AN exciting T20 final between the two former champions ended in a rather narrow victory for the first holders of the trophy, Mountaineers.
At the halfway stage it looked as if the home team and last season’s champions, Mashonaland Eagles, would triumph, as Mountaineers turned in an indifferent batting performance, and recent high scores in this tournament, especially by the home side, suggested that 143 was too small a target.
But Mountaineers bowled and fielded superbly, and the pressure of the occasion probably affected the batsmen, and a middle-order collapse resulted in a fine victory for the Mutare-based team.
It was a humid afternoon with the possibility of more rain when Hamilton Masakadza won toss and bucked the trend by deciding to bat, perhaps with possible interruptions in play in mind.
He probably soon regretted it, as the Mountaineers innings never took off. The start was promising enough, when Kevin Kasuza and Phil Mustard scored 29 together in just over three overs, before Kasuza (8) skied a catch into the covers. Then came a major blow, as Masakadza himself drove over a yorker from Andrew Hall and was bowled without scoring.
During the last year or two Mountaineers’ batting has been all too dependent on Masakadza, and this time they never recovered from that loss, although at least they did not collapse.
Mustard alone of the top order succeeded, scoring 34 of the first 50 runs, which came up in the seventh over.
He made 56 altogether off 31 balls, falling lbw to his fellow English professional Rory Hamilton-Brown.
When Prosper Utseya fell the score was 95 for five in the 13th over, not a bad scoring rate but with too many wickets down and too little batting strength in the tail.
Chris Harris held the innings together with a sound unbeaten innings of 34, and at last he found a reliable partner in Shingi Masakadza, who made 23 not out off 18 balls. But there was no major hitter available to take advantage of the death overs, and the final score was 142 for six, good enough at the start of the tournament but small stuff compared with the totals compiled in the last few matches.
Hamilton-Brown, with two for 14 off three overs, returned the best figures, while Peter Trego took one for 15 off his four overs.
Dirk Nannes and Shingi Masakadza did their utmost to fight back for Mountaineers in a fine spell of bowling at the start of the Mashonaland Eagles innings.
The dangerous Ryan ten Doeschate, after his magnificent century yesterday, today cut a catch to point with only a single to his credit; Trego slashed and was caught at the wicket also for 1.
When Hamilton-Brown swung a catch to deep square leg the score was 25 for three in the fifth over and the game was on.
However, the inconsistent Stuart Matsikenyeri was on this occasion batting superbly, apart from a sharp return chance on 20, which the bowler failed to hold. The underrated Forster Mutizwa proved an admirable partner and the two began to turn the match around for Mashonaland Eagles.
Mountaineers’ other bowlers did not present the same threat as their new-ball pair and run-scoring was easier. The partnership added 44 and looked good enough to complete the job when there was a mix-up over a quick single and Matsikenyeri was run out for 34.
An unfortunate accident saw Mutizwa struck on the shoulder by a hard throw from the field; perhaps affected by this, he popped up a return catch to Utseya off the next ball he faced and was out for 27, leaving Mashonaland Eagles now struggling at 83 for five, required run rate now almost 10.
They have more strength in their lower order than Mountaineers do, but Chigumbura (14) holed out at long-on and Andrew Hall was stumped for 2.
With seven wickets lost, Regis Chakabva, yet to score, was the only recognized batsman left and 55 runs were needed off less than five overs.
Harris was bowled with great cunning, and Chakabva, struggling to score, got a leading edge to provide a simple return catch; 90 for eight.
Mashonaland Eagles seemed to have reached the point of no return – but then Nathan Waller struck out boldly and lofted two successive balls from Harris for sixes.
Nannes bowled a bad over to give away 12 runs, but then finished it with a superb yorker to bowl Waller for a gallant 19. The last pair needed to score 28 runs off the final two overs, but Shingi Masakadza needed only one delivery to york Tino Mutombodzi and bring the trophy home to Mountaineers.
The Mutare side had performed superbly with the ball to come back, if not quite from the dead, then from the brink of disaster.
The bowling honours were well shared, with three wickets to Shingi Masakadza, and two each to Nannes, Harris and Utseya.Post published in: Cricket