Match report day 1 Mashonaland v Manicaland, Logan Cup 2003/04
by John Ward

Scorecard:Mashonaland v Manicaland

Toss: Manicaland
Lunch: Manicaland 97/6 off 36 overs (Brent 31*, Utseya 8*).
Tea: Manicaland 137; Mashonaland 44/0 off 12 overs (Ebrahim 15*, Chauluka 19*).
Close: Mashonaland 131/1 off 42.2 overs (Ebrahim 54*, Flower 22*).


With the solitary exception of the admirable Gary Brent, Manicaland had a disastrous first day of their match against Mashonaland at Harare Sports Club. Pitiful batting gave them a total of just 137, totally wasting the benefit of winning the toss, and then profligate bowling allowed Mashonaland to reach 131 for one by the close.


Mashonaland’s morale was low after their defeat at the hands of Midlands, on the same ground the previous weekend, and Manicaland were eager to take advantage of it. Manicaland decided to bat on a pitch that curator Robin Brown expected would bounce a bit and give some seam movement. He was scornful of the Mashonaland batting against Midlands: “They always complain when they get a wicket that bounces a bit, because they’re all front-foot players,” he said. In the event, Manicaland were no better at handling the pitch than anybody else.


Mashonaland were without Ryan Butterworth, who has a club contract in England, and Craig Evans, who announced his retirement from first-class cricket, yet another in the long list of players to leave the game in Zimbabwe disgruntled. Manicaland kept the same team that had lost to Matabeleland the previous weekend, still seriously short of batsmen as they had lost four of their top batsmen to the Zimbabwe A team touring Bangladesh.


Manicaland quickly lost the wicket of opener Darlington Matambanadzo, who has played little this season. He tried to hook a short ball from David Mutendera and was given out caught by wicketkeeper Tafadzwa Mufambisi down the leg side for an edged single. Neil Ferreira and Norbert Manyande struggled for runs against Douglas Hondo and Mutendera, who bowled enough balls in the right place to give them a hard time. Manyande eventually fell for 6, caught at the wicket while groping outside the off stump, and Manicaland were 15 for one in the tenth over.


Andre Soma went for his strokes briefly, scoring 12 before the slower pace of Tatenda Taibu beat his forward stroke and hit his back pad to have him palpably lbw. Then a miscalculation caused opener Ferreira to shoulder arms, only to have a ball from Taibu clip his bails. He scored 10 off 44 balls, and Manicaland were in trouble at 38 for four.


The procession continued as Blessing Mahwire (0) played hesitantly at Taibu and was another to fall to a catch at the wicket. Then Gary Brent, in the best batting form of his career, stood firm and found a capable partner at last in Stanley Chioza. Both still struggled at times against the lifting ball, although there were no bowlers of real pace in the opposition, but they kept their concentration, crucially played straight and hit the loose ball well. Finally the return of Hondo had Chioza caught at second slip off Hondo for 15, scored in an hour; 89 for six.


Prosper Utseya, an off-spinner with the potential to be an all-rounder, played a couple of handsome drives for four off Hondo to reach lunch with 8 runs off four deliveries. After lunch, however, he was brilliantly run out by Alexander Mlambo; he drove sweetly into the covers and set off down the pitch, only for Mlambo to make a fine stop to his left and throw down the stumps from 30 metres away while lying on the ground, with the batsman still in mid-pitch. He made 8, and Manicaland were 103 for seven.


In the next over Brent fell for 36, slashing at Mutendera but skying the ball into the covers. There was a 36-minute partnership between Leon Soma and Innocent Chinyoka, with the occasional impressive stroke, but it came to an end when Chinyoka drove Mlambo powerfully but straight to mid-on. He made 12 and Manicaland were 129 for nine. Shortly afterwards Soma was caught at the wicket off Taibu and Manicaland were out for an inglorious 137. The bowling was not particularly dangerous, the pitch gave only a little help, and it was overwhelmingly the batsmen who gave their wickets away to poor shots. Taibu, with four for 26, was the main beneficiary, but Hondo was the most impressive bowler, with pace and lift but little good fortune in his one for 39.


By tea Dion Ebrahim and Erick Chauluka had put on 44 together, mostly by sensible batting, although they were in trouble on occasions against the lifting ball. Brent bowled well, moving the ball off the pitch, but Mahwire was carried away by the lift and tried to bowl too fast and short. After tea Allan Mwayenga came on for Mahwire and soon had Chauluka dropped off a hard chance to Brent at slip. Soon afterwards, though, Chauluka (23) edged Mwayenga to wicketkeeper Ferreira and Mashonaland were 52 for one.


Flower dug in with Ebrahim, the way they should have done it a week earlier, and they were helped by some profligate bowling by Manicaland, with no-balls abounding. Flower actually scored only two runs off his first 38 balls, but then he found the bowling was erratic and innocuous and settled in comfortably. Ebrahim played with admirable determination and concentrating, reaching his fifty just before bad light brought play to an end; twice the batsmen turned down offers to leave the field, but finally the light became unreasonable. They begin again tomorrow firmly in the driving seat, Manicaland having dug their own grave with a vengeance.


(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)