|Scorecard:||Mashonaland v Midlands|
Overnight: Mashonaland (2) 5/0 (Ebrahim 5*, Chauluka 0*).
Lunch: Mashonaland (2) 100/3 (Taibu 32*, Evans 14*).
Tea: Mashonaland (2) 183 all out.
Midlands achieved their first victory over Mashonaland for many years, and their first since attaining first-class status, by the handsome margin of nine wickets at Harare Sports Club. It was also the first time Mashonaland have lost a first-class match to any team for eight years.
It was another miserable day for the Mashonaland batsmen, who could not overcome their mental state of inferiority, but in the final session Terry Duffin and Travis Friend showed what could have been possible throughout the match as they raced to victory with a minimum of trouble.
Mashonaland began the day enterprisingly, though 49 runs behind, but without any indication that they seriously thought they could bat through until the third day. Dion Ebrahim did not last long, scoring 10 before he edged Sean Ervine, who was working up a good pace, straight to second slip and Mashonaland were 20 for one.
Grant Flower again looked unconvincing to start with, but then settled down to bat solidly, apart from a couple of mistimed pulls that landed in the wide-open spaces. Erick Chauluka struggled for runs, and was finally caught at slip off the glove for 10, off the bowling of Sean Ervine. Tatenda Taibu looked the most convincing of the Mashonaland top order and dominated his stand with Flower, who eventually flashed outside the off stump to Nyasha Chari to be caught at the wicket for 19; 81 for three.
The scoring rate continued to be slow; there was still some seam and swing movement, and according to Taibu the pitch was rather two-paced and uneven in bounce, although there was little evidence of a serious problem. But generally the Zimbabwean batsmen have a reputation of exaggerating any problems caused by the conditions. After tea Taibu began to open up, but then he was gone for 42, caught in the slips off Tapfumaneyi Mandizha; 115 for four.
Even Craig Evans found quick scoring difficult, and he was eventually stumped off Douglas Marillier for 30, making the score 144 for five. Ryan Butterworth, however, proved the most enterprising batsman to date, pulling Marillier for four and six in the same over, and he ran to 33 off 35 balls before he played forward to Marillier and was caught at short leg; 170 for six.
The end then came quickly. Douglas Hondo made 2 before being caught low in the gully off Sean Ervine, and then David Mutendera (0) was trapped lbw in the same over. Tinashe Ruswa quickly followed, run out in a mix-up with his partner Tafadzwa Mufambisi, also without scoring, and finally Mufambisi had his middle stump knocked back by Friend, who had bowled much better during this innings.
Midlands needed 130 to win, a serious test of nerve against the once feared Mashonaland. Terry Duffin and Conan Brewer looked both determined and insecure, struggling to come to terms with the bowling but battling well without giving it away. They added 39 together before Brewer (16) slashed at Taibu and Butterworth at second slip held on to a hard, head-high chance.
Friend joined Duffin, and after they had settled they began to bat as if they could actually win the match. For the first time in this abbreviated match we saw batsmen able to play each ball on its merits and play attacking strokes without nicking wide balls to the keeper or slips. Both played some handsome strokes, especially the drive, as their confidence grew and Mashonaland no longer have the experienced senior players to pull their team back on course and intimidate the opposition.
Friend reached his fifty and then lofted Mandizha into the stands over long-on for six to level the scores. In the next over Duffin swept Ruswa for a single to bring up a historic victory. This four-day match was over in two days, with the batting in the final session making a total mockery of the pathetic batsmanship that had preceded it.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)