and making 34 off 66 balls before being out just before tea.
After the interval Njabulo Ncube swung merrily to reach 29 off only 17 balls, his best score in first-class cricket, and finally holed out on the long-on boundary playing the stroke that was intended to take his team past 200. Despite the low score, the pitch had given the bowlers little or no help: their success came partly due to their own determination and persistence, and partly due to the largely unnecessary disintegration of the depleted Tuskers batsmen.
Mountaineers were also to make surprisingly heavy weather of their batting, as Tuskers bowlers fought back with great determination. Tino Mawoyo did not look comfortable and was struck on the helmet by a ball from Mpofu. Soon after, he edged a ball from Meth to second slip. Meth, in the opinion of the Tuskers coach Dave Houghton, has been the best bowler in the country this season (an opinion backed up by statistics), the only one who can swing the ball consistently either way, and he it was who brought Tuskers back into the game.
Bernard Mlambo did a good job in scoring 22 runs until he was beaten playing forward to Meth and trapped lbw. Next ball, Jon Beukes unwisely padded up to a ball swinging in and was also adjudged lbw. Mountaineers were battling on 38 for 3, and not long afterwards Meth also removed Donald Tiripano before the close for 7, taking 4 for 14 in his nine-over spell. He did not remove Hamilton Masakadza who is still there on 18, however, and much will depend on how he continues on the second day.