Rhinos and Matabeleland secure wins
A powerful, unbeaten 47 from 26 balls from Riki Wessels, son of former South Africa captain Kepler, set up Mid West Rhinos' 11-run defeat of Southern Rocks in the Stanbic Bank 20 series game at the Harare Sports Club.
His innings proved crucial after Chris Harris, the 40-year-old former New Zealand allrounder, followed his early run-out with two wickets during an impressive spell of 2 for 11 from his four overs. Brendan Taylor and another New Zealand import Lou Vincent launched the Rhino's innings with a 46-run stand before Harris intervened.
First he had Vincent run-out and then had Taylor caught next ball. Four overs later he removed the stuttering Vusi Sibanda and Southern Rocks had control. Gary Ballance steadied proceedings with a 29-ball 30, giving time for Wessels to find his range.
When Ballance fell, stumped off the Kenyan veteran Steve Tikolo, Wessels took control, smiting five fours and a six to carry the score to 149. It proved too much for the Rhinos despite Brian Lara following up his 65 against Mashonaland Eagles with 23.
Lara was one of six Southern Rocks players to reach double figures, but none went past 25 and it proved to be the difference between the sides. After a careful opening stand of 24, Paul Franks, who played a one-dayer for England 10 years ago, had Sikandar Raza stumped by Wessels and Chamu Chibhabha was run-out by Vincent soon after.
Malcom Waller sliced through the middle order with his offspin, taking the prize wicket of Lara, along with Tatenda Taibu and Tikolo to leave the Rocks reeling at 91 for 5 after 15 overs. Craig Ervine did his best to revive the game with an unbeaten 25 from 11 balls but it wasn't enough.
In the second match of the day, a strong all-round showing from Warwickshire's Neil Carter helped Matabeleland Tuskers to a 12-run win against Mashonaland Eagles.
First Carter made a boundary-studded 49 from 25 balls at the top of the order for Matabeleland before taking a wicket with the second ball of Mashonaland's innings. It meant that a savage, unbeaten 39 from 17 balls by Ryan Butterworth was not enough as Matabeleland edged home.
The win was set up by a careful middle-order showing from Charles Coventry (23) and Sean Williams (38*) who ensured Carter's initial burst didn't go to waste. Williams finished unbeaten and struck three fours in his 33 ball stay, receiving good support from captain Gavin Ewing and Keegan Meth to help push the score up to 167.
Carter's early wicket, followed by two more by Chris Mpofu made Mashonaland's task even harder as they wobbled on 18 for 3 midway through the fourth over. Ryan ten Doeschate was the crucial blow, as he fiddled making 1 off five balls before giving a catch to Meth.
Grant Flower teamed up with Nick Compton to try and rescue the innings with a careful 54-run stand, before Compton fell to Ewing for 30. Having worked their way to 82 for 4, Mashonaland slipped due to two stumpings in two balls before some late-order swiping restored some pride. Butterworth slapped three sixes and a four in his innings and received able support from Regis Chakabva, who made 26 from 12 balls before being run-out in the final over.