Utseya helps Easterns regain top spot
Prosper Utseya's seven-wicket haul in the second innings not only helped Easterns maintain their unbeaten record in the competition but took them to the top of the points table, following a crushing win against Centrals at the Old Hararians. Utseya ended with eleven wickets in the match while Bernard Mlambo shone with the bat, stroking a brilliant 158, to set up the innings-and-nine-run victory.
Opting to bat after winning the toss, Centrals were lifted by eighties from captain Chamu Chibhabha and Malclom Waller to 275. Utseya was the most successful bowler for Easterns, accounting for four batsmen from the lower half of the order. It proved a below-par score as Easterns were given a rousing start by Mlambo. He strung together key partnerships with captain Hamilton Masakadza (51), Stuart Matsinkenyeri (85) and wicketkeeper Forster Mutizwa (51) as Easterns went from strength to strength. His 321-ball innings, comprising 17 fours and a six, was largely responsible for Easterns finishing on 453 - a lead of 178.
Chibhabha continued from where he left off in Centrals' first innings, hitting 82 off 135 balls, but could not inspire the other batsmen as Utseya ripped through the top and middle orders. He picked up 7 for 56 as only two fifty-and-above partnerships meant Centrals capitulated woefully to 169.
Fifties from Prince Masvaure and Trevor Garwe proved to be the most significant and deciding factor in Northerns' narrow two-wicket win against Westerns at the Country Club. Their eighth-wicket partnership of 109 rescued Northerns from what looked like an inevitable defeat, and it was Dabengwa who stayed on to see them through to the crucial win
Put in to bat, twin fifties from Keith Dabengwa and Charles Coventry pushed Westerns to 220. They were largely kept down by Graeme Cremer's leg spin, who picked up another five-wicket haul. The reply from Northerns was equally sedate, and apart from captain Elton Chigumbura's 45 and a late flourish from Dabngwa, the other batsmen failed to impress as they managed to finish with a slender 25-run lead.
A much-more improved performance in their second essay saw Westerns compiling 332. Classy centuries from Coventry (106) and Sean Williams (102) were the stand-out performances as Chigumbura took the second five-wicket haul of the match.
Set 308 to win, Chris Mpofu's triple strike left the table-toppers struggling at 182 for 7, but Masvaure and Garwe held firm in what was a defining stand. Masvaure fell ten short of his hundred, stroking 10 fours and two sixes en route. But it was Garwe's gritty 56 which ensured Northerns stayed level on points with Easterns though they surrendered the top spot.