March 25, 2002

CFX Academy draw with Matabeleland

The match between the CFX Academy and Matabeleland at Country Club, Harare, fizzled out in a tame draw as Matabeleland declined to chase a target of 298 in a minimum of 70 overs.

Matabeleland captain Colin Williams said he would have been prepared to chase a smaller target, but did not feel this one was reasonable given that the declaration was delayed to accommodate Glenn Goosen's century, and the outfield was heavy. He said that he also had a young team, and it was better for their confidence to return home with a draw instead of being beaten (after two defeats already this season) chasing an unlikely target.

Goosen, who the previous evening had alternated between almost reckless attack and caution, began the final morning with controlled aggression as the Academy resumed on 231 for seven. He was particularly strong on the pull, reaching his fifty with another one for four, while Tom Benade, rather tentative at times early on, played the cut to good effect, if uppishly at times.

It was an invaluable stand for the Academy, and captain Anton Hoffman was able to make plans for a declaration. It was finally broken when Benade took a wild heave at left-arm spinner Keith Dabengwa to be bowled for 35; the pair had added 80 for the eighth wicket.

Number ten Arnold Rushambwa fell lbw in the same over without addition, but last man Jordan Nicolle enjoyed a couple of lusty lofted hits and, with a declaration in the offing, Goosen hit out powerfully, including a six over extra cover off Dabengwa. With such good progress, Hoffman delayed the declaration until Goosen reached his maiden century, which he did with a fortuitous inside edge that just missed his stumps. It took him 163 balls, and he hit 9 fours and 2 sixes.

When Matabeleland began their chase, Wisdom Siziba, hand still sore, nevertheless opened the innings; in eight overs before lunch he and Stuart Walker scored 14 without loss. The Matabeleland players at lunch generally thought they should attempt their target, although Williams was less optimistic. More slow batting by Siziba and Walker in the hour after lunch virtually scotched their chances, though.

Walker survived a catch to second slip in the first over after lunch, Nicolle being the unlucky bowler. Andre Hoffman, normally of a sedate medium-pace and boasting of back trouble on the first day, was somehow inspired to work up considerable speed and produced several serious bouncers, as Matabeleland's runs virtually dried up.

At afternoon drinks the score was 35 off 26 overs, at which point Siziba retired hurt, having aggravated his hand injury. The luckless Ryan King fell lbw to the erratic leg-spinner Neeten Chouhan first ball, but Greg Strydom, one of the most vocal supporters of the victory chase during lunch, began to put his bat where his mouth was, hitting aggressively from the start. He did not last long, though, trying prematurely to hit Benade across the line and being adjudged lbw, perhaps rather harshly, for 8.

Regular full tosses and long hops from Chouhan, whose good balls can nevertheless be devastating, helped to keep the score moving, as Gavin Ewing joined Walker, but by tea a draw was the most likely result, as Matabeleland were a mere 84 for two off 42 overs.

Afterwards Walker (44) was stumped to give Conan Brewer his first wicket in first-class cricket with his occasional off-breaks, dragging his foot as he stretched forward defensively. Siziba returned, but did not last long, leaving an arm ball from Benade that came back to hit his off stump; he made 19. A couple of dropped catches, though, did not help the Academy's cause.

Ewing scored 76 to add to his 58 in the first innings and four wickets, as the teams stayed on the field to the bitter end, Mike McKillop (71 not out) hitting Benade for a huge six off the last possible ball. The final total was 232 for five, and the Academy got through 80 overs in the time allotted to 70.

It was a match played in good spirit with very little to complain about regarding behaviour - apart from the inevitable excessive appealing - or umpiring. All it needed was an interesting ending.