Mashonaland win again in Harare by 162 runs
Another victory to Mashonaland, this time over Midlands, made them the only team to win twice in the first two rounds of the competition. Midlands began well, but once Stuart Carlisle and Andy Flower settled down to a massive third-wicket partnership that eventually realized 234 runs, they were never in the hunt and contributed to their own downfall, as they had on Wednesday, with a poor batting display.
Mashonaland won the toss on a hot, sunny day and decided to bat at Country Club, hidden away in the peaceful eastern suburbs of Harare. Dion Ebrahim, needing runs in one-day cricket to justify his World Cup selection, began positively but soon fell for 10, an inside edge on to the pad being well taken by wicket-keeper Alester Maregwede, off the bowling of Travis Friend.
Pinch-hitter Andy Blignaut did not succeed, making 6 off 18 balls before being superbly caught low down at short fine leg by James Cornford, as he flicked Friend round the corner. With Friend and Sean Ervine bowling extended opening spells with considerable accuracy, Mashonaland became bogged down and Andy Flower actually took 14 balls to score his first run. But the batsmen saw them off and then began to accumulate against the later bowlers. Run-scoring was never easy, though; the pitch gave little movement to the bowlers but the ball did not come readily on to the bat.
Frustration grew among the fielders as Carlisle and Flower raised the scoring rate from below two to more than five an over as both reached their fifties in quick succession, off 80 and 68 balls respectively. Then the boundaries started flowing, with the Midlands bowlers and fielders left helpless to stop the flood.
Andy it was who recorded the first century in this new competition, his second fifty taking just 29 balls. Carlisle, who has struck a rich vein of runs since being left out of the World Cup team, just missed his century, having his leg stump removed for 95 when taking a big swing at Ervine on the latter's return in the dying overs.
The return of their new-ball bowlers continued to benefit Midlands, as Andy Flower finally drove a catch off Friend to extra cover, to finish with 133, and Ervine then bowled Grant Flower without scoring. A yorker from Friend accounted for Murphy (7), Gus Mackay (5) was run out in the scramble for runs, but Craig Evans stayed to the end for an aggressive 26. The final total of 304 for seven appeared to be well beyond the reach of Midlands on a pitch that was becoming slower and lower.
Midlands suffered an instant blow when opener Vusi Sibanda was run out without scoring in the first over. Craig Wishart, however, once he had adjusted to the pitch, started driving with power and certainty, enjoying especially the bowling of Blignaut. He was looking dangerous, with 28 to his credit, when he had a foolish mix-up with Friend; stopping in mid-pitch to check that Friend was safe at the bowler's end, he was run out at the keeper's end by a smart throw from Mackay.
Almost immediately insanity struck again; Friend ran for a misfield, Doug Marillier didn't, and Friend (12) was run out by half the length of the pitch. Midlands were now 47 for three, all to run-outs.
After this the match took its inevitable course. The only partnership that offered any stability, though not a sniff of victory, was of 43 for the sixth wicket between Marillier and Dirk Vilojen. Then Marillier (45) skyed a hook to offer Mackay a return catch, and Blignaut returned with two quick wickets and yet another run-out. The last pair proved obstinate but not prolific, and Viljoen was left unbeaten with
Midlands do not seem to have come to terms with this type of cricket at all, despite the successes of Kwekwe Sports Club in the national club league. Their new-ball bowlers were much more impressive in this match, but the back-up was poor, and in neither match did their batsmen show much idea of how to play.