Rhinos pip Mountaineers to Logan Cup final
Mountaineers' Logan Cup ended in disappointment as they fell to an eight-wicket defeat to Mid West Rhinos in three days at Mutare Sports Club. Mid West Rhinos will now take on Mashonaland Eagles in the final, at Harare Sports Club on March 30.
Mountaineers had struggled to 212 in their first innings after being put in to bat by Rhinos, with Timycen Maruma's 59 the highest score of the innings. Malcolm Waller's 117, along with half centuries from Vusi Sibanda and Graeme Cremer overshadowed Tendai Chatara's maiden five-wicket haul as Rhinos reached 338 in their first innings.
Mountaineers managed another scratchy effort in the second dig, and started day three at 62 for 3, still 64 behind Rhinos' first innings total. Stuart Matsikenyeri, who suffered a drastic dip in form on Zimbabwe's tour of the West Indies, was soon dismissed by Ed Rainsford. With his team struggling, Hamilton Masakadza dug in, taking over an hour to get off the mark before he finally forced a ball through the covers for four.
Timycen Maruma played on to Rainsford for 4 as Mountaineers slipped to 75 for 5, and they could have been six down soon after, but Prosper Utseya was dropped off a sharp chance at second slip before he had scored. He went on to add 62 with Masakadza, erasing the deficit just before lunch as Mountaineers went to the break with their hopes of saving the game lifted.
The afternoon session all but extinguished their hopes, as Utseya was quickly caught in the gully off Rainsford for 32, and Masakadza, who had batted with the utmost restraint for 37 off 135 balls, pushed at a ball moving away outside off stump to edge a straightforward catch off the same bowler.
With Mountaineers tottering at 144 for 7, Shingi Masakadza and Natsai Mushangwe laid into the bowling with abandon, sharing the highest partnership of the innings as they added 73. Although Mushangwe managed his maiden first-class fifty, both were dismissed in quick succession and Mountaineers' innings closed on 230, setting Rhinos 105 to win.
Mid West have shown some fragile batting this season, and Mountaineers went on the attack from the start. With the pitch taking spin, Utseya opened the bowling, and with close fielders positioned, the Rhinos openers were rendered strokeless. Bothwell Chapungu was clean bowled by Utseya for 2, and Friday Kasteni was pinned lbw by the younger Masakadza, but Brendan Taylor seized back the momentum by swinging successive balls from Utseya over the pavilion for six.
Taylor raced to his fifty from just 34 balls, but it was an off-driven four by Sibanda, followed by four byes from a wild delivery down the leg side, that finally took Mid West to a well-earned victory and a place in next week's Logan Cup final against Mashonaland Eagles.