March 10, 2001

Midlands plunder Matabeleland bowling

Joe Ruzvidzo

Douglas Marillier must be a very happy man. The national ODI batsman and Midlands captain is in a rich vein of form, and his team is performing admirably in their 3-day Logan match against Matabelaland. With Midlands tottering on 3/64 early in the morning of the first day, worries were probably piling up in their camp. But the Fall of Wickets statistics speak for themselves; 3/64, 4/240.

Marillier strode out to join the burly Craig Wishart in the middle, and they simply took the Matabelaland bowling apart. With Wishart on 17 (4 fours and a single), things started to come together for Midlands. Young Matabeleland bowler Mercury Kenny, with figures of 8-0-66-0, suffered the most as the batsmen went about their business. Marillier played a fine captain's innings, displaying spectacular strokeplay and timing worthy of any international side. He used his considerable reach to drive the bowling all over the place, basically doing what he liked, when he liked. Fortune seemed to be on his side, as nothing at all seemed impossible. Any shot he played came good, even the 'paddle sweep' he played off spinner Iain Engelbrecht (18-4-73-1).He got his 50 off 71 balls, and Mat'land breathed a sigh of relief when he got caught by the talented young medium-pacer Clement Mahachi off the bowling of Mark Vermeulen. He scored 100 runs off 126 balls, hitting the bowlers for 15 fours and 4 sixes.

However, the story of the day could only be Craig Wishart. 151 runs, with 17 fours and 4 sixes. He treated the tiny crowd at the scenic Bulawayo Athletic Club to probably the best cricket they've seen since the ODI series victory over New Zealand at Queens. With the team needing a decent performance after their shaky start, Craig Wishart did his job. And if that job was to "hit", then hit he did. Actually, he hit everything in sight. And probably enjoyed it. The way he played was very simple: step aside and swing for all you're worth! Not to be tried at home, of course, because with Wishart's international experience, that style of play is much simpler than it looks. The match turned into a very exciting contest, as the boundaries just kept on coming. Wishart's innings was characterised by numerous fours, many of them smacked over the fielders' heads, and some huge sixes. As they day went on, the game began to slip away from Matabeleland captain "Pommie" Mbangwa. Wishart finally gave it up, sending a ball from Mahachi towards Mbangwa, who gratefully took the catch. At this point Midlands declared, after posting a considerable 380 runs for the loss of six wickets.

The Matabeleland side, however skillful and enthusiastic their fielding may be, did not perform as expected. Boasting the likes of Mbangwa and Mluleki Nkala, many would expect score to be a little more reasonable. Mbangwa bowled a very precise line, conceding just 44 runs off his 21 overs. Nkala was not so lucky, giving away 82 runs from his 22 overs. He should be happy with his performance towards the end of the day, when he used the new ball to great effect. Despite Mat'land's efforts in the field, the day belonged to Douglas Marillier and Craig Wishart, whose partnership of 176 runs off 244 balls turned the game into a real contest, and probably gave the Matabeleland camp a few things to think about.