Ray Price scythed through Mountaineers' strong batting line-up, taking five wickets in less than three overs to bowl Mashonaland Eagles to a resounding 82-run win at Harare Sports Club. Chasing a target of 142, which had been built around Greg Lamb's 40, Mountaineers surrendered for a dismal 59 all out to hand Eagles the bragging rights ahead of the tournament final tomorrow.
Mountaineers were in trouble right from the start of their chase and Eagles quickly had the match in the bag. Hamilton Masakadza, after surviving a close lbw appeal, showed good form again, scoring 16 off 11 balls. But the crucial dismissal of the innings came when he tried to sweep Price, who bowled the second over, and misread an arm ball which went straight on and trapped him lbw.
Prince Masvaure then produced an absolute jaffa that came back off the pitch and bowled Tatenda Taibu first ball, and after that Mountaineers showed little fight. Stuart Matsikenyeri briefly tried to rally the team, scoring 10 before driving a catch to mid-off. When he fell the match was as good as over at 41 for 5 in the seventh over.
The tail certainly did themselves little credit, hitting out indiscriminately, and the side crumbled for 59 in less than 12 overs. Even allowing for the difficult pitch, it was the poorest batting display of the tournament. Price, the main beneficiary, had Natsai Mushangwe stumped to wrap up the game, and finished the remarkable figures of 5 for 12 off just 17 deliveries.
There had been heavy rains overnight, and when Mountaineers won the toss they decided to field, believing the pitch would have retained enough moisture to make batting first a trial. Eagles did lose early wickets, the first being Doug Marillier for 2, skying an attempted pull. Cephas Zhuwawo and Forster Mutizwa were both out to brilliant boundary catches by Shingi Masakadza, but Masvaure and Lamb soon had the score galloping along, with the fifty coming up in the seventh over.
Masvaure was stumped on 24, carelessly running down the wicket to Mushangwe, and for once Elton Chigumbura failed, making only 7 before he was out to a third brilliant catch by Masakadza, leaping high at long on to catch what had appeared to be a certain six. With his wicket Eagles were tottering at 82 for 5 in the 13th over.
Lamb and Regis Chakabva put the innings back on track with a useful partnership, before Lamb went for 40 off 34 balls, slicing a drive to extra cover. Chakabva fell to a sharp run out for 24, and Trevor Garwe to another brilliant catch near the boundary. With the ball was not coming on to the bat reliably after the rain, Greg Smith picked up 5 for 27 with his medium pacers as Eagles totalled 141 for 9, which seemed a good effort under the conditions, and proved to be a match-winning one. With this result, Eagles overtake Mountaineers in the log for the first time, and the same two teams will meet in the final tomorrow - weather permitting.
The chance to play Matabeleland Tuskers for third place in the tournament was at stake in the second match of the day between Desert Vipers and Mid West Rhinos. A dashing finish to the Vipers' innings took them to 141 for 7 and gave Rhinos a target to chase. They looked likely to achieve it at the halfway stage of their innings, but then began a fatal middle-order slide, allowing Vipers to take control of the match and eventually win by 8 runs.
Rhinos won the toss and took the cautious route after this morning's match, deciding to field. Vipers, equally uncertain of the pitch, were wary at first, scoring just 4 runs in the first two overs. They were also pegged back by the loss of Raymond van Schoor, caught short by a fine throw from Vusi Sibanda. His partner, Gerrit Rudolph, soon followed in the same way. Tobias Verwey, promoted to number three, hit a valuable 21 off 17 balls, while Craig Williams played a restrained innings of 15 before holing out at deep midwicket. After 15 overs, the score was a mediocre 83 for 5.
It was the rather unlikely pairing of opening bowlers Christi Viljoen and Louis Klazinga that finally did the trick for the Vipers, hammering 45 runs together in just over four overs. Both hit two sixes, Viljoen's in successive balls off Graeme Cremer.
Riki Wessels got Rhinos' chase off to a blazing start, as 16 came off Klazinga's opening over - with 12 of those runs from Wessels. He hammered 32 off 15 balls, with six fours, before being yorked by Viljoen with the first ball of the fourth over. He had already lost Sibanda, who hammered a catch straight to extra cover, but Darren Stevens and Brendan Taylor consolidated for a while before Stevens broke free with two driven sixes in an over off Bernard Scholtz, the first clearing the pavilion. After ten overs Rhinos were well on course for victory at 79 for 2.
It all changed when first Taylor and then Stevens lofted catches to the deep in quick succession. Malcolm Waller soon followed suit for 16 and Ollie Rayner was dismissed lbw without scoring, hitting across the line. Suddenly, with five overs left, Rhinos' last four wickets needed to score 35 to win. Hard as Friday Kasteni tried, he could not reach the boundary, and with wickets continuing to tumble, Vipers sealed a comfortable consolatory win.