Tuskers down Eagles, while Sean Ervine makes grand comeback
Assured batting from the trio of Keith Dabengwa, Bonaparte Mujuru and Dion Ebrahim, in addition to Chris Mpofu's match-haul of seven wickets, were the highlights in Matabeleland Tuskers' seven-wicket win over Mashonaland Eagles at Bulawayo. Asked to bat first by the Eagles, the Tuskers' top order set up a strong platform to dominate the match. Mujuru and Ebrahim contributed 70s before Dabengwa took centre-stage. His score of 136 included 13 fours and three sixes, and in the company of Charles Coventry, guided his side to an imposing 425 for 8 declared.
Despite Prince Masvaure's 94, the Eagles' reply was always behind the eight-ball, as a concerted allround effort from the Tuskers' attack pegged them back. John Nyumbu picked up three wickets, while Mpofu and Ebrahim scalped two apiece to ensure that the Eagles fell just short of avoiding the follow-on. They fared marginally better in the second dig, reaching an even 300 thanks to Ryan Butterworth's 102, but would be disappointed with the way they collapsed from the strength of 192 for 2. Mpofu was in the thick of action, striking body blows on either side of a promising third-wicket stand between Butterworth and Forster Mutizwa. Mujuru and Ebrahim struck their second fifties of the game to ensure that the victory target of 140 was achieved in the 33rd over.
Sean Ervine marked his comeback to the Zimbabwe domestic scene with a grand display that yielded 364 runs as Southern Rocks managed to hold on for a draw against Mid West Rhinos at Masvingo Sports Club, a middle-order wobble late on the fourth day notwithstanding. The Rhinos had their backs against the wall from the outset, as Blessing Mahwire and Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi reduced them to 56 for 5. Malcolm Waller then put his head down to score a hundred and take his side from dire straits to respectability. A final score of 267 still looked under-par and required a lion-hearted performance from the bowlers. That was exactly what the Rhinos' attack provided, reducing the Rocks to shambles at 13 for 4. Enter Sean Ervine.
In the company of his brother Craig, Sean counterattacked in majestic style. Craig matched Sean shot for shot in the stand of 178 before falling 19 short of a century. There was to be no letting up from Sean though, as he brought up three-figures and then doubled his score in a batting display of rare dominance. After 22 fours and 3 sixes in 274 balls where he had given his side a lead in excess of 100, he was finally run out, the last wicket to fall. The Rhinos had a tough task on hand, and responded in fitting fashion as Innocent Chikunya and Brendan Taylor added 235 for the second wicket to take their side out of the red. Chikunya was the more sedate partner, striking 75 before falling to Tafadzwa Kamungozi, but Taylor was in a zone of his own. Striking at a rate better than a run-a-ball, he carted the bowlers to all corners, his four sixes and 24 fours standing testimony to the havoc he wreaked. He brought up the second 200 of the match, before falling to the man who had scored the first one. The Rhinos declared at 443 for 5, setting a sporting target of 337 for the Rocks.
Early wickets fell again - two on this occasion - leaving Sean to do the repair-work for the second time in the match. And he responded in earnest yet again. Steve Marillier helped him add 131 for the third wicket and raise visions of a stunning chase. The Rocks were then set back by the losses of Marillier and Craig in quick succession, but Sean kept them in the hunt with another audacious display. Tendai Chisoro supported him, as he blasted 17 fours and a six to bring up his second three-figure score for the match. Graeme Cremer sparked a late collapse where three wickets fell for nine runs, prompting Sean to adopt a safety-first approach. His dismissal in the dying stages, for 160, put paid to hopes of a result in what had been a game of fluctuating fortunes.