Climactic fourth day looms
Stumps Mountaineers 239 (Masakadza 119, Meth 6-40) and 99 for 2 (Masakadza 13*, Tiripano 1*, Dabengwa 1-2, Meth 1-25) v Matabeleland Tuskers 195 (Mabuza 54, Mushangwe 3-44) and 290 (Meth 65, Staddon 50, Utseya 2-37)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The new Logan Cup champions will be crowned at Mutare Sports Club on Saturday, and though this game could still go either way, the dazzling strokeplay of Bernard Mlambo in the final session gave Mountaineers the edge at the close of the third day. With Hamilton Masakadza still at the crease, their last eight wickets need another 148 runs.
Matabeleland Tuskers resumed on their overnight score of 116 for 2, a lead of 72 runs. First blood went to the home side, as both overnight batsmen fell before either had scored another run: Steve Trenchard (23) clipped the third ball of the day to square leg off Tendai Chatara, while Charles Coventry (24) was trapped lbw by a good ball from Shingi Masakadza. Within minutes it was 119 for 4 and Mountaineers surged into the ascendancy.
Keith Dabengwa, the team's acting captain, and their wicketkeeper Tafadzwa Ngulube fought back with equal determination, and Dabengwa later off-drove a ball from Timycen Maruma for six, a fine stroke with surprising power from a man of slender build. While Ngulube defended, Dabengwa kept the score moving, but was out to Prosper Utseya just before lunch for 39. The pair had added 57.
Ngulube played a slow but valuable innings, and was out to the first legal delivery - after a wide - with the second new ball, Chatara having him caught at the wicket for 34 off 125 balls. Keegan Meth was in good touch with the bat, looking every bit an allrounder as he played some fluent strokes, rarely looking in trouble. But there continued a slow but steady fall of wickets, each middle-order partnership adding useful runs but none building the major stand that would have taken the match from Mountaineers' hands.
Maruma took two wickets with successive deliveries, when he deceived and bowled Tawanda Mupariwa for 10, and then trapped Chris Mpofu lbw unwisely sweeping at a straight ball. Meth made 65, the top score of the innings, before he drove a low catch into the covers off Donald Tiripano, and after a bright last-wicket partnership the innings closed for 290. Four bowlers took two wickets each, with the restrictive Utseya returning the most impressive figures of them, bowling 24 overs for only 37 runs.
This left Mountaineers 247 to win, and it was really anybody's match. Most of all, though, it was a test of nerve for Mountaineers, who completed their Logan Cup league programme undefeated; the pressure is always greater on the batting side in such circumstances, and particularly so after the collapse to Meth in the first innings. Tino Mawoyo and Bernard Mlambo made an enterprising start, although there were a couple of nervy strokes, and had made 29 before Mawoyo, in the tenth over, edged a ball from Meth to the keeper, gone for 12.
This brought about an exciting individual duel between Hamilton Masakadza and Meth - a duel that in the end may well decide the match. At first Mlambo took the lead, cutting, driving and pulling powerful boundaries off Mpofu. Reaching the other end, he drove balls from Meth through mid-off and mid-on for fours, and the score raced to 50 in the 12th over before Masakadza had even got off the mark. After a slight breather, Mlambo resumed his assault and reached his own fifty with a superb pull off Brad Staddon, having faced 61 balls. He continued his assault with sixes over long-on off John Nyumbu and a pull over midwicket off Ncube.
With such brilliance at the other end, Masakadza wisely sat back and handed over as much of the strike as possible, but eventually Mlambo played one stroke too many when he holed out on the midwicket boundary to Dabengwa's first ball of the match for 68, scored off 77 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes. Masakadza finished the day on 13 not out, and he and Meth will be the key figures in the grand finale. The last day of the Zimbabwe season 2010/11 could see a wonderful climax.