Hoffman century anchors CFX Academy
A fine maiden century by captain Andre Hoffman was the highlight of the first day's play between the CFX Academy and Matabeleland at Country Club, Harare. He hit 112 of his team's total of 297, with Matabeleland replying with 10 without loss at the close.
Zimbabwe's current drought virtually ensured that the Academy should meet Matabeleland on their home ground in the type of weather the visitors are used to, dry and sunny. With the pitch likely to play rather slow and very true, Academy captain Andre Hoffman had no hesitation in batting when he won the toss.
Conan Brewer opened the innings for the Academy for the first time alongside Neeten Chouhan, in place of Innocent Chinyoka, who dropped to the middle order. Matthew Townshend, returning to the Matabeleland side after his loss of form, was erratic at first, but picked up the first wicket at 13 when he had Brewer (6) well caught low at second slip by Greg Strydom.
Vusi Sibanda enlivened proceedings with some positive strokes, but even he found it difficult to reach the boundary over the thick grassy outfield. Chouhan played his usual solid role, but with 15 to his credit he played a ball from Tawanda Mupariwa with his bat away from his body and played on off the bottom edge.
Sibanda and Andre Hoffman settled into a routine of picking up ones and twos with well-judged nudges and pushes, until Townshend returned and immediately beat Sibanda (35) for pace with a full-length balls and removed his off stump. Hoffman, in good form, lofted off-spinner Gavin Ewing for a straight six just before lunch, reaching 42 by the interval.
Afterwards a pull for six over midwicket off Townshend brought Hoffman his 50, and he increased the pace after that, cutting and driving powerfully as he ran to his maiden first-class century, while Chinyoka was happy to play the role of sleeping partner. Hoffman's century came off 128 balls in 142 minutes, and he set his sights on continued plunder before being caught at backward point, cutting at Mupariwa, for 112. The total was 193 for four, and Sibanda had contributed just 18 to their partnership of 115.
Glenn Goosen (5) did not last long, bowled by Keith Dabengwa hitting across the line, and Rinke (2) fell immediately after tea, unwisely going for a big hit off Dabengwa and skying a catch to backward point.
This brought in Glen Barrett for his first match since his remarkable batting debut in Mutare. After getting away with a badly miscued single, he hit Ewing back over his head for six; the following over, a ball from Dabengwa sailed into the car park beyond wide mid-wicket, followed by a straight six, and another into the car park and bouncing out of the ground. Here is a batsman who makes Gilchrist look boring.
This inspired Chinyoka to play some shots as well. In Dabengwa's next over, he swatted a full toss over the long boundary at extra cover, but then hit a catch straight down the throat of long-on, to depart for 42 off 23 balls, with five sixes and no fours.
The game became colourless again, as the spinners bowled to batsmen content to push the occasional one or two. Chinyoka finally reached a marathon 50 off 183 balls. Then pace bowler Townshend returned and Chinyoka finally fell, caught at the wicket fishing outside the off stump. Arnold Rushambwa (1) quickly followed, caught at second slip off Dabengwa, who then dismissed debutant Tom Benade to finish with five in the innings. It was the second `five-fer' of his career, the first being on his debut at this same ground two years ago.
Despite some lively deliveries from Jordane Nicolle, the Matabeleland openers survived the three overs bowled before the close.