Midlands took a firm grip on the second day of their match against Manicaland at Mutare Sports Club. With a powerful 172 by England tour discard Craig Wishart to the fore, they ran up a total of 458 for five wickets by the close, a lead of 77 already with five wickets still in hand.
The Manicaland innings lasted only 11 minutes on the second morning, as first Alec Taylor was caught at slip off Travis Friend for 40, and then last man Leon Soma was trapped lbw by Dirk Viljoen for 1, leaving Justin Lewis unbeaten with 6. The total was 381, satisfactory but by no means outstanding on a good pitch. Viljoen, with three for 27, returned the best bowling figures, while left-arm spinner Ian Coulson was surprisingly not given an over.
Vusi Sibanda got Midlands off to a cracking start, pulling Soma for four and six in his first over when he pitched short. A fuller length quietened him, although he did play one fine drive off Brent over the covers for four. Terry Duffin was less flamboyant, and made 12 before edging a ball from Blessing Mahwire to the keeper, walking without waiting for the umpire's decision.
Sibanda continued to play some sparkling strokes, especially drives on the off side, but still showed occasional faulty stroke selection. Five penalty runs were awarded for a drive for three by Sibanda, as the fielder's hat fell off and he then flicked the ball back on to it.
Douglas Marillier never got going, scoring only 3 before a lazy shot cost him his middle stump. Sibanda's cameo came to an end at 48 - his second-best score in first-class cricket - with a straight-forward edge off Brent to the keeper. Midlands were 83 for three and the innings was at the crossroads.
Craig Wishart, who took 16 balls to get off the mark, and Sean Ervine dug in, but some loose balls from Alec Taylor and Richie Sims gave some welcome relief and several boundaries just before lunch.
Afterwards the torture started for Manicaland. Wishart and Ervine batted with increasing confidence; Ervine reached 48 and looked likely to reach his fifty first until Stuart Matsikenyeri came on to bowl his gentle off-breaks and Wishart hit two fours and a six in four balls to reach the landmark.
They continued throughout the afternoon session, making batting look easy. Most of Wishart's runs came from drives in front of the wicket, while Ervine used a wider range of strokes. They were in the nineties together, and at one stage there appeared to be the rare situation of having two batsmen in on 99 at the same time. Ervine had the bowling, and a classic off-drive to the boundary brought up his century. However, the scorers had temporarily missed a single to Wishart in his fifties, and he had already reached three figures unknown to anybody until the error was found during the tea interval.
Ervine celebrated with two sixes in an over off Richie Sims, one a massive hit into the bush far behind the sightscreen. Wishart, who had been temporarily starved of the bowling, finally stole a single to bring up what was thought to be his century. He faced 102 balls for the genuine one, against 127 by Ervine who had most of the bowling. The stand of 242 came to an end on the stroke of tea when Ervine cut a ball firmly to backward point where it was held by Dylan de Beer.
Wishart, 103 at tea, continued as if determined to ram a point down the selectors' throats. Still selecting his shots well, he drove Leon Soma straight into the stumps at the far end, but so powerful was his stroke that it burst through the middle of them and reached the long-on boundary. Shortly afterwards he reached 150, having passed his previous best of 144, and then went through a quiet period to gather his breath. The Manicaland total was now behind them and at the other end Viljoen was accumulating steadily.
He speeded up later, but just failed to reach the close, flashing at Brent to be caught at the wicket, ironically equalling his 172 against Namibia in the World Cup. But at 457 for five Midlands were well on top. Alester Maregwede (1) held out with Viljoen (57) until the close.