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September 15, 2003
Manicaland 523 (Gripper 234) and 288 for 8 decl. (Brent 82) drew with Mashonaland 448 (Blignaut 194) and 63 for 0
Manicaland earned a draw against Mashonaland in a match they dominated on the first two days and then looked set to lose after a few overs of the fourth. A boring final day and an unrealistic target meant that champions Mashonaland were unable to start the season with their customary victory.
Overnight rain and a cloudy morning made conditions less pleasant, but play started on time. And within 20 minutes, Manicaland had set their sights firmly on defeat. Andy Blignaut began the day with a wide, and then Stuart Matsikenyeri obligingly drove the next delivery straight down the throat of mid-off (114 for 4). When Barney Rogers was given out caught behind by Tatenda Taibu in Douglas Hondo's first over (122 for 5), and Kudzai Taibu followed the same way in Hondo's second over (126 for 6), a result was suddenly on the cards.
But Gary Brent and Piet Rinke were made of sterner stuff, pulling their team out of the mire with some determined batting. A careless shot by Rinke shortly before lunch cost him his wicket for 46, but Brent was in superb form, eventually making 82. Manicaland delayed their declaration, though, as years of humiliation at the hands of Mashonaland had understandably made them over-cautious. Plus they were only too aware of the presence of the potentially devastating batting duo of Craig Evans and Blignaut.
Mashonaland's eventual target was 364 off a minimum of 53 overs, almost seven runs an over. Dion Ebrahim and Brendan Taylor began with a placid 28 off eight overs by afternoon drinks and, with Ryan Butterworth and Stuart Carlisle padded up next instead of Evans and Blignaut, it was clear they never considered going for what would have been a highly unlikely victory, even if just possible on a still superb batting pitch with a lightning-fast outfield.