There have been some close finishes between Mashonaland Eagles and Mountaineers in recent times, and Mountaineers' five-wicket win at Harare Sports Club on Thursday was another keenly-contested match. The momentum swung both ways until the penultimate over, when a burst of strokes from Prosper Utseya saw Mountaineers home with six balls to spare. Nick Compton's superb century had given Eagles the opportunity for a big score, but the lower middle order gave him precious little support and when Eagles bowled they could not halt the determined Mountaineers from recording another win.
Both teams were strengthened by the return of a few of the players that had been on national duty in Bangladesh and Eagles decided to bat on winning the toss in warm, dry, partly cloudy conditions. Tendai Chatara bowled a good opening spell that prevented the big-hitting Cephas Zhuwao from taking charge, and soon had him slashing a catch to the keeper for 6.
Eagles' total of 222, though, was composed almost entirely of the two partnerships that came next, with Compton playing the major part in both. First he added 98 in 19 overs with Simba Gupo, and then 73 in 11 overs with Forster Mutizwa, and while he was at the crease his team looked likely to build a very challenging total.
He found the pull shot particularly profitable early in his innings, and settled into orthodox accumulation as the bowlers realised a short-pitched attack would not work. The score passed 100 in the 18th over as Gupo contributed a composed 35 before he was out to a brilliant leaping one-handed catch by Timycen Maruma at long-on.
Mutizwa then came in and gave Compton good support in his 29, and the total had reached 183 for 2 in the 33rd over when Compton, who had just reached his hundred, departed to a top-edged sweep. The innings unravelled from that point and in the last seven overs seven wickets fell for 39 runs, with Shingi Masakadza being the main beneficiary, taking four of them for 32 runs in his five overs.
Tino Mawoyo and Jonathan Beukes began the Mountaineers innings with great determination against steadily bowling that gave nothing away, Chad Keegan being the tightest of all. The batsmen had to rely on keeping the scores moving with ones and twos, but they did at least keep their wickets intact.
They were not parted until the 21st over when Mawoyo, on 43, hit a low return catch to Tino Mutombodzi with the score at 101. The scoring rate slowly began to climb, and with ten overs to go 75 runs were needed - but with eight wickets still in hand, Greg Smith having gone for 13.
A critical moment occurred when Beukes, on 61, was dropped off a hard low chance to the fielder on the square-leg boundary. Maruma was threatening to take control when he sliced a hard catch into the covers for 25, quickly followed by Mark Vermeulen for 2.
But the balance shifted again as Beukes kept accumulating while Masakadza lashed out with much success. With three overs remaining 17 were needed, and for the first time the required rate was below six an over. At this point Beukes, with a fine 86 off 102 balls, hit a return catch to Innocent Chinyoka and the match was wide open again.
Utseya scooped a vital boundary over the keeper, off Douglas Hondo, and then swung another four wide of mid-on, and the 12 required runs were completed from the penultimate over. Mountaineers had won with a final burst and an over to spare, Utseya scoring 11 off five balls and Masakadza 27 off 18. The home side had bowled well and Chinyoka had three wickets to his credit, but the Mountaineers had just enough in the tank to get home.
The other match of the day, between Mid West Rhinos and Southern Rocks at Kwekwe, was abandoned without a ball bowled due to rainy weather.