Mabuza spins Westerns to Twenty20 victory
Westerns 116 (Vermeulen 22, Garwe 4-23) beat Northerns 112 for 9 (Taibu 28*, Chakabva 28, Mabuza 5-14) by four runs
A five-wicket haul by offspinner Mbekezele Mabuza steered Westerns to a four-run win over Northerns in the final of Zimbabwe's domestic Twenty20 tournament at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
Mark Vermeulen, who finished the leading run-scorer in the competition, top scored with 22 for Westerns, but their total of 116 appeared to be well below par. Trevor Garwe - whose 13 wickets were the most in the tournament - and Admire Manyumwa cut through he Westerns bating order to leave them reeling at 68 for 7 and it took 21 from No. 8 Christopher Mpofu to even get them to three figures.
Northerns got off to a good start to reach 30 for 0 in four overs but a bowling change turned the game. Njabulo Ncube's first delivery had Prince Masvaure brilliantly caught by Tawanda Mupariwa at mid-on, and in his two overs later he had Chakabva taken at point by John Nyumbu.
But Northerns were still in command, and at 67 for 2 at the halfway stage, the match appeared almost done and dusted. The introduction of Mabuza turned the game on its head. He immediately bowled Garwe, and two balls later John Nyumbu removed the dangerous Elton Chigumbura when he had him caught by Thabo Mboyi.
Mabuza struck twice in his second over - removing Cephas Zhuwawo and Tafadzwa Mufambisi - and Northerns had lost four wickets for two runs in 10 balls. While Tatenda Taibu remained, Northerns were still fighting, but another two wickets in three balls from Mabuza left the tail exposed.
Manyumwa stayed with Taibu but the run-rate climbed, and 14 were needed at the start of the final over from Mpofu. In the end, Manyumwa was run out trying to give Taibu the strike off the fifth ball and Northerns came up short.
The cricket-starved Bulawayo fans, who had cheered Westerns the whole afternoon, ran onto the field to congratulate their players. Westerns walked away with a trophy and $1000 in cash.
Vermeulen, who scored a century and a half century picked up the tournament's best batsman award and got another accolade for the most sixes - 15. Garwe and Mpofu shared the best bowler award.
Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare