March 26, 2000

Evans and Viljoen record stand in Mashonaland victory



After putting up a good fight for the first day and a half of the Logan Cup match at Bulawayo Athletic Club, Matabeleland then subsided weakly to lose to Mashonaland by the huge margin of 276 runs in a most unimpressive performance. The highlight of the day was a record partnership for any wicket in Zimbabwean cricket history, as Craig Evans and Dirk Viljoen put on 330 together for the third wicket. The previous best by a Zimbabwean team was 300, also for the fourth wicket, by Robin Brown and Peter Allan for Rhodesia B against Eastern Province B in 1978/79, and by opponents 317 for the second wicket between Roger Twose and Asif Din for Warwickshire against a Mashonaland XI in 1993/94.

Mashonaland began the day 261 runs ahead, with seven wickets in hand, and it was clear from the start that the policy was to build on this lead with all possible speed. Dirk Viljoen drove the first ball he faced on the third day through the covers for four; Craig Evans pulled his second over the leg boundary for six. Both batsmen hit at everything against a toothless attack, and added 100 runs to the score in just eight overs. Evans, after passing his century, began to look for his usual massive sixes, one over long-off and the rest pulled over midwicket, while Viljoen slashed and cut his way past 150.

Evans took 24 in an over from Dion Ebrahim, including three sixes, then, in Ebrahim's next over, with a declaration imminent, he tried to swing him over the midwicket boundary again, only for the ball to keep a little low, trapping him lbw for 153. Viljoen was not out with 173 off 175 balls, including a six and 18 fours, while Evans' 153 came off 143 balls and included 5 sixes and 16 fours.

Matabeleland's target, for what it was worth, was 363 runs; they needed to survive 97 overs to avoid defeat. Charles Coventry (12) played some sweet drives, but was adjudged lbw to Gus Mackay, following which Mark Vermeulen was caught at the wicket down the leg side first ball. The normally aggressive Dion Ebrahim came in and concentrated on strict defence, but in vain; two overs alter and still without addition, he suffered an almost unplayable ball from Mackay - directed at leg stump, swinging in and pitching on middle, then cutting away to uproot off. Matabeleland, at 13 for three, were in serious trouble.

Mark Abrams, as so often, flattered only to deceive, playing each ball on its merits for a while, hitting two fine fours, and then pulling Mackay down the throat of fine leg to be out for 10; the score 23 for four, with the defiant Siziba still there on 1. Sanyo Nyakutse played some good strokes before lunch, when Matabeleland were 39 for four (Siziba 3, Nyakutse 14).

After lunch, for a while it appeared as if Matabeleland were going to make a fight of it. Siziba continued to play safely, while Nyakutse went for his strokes, playing some attractive front-foot drives and twice pulling Mackay for four in an over. Then, after a partnership of 49, the fight evaporated. Siziba, having looked so solid, drove half-heartedly at Viljoen and hit a low catch to mid-on, after scoring 9 off 82 balls. In the following over, Nyakutse (41) obligingly pulled Evans straight down the throat of Dan Peacock at deep midwicket; Rennie padded up to a ball from Evans that broke back sharply and was given out lbw; then Engelbrecht, appearing to lose his nerve, was stumped by Campbell standing up to Evans. All four wickets fell with the score on 72, and Evans had bowled three successive wicket-maidens.

Warren Gilmour played a couple of defiant strokes, but Jason Hitz contributed the fifth duck of the innings, turning Evans to midwicket where substitute fielder Brighton Watambwa took a good low catch. Evans' figures were now 5-5-0-4. He finally conceded runs when Gilmour slashed him over backward point for four, but the sorry end was not long in coming, as Gilmour hit Viljoen uppishly to short extra cover for Mackay to take the catch. Matabeleland had compiled a sorry 86, the same figure as their first-innings lead, and caved in on the final day with scarcely a struggle.