MANICALAND Mountaineers are on the threshold of winning a double and only a triumph over Rising Stars in tomorrow’s (Saturday) final match of the Zimbabwe’s premier domestic List A tournament will see the team snatching a double for the 2017-2018 season.
Mountaineers already have the Logan Cup silverware in their cabinet.
Whatever happens in the remaining matches that were scheduled for Wednesday, Mountaineers and Rising Stars will meet in the Pro50 Championship final at Harare Sports Club on Saturday (tomorrow).
Tuskers triumphed in their final match, but were left to rue what might have been had they been able to complete their match against bottom-of-the-table Midlands Rhinos at Old Hararians, where victory would have given them two additional points and a good chance of a place in the final.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers failed to defend their Pro50 Championship title, even though they beat Manicaland Mountaineers by 18 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system in a thrilling encounter that saw two magnificent centuries at Harare Sports Club on Monday.
In Tuskers’ last match of Zimbabwe’s premier domestic List A tournament and, after the abandonment of their penultimate fixture at Old Hararians the previous day, they were left needing a huge victory to give them even a possibility of playing in Saturday’s final.
Indeed they did win, but the victory was not enough to give the defending champions the fifth point they needed, together with a greatly improved net run rate, to possibly pip Mountaineers or Rising Stars to a place in the final.
For the first time since coming to Harare, Tuskers lost the toss, and were put in to bat by Mountaineers.
They opened their batting with Nkosana Mpofu and Cunningham Ncube against the bowling of Tendai Chatara and Victor Nyauchi.
Chatara struck in his first over, trapping Ncube lbw without scoring with just two runs on the board.
Ncube on nine was dropped at second slip off Nyauchi, enabling him to build a good foundation for the innings with Chari, the team fifty coming up in the 11th over.
Mpofu had another life on 41, when the total was 77, as Donald Tiripano, the bowler, failed to hold a sharp return catch.
Mpofu was first to reach his fifty, off 73 balls, a stroke which also brought up the team hundred in the 26th over.
Chari soon followed with his own fifty off 84 balls, a disciplined and well-judged innings.
The partnership eventually realised 112 runs, and came to an end when Mpofu, on 60, made a lofted off-drive off Natsai M’shangwe that was well held by Ngoni Mupamba, running round to his left and diving to secure the ball; 114 for two in the 29th over.
Craig Ervine came in and pushed the score along by working the ball around the field skilfully, finding the gaps to hit boundaries from loose balls.
He scored 25 off 28 balls before he tried to drive a ball from Clive Chitumba but dragged it on to his stumps off the bottom of his bat; 159 for three after 36 overs, and time to increase the scoring rate.
Richmond Mutumbami was playing despite his painful blows on the hand during the Old Hararians match, and did well despite showing discomfort at times.
Chari in the meantime, on 74, was dropped off a low chance to the long-leg fielder, but he brought up the 200 total in the 42nd over with two big successive sixes off Nyauchi, over long leg and then long-off.
On 97 he lost Mutumbami, caught in the deep off M’shangwe, and then Shoun Handirisi, who drove a catch to mid-off off Nyauchi, the score then being 215 for five in the 44th over.
He finally reached his century off 131 balls, but then immediately lost his new partner, Ernest Masuku, bowled by Nyauchi after hitting 10 off six balls.
At this stage of the innings, with Chris Mpofu joining Chari at the crease, it was a case of all-out attack.
Mpofu did his best, but was bowled by Nyauchi for six off five balls.
Chari’s fine innings ended for 125, as he aimed another big hit to leg and skyed a catch that was held by the bowler, Chatara; he faced 142 balls and hit four fours and seven sixes, the score being 261 for eight in the 49th over.
The innings closed at 259 for nine wickets, Thabo Mboyi hitting Nyauchi for two sixes before being bowled by the final delivery, leaving John Nyumbu not out with five.
Nyauchi took four wickets, but at a heavy cost of 76 runs, while there were two wickets each for Chatara and M’shangwe.
Again for Mountaineers, though, their most economical bowler was Wellington Masakadza, who did not take a wicket during his 10 overs but gave away only 31 runs.
Kevin Kasuza and Tinashe Chimbambo opened the batting for Mountaineers against the bowling of Chris Mpofu and Mboyi.
Chimbambo gave his side an aggressive start, scoring 29 off 27 balls before he sliced a catch into the covers off Ainsley Ndlovu; 47 for one in the 10th over.
The new man, Baxon Gopito, drove a single off the first ball he faced in provincial cricket, but had not added to that when he drove at a ball from Mpofu and played it on to his stumps off the inside edge.
Ngoni Mupamba also fell for just a single, out to a good sharp catch at slip by Nyumbu; 57 for three in the 15th over. Kudzai Sauramba gave splendid support for a while to Kasuza, who had begun cautiously but was opening out to play some fine strokes.
When he had scored 11, Sauramba tried to turn a ball from Nyumbu on the leg side and was trapped lbw; 95 for four in the 24th over. Donald Tiripano now joined Kasuza in what promised to be a crucial stand, with the match in the balance.
Kasuza moved to his fifty, off 70 balls, and the partnership added 42 runs before it came to an unhappy ending.
Kasuza played a ball to midwicket and, although it was his call, Tiripano ran down the pitch expecting a single, and was easily run out for 18; 137 for five in the 32nd over.
Clive Chitumba failed to score, as he tried to hit a full-length ball from Masuku to leg and was trapped lbw at 148 for six.
Kasuza was showing signs of strain and needed attention on the field as he was joined by Masakadza at the crease. On 81 Kasuza nearly gave it away, as he miscued an on-drive off Nyumbu, but on a day of too many dropped catches, this one also went down.
The two batsmen continued to score steadily and well, but the required run rate was slowly rising above eight and then nine an over.
Kasuza’s century, off 126 balls, came up in the 43rd over, and the run rate was now well over 10 and defeat almost certain.
In fading light the batsmen did their best, but all they could do was go down fighting. Finally, with four overs to go, the umpires decided the light was too bad and took the players from the field, the result decided on Duckworth-Lewis.
The score was 222 for six wickets, with Kasuza on 113 and Masakadza on 23. Ndlovu had been the most successful bowler with two wickets for 42. — Senior Sports Reporter/Zimbabwe Cricket