Neil Ferreira has taken over as full-time captain of Manicaland and his first game in that role has resulted in a victory. Mark Burmester, our former World Cup player and long-time skipper, decided during the week to pass the baton and leave the teams affairs in youthful hands. The resurgent Gary Brent moves up to vice-captain, being one of only three in the side over the age of 23. Mark will continue to play for another season or two and his knowledge will surely help guide the new order.
Manicaland travelled to Alexandria Sports Club in Harare last weekend to play a first-class Logan Cup game against the C.F.X. Academy XI. The hoped-for return of Guy Whittall never occurred; he has now gone to Cape Town for further surgery to his leg.
Losing the toss, Manicaland found themselves bowling on a batsman-friendly pitch and making life difficult for themselves by dropping a series of catches. The Academy did not make them pay for these glitches as a more hardened outfit surely would. Their top scorer Barney Rogers was implausibly dropped three times early on before finally being caught by Kingsley Went 71 runs later. What should have been a maximum of 120 turned into total of 222 after some effective swinging by the lower order. Of the nine catches Manicaland conspired to drop, three were in the sitter category. Gary Brent bowled well, giving nothing away, whilst his persistent line and away-swing brought four wickets.
Beginning their innings at tea on the first day, Manicaland stuttered to 120/4 by stumps with Patrick Gada hitting an uncharacteristically quick unbeaten 50 off 50 balls. He returned to caution next morning, taking as long again to reach 71. Manicaland disappointingly lasted only one session to be all out for 250 by lunch on Saturday. The Academy spinners kept it tight with Manicaland guilty of being overly positive. They should easily have reached 300, but allowed off-spinner Rogers and left-arm finger-spinner Ian Coulson to dictate terms.
Former Manica Leon Soma picked up four wickets for the Academy, including his younger brother Andre who scored 22 at number nine. Gary Brent top-scored with 61 before being adjudged run out in one of the few debatable umpiring decisions of the game. Umpires Graham Evans and Justice Tapfumaneyi were given high marks for consistency by the Manicas, particularly two padding-up lbws given to Mark Burmester in the Academy's second innings by Justice, which were thought to be difficult decisions, but spot on.
The Manicas earned two batting points for their 250 and set about the inexperienced opposition after lunch. At stumps they were reduced to 104 for eight with Alec Taylor picking up his first first-class wicket. In the team talk Neil Ferreira had asked his bowlers to keep things simple and tight and let the opposition make the mistakes. An hour into the final morning the Academy were all out for 134, leaving the visitors 107 for victory. Their batting had lacked mettle, too many wickets were donated and a sense of inevitability had set in.
Manicaland lost a couple of early wickets before Brent and Ferreira with undefeated knocks of 48 and 49 put the visitors on the road to Mutare with daylight to spare. Academy skipper Sean Ervine generously agreed to play on into the lunch break, with Manicaland needing only 12 runs for victory, thus allowing a pre-lunch resolution. A harder man might have viewed the gathering storm clouds as an escape route.
Next weekend sees the Mashonaland second team arriving in Mutare for the final match of the season. The rain seems finally to have disappeared so the match looks definitely on.