Midlands beat Manicaland by 2 wickets

In an exciting finish, Midlands won their first match of the tournament at Bulawayo Athletic Club, beating joint leaders Manicaland by two wickets after five defeats. Doug Marillier played a match-winning innings for them, but unfortunately their victory was marred by an unpleasant incident that was continued off the field.

Their victory over Mashonaland did not inspire the Manicaland players, and they put up a disappointing showing with the bat. Perhaps entertaining the possibility of winning the series put too much pressure on many of the players. At any rate, they slumped to 89 for six before Guy Croxford and Paul Strang revived the innings with some aggressive batting.

Gary Brent and Henry Olonga also batted usefully, but they must have been disappointed with a total of 192. Raymond Price, rejected by selectors for the World Cup, took three economical wickets, while Marillier picked up the last three to fall.

Midlands were also perhaps suffering from nerves, having lost the victory habit and mentality this season, and lost their first four wickets for 69 runs. Then Marillier began to pull things back. Unfortunately early in his innings he swung at a ball from Brent that was taken by the keeper. According to Midlands manager Ken Connelly, wicket-keeper Neil Ferreira was not at all certain he hit it, and Marillier himself denied it. Marillier, like most players, will try to get away with things at times on the field, but he will admit it, and he was adamant he did not hit this ball.

He was given not out, but the bowler and some fielders were furious. Even after the match they were unable to accept Marillier's word and the decision of the umpire, and tried to take Marillier off by himself and accuse him of cheating. Mr Connelly learned of this and intervened, but was very upset by the attitude of some of the Manica players.

Manicaland still looked likely winners when they had six Midlands wickets down for 122, but then Vusi Sibanda joined Marillier and between them they turned the tide. With four overs to go, Sibanda hit Olonga for two successive boundaries, and now Midlands needed four to win with four wickets left.

But typically Olonga struck back, trapping Sibanda lbw, and in the next over without addition Marillier fell. The match was right back in the balance, but a couple of thick edges from Price saw Midlands home. Sadly, they were unable to relish their first victory in the competition.