Stumps Matabeleland Tuskers 195 (Mabuza 54, Mushangwe 3-44) and 116 for 2 (Coventry 24*, Trenchard 23*) v Mountaineers 239 (Masakadza 119, Utseya 39, Meth 6-40)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The see-sawing battle at Mutare Sports Club continued into the second day, an imperious century from Hamilton Masakadza matching Keegan Meth's six-wicket haul as Mountaineers secured a 44-run first-innings lead over Matabeleland Tuskers. Masakadza, the man the selectors rejected for the World Cup, dominated the day and fought a lone battle against the hungry Matabele attack, led by Meth who had already shattered Mountaineers' top order. By the close, however, Tuskers had fought back with the bat to leave the match well balanced and were 72 runs ahead in their second innings with eight wickets in hand.
Mountaineers started the day at 56 for 4 wickets, with all four dismissals having been effected by Meth. With Timycen Maruma as his partner, Masakadza held firm against the seam and swing of Meth, who bowled a further eight overs in the morning, conceding very few runs but failing to break through. Amid a tense atmosphere, with both sides vying for supremacy at a crucial stage of the match, the batsmen cautiously added 20 runs in 40 minutes before Maruma unwisely padded up to a ball from Njabulo Ncube and was adjudged lbw for 7.
Then came the largest partnership of the innings, as Prosper Utseya proved a positive and reliable partner for Masakadza, who was now opening up with some impressive pulls and drives. By lunch the score was a much more healthy 149 for 6, but after the interval Utseya paid the price for his aggression when, after hiting a six over long-on off John Nyumbu, he tried to sweep a straight ball from the same bowler and was clean bowled for 39. The pair had added 84 in exactly 20 overs.
Benjamin Katsande made 11 before skying a hook to deep fine leg, and then Shingi Masakadza joined his brother. Mountaineers took the lead on first innings with seven wickets down. With Hamilton now into the nineties, Meth came on again, but he had to be satisfied with the wicket of the younger brother, who edged to the keeper for 15. At the other end Hamilton reached three figures in grand fashion, hitting Chris Mpofu, one of Zimbabwe's fastest bowlers, right over the scoreboard at long-on for a huge six.
When Meth did get to bowl at Masakadza, he seemed to concede defeat immediately, putting his field back, dispensing with slips and bowling well outside off stump. The ploy did him little good, as Masakadza hammered him for two fours and a six over long-on from successive deliveries. But at the other end Tendai Chatara gave his wicket away very weakly, and with the last man in Masakadza went for broke in Keegan's next over. He drove at a full-length delivery and was bowled for 119, one of his greatest first-class innings, given the circumstances. He faced 206 deliveries and hit 16 fours and 4 sixes. His score was almost half of the total of 239, which gave his team a lead of 44.
Tuskers began their second innings quietly, but then Brad Staddon began to score freely off Chatara. The arrears were cleared off in the 15th over without the loss of a wicket, and it appeared Mountaineers had lost their advantage. Staddon reached an enterprising 50 off 56 balls, but then tried to swung across the line at Utseya and was out lbw to break an opening partnership with the dogged Mbekezeli Mabuza that had reached 65. Charles Coventry came in and made a confident start, but Shingi Masakadza was then brought back on and yorked Mabuza for 17 off 94 balls to reduce Tuskers to 81 for 2. After that Coventry and Steve Trenchard played safely for the close, leaving the match intriguingly poised.
"I think it was a pretty good one," Masakadza told zimcricket.org after his century. "Especially as the wicket wasn't playing so well, especially in the morning, and also because we were a little bit on the back foot, because we kept losing wickets throughout the whole innings.
"The pitch looks a little bit soft on the surface, it's crumbling a bit, and it's worse in the morning just after they've cut it, so some balls were gripping and doing a bit more than they were supposed to, and it was leaving a few dents when the ball bounced, that you could actually see on the pitch. That was the main thing.
"My game plan was just to see off the rest of the day, because there were 20 overs to bat and I went in in the second over, so my plan was just to make sure I played out the day and came back the next morning to continue. This morning I was always in to bat for as long as possible, to try to build partnerships with the guys and just get as close to the target as we could, because at one stage it looked as if we wouldn't reach it. So being 44 ahead was a major plus.
"I thought they bowled very well, especially Keegan Meth, not only because of the fact that he got six wickets, but he hit very good areas and swung the ball both ways. I think he was the most difficult to face, and obviously very well supported by the other seamers, like Christopher Mpofu and Tawanda Mupariwa. The spinner John Nyumbu didn't bowl too much, but he got a little from the wicket as well. But Keegan was definitely the best. I had one or two half-chances, but not really - I think it was pretty much a chanceless innings today."
Masakadza reached the landmark with his third six in the 65th over of the innings. "We had eight down at that stage, so I was really looking to push it on a little bit, batting with the tail, so I was looking to play a few more shots. It was a slower ball from Chris Mpofu, right in the arc. Now I'm just looking forward to coming back tomorrow and putting some pressure on them, and hopefully we can bowl them out and chase 50 or 60 in the fourth innings."