Harare Kings – 214-7 in 45 overs (Nick Welch 132*, Prince Masvaure 38, Ali Hamid 18; Masimba Maruvatsanga 2/27, Ashley Mufandauya 2/31, Malcolm Chikuwa 2/53)
Gladiators – 183 all out in 43.5 overs (Owen Muzondo 63, Malcolm Chikuwa 24, Clive Madande 18; Patrick Mambo 4/31, Brad Evans 2/25, Johnathan Campbell 1/33)
Harare Kings won by 31 runs
Nick Welch, returning to Zimbabwe at the age of 22 after several years in England, made his presence felt in a remarkable way in his second National Premier League (NPL) match for Harare Kings, played at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
His magnificent innings of 132 not out against Gladiators completely dominated the match, setting Gladiators a target they were never able to reach.
Harare Kings batted first and quickly lost the wicket of Zaheer Tuhail (1), to a fine diving return catch by Masimba Maruvatsanga.
Tight bowling kept Prince Masvaure and Welch quiet for a while, but then they began to open up, Welch in particular.
They added 84 runs for the second wicket before Masvaure (38), trying to dab a ball from Ashley Mufandauya to third man, edged a catch to the keeper.
In the following over Welch cut a ball for four to reach his second successive fifty, following the one he scored against Rainbow Sharks at Old Hararians.
He obviously had a century in mind now as he put his head down and continued to attack the bowling in disciplined and responsible fashion, with Cephas Zhuwao as his new partner.
Zhuwao never got going, and he holed out at long-on for 10, off the bowling of Mufandauya.
Two more wickets fell quickly before Ali Hamid stayed in and saw Welch through to an admirable century, which took him 127 balls.
Welch now hit at everything, intent on boosting his team’s total as much as possible in the remaining overs, but even so the bowlers could not get him out, and he finished the innings not out with 132, in a total of 214 for seven wickets.
He faced 145 balls and hit 10 fours and four sixes.
Gladiators are to be complimented on maintaining a good over rate during the innings, finishing their 45 overs well within the time limit, despite the heavy scoring.
Gladiators had a hard task on their hands, and some good opening bowling from Brandon Diplock and Brad Evans soon reduced them to 16 for two wickets.
This included the prize wicket of Tony Munyonga, who has been their batting hero in several matches in this competition – he was bowled by a good ball from Diplock for four.
Tinoda Chando was not to be intimidated, though, and he went for his strokes, although playing some loose shots at times, but when Patrick Mambo replaced Diplock he bowled Chando straight away for 24; 36 for three.
The confidence that Gladiators had gained with three successive victories now seemed to have gone, but at least they were determined not to give in without a fight, and the remaining batsmen hung in there and made the bowlers work for their wickets, cheered on by their team-mates from the dressing-room.
The left-handed Owen Muzondo in particular responded well, carrying the fight to the bowlers and getting some good support from lower down the order.
Muzondo played a superb innings of 63 before being run out in the dying overs, and it was a fine performance by Gladiators to lose by a margin of only 31 runs in the end, and almost to bat out their 45 overs.
Great Zimbabwe Patriots – 170-9 in 43 overs (William Mashinge 57, Luke Oldknow 44, Gabriel Jaya 19; Daniel Jakiel 3/45, Brandon Mavuta 2/25, Brian Mudzinganyama 2/29)
Rainbow Sharks – 171-2 in 27.3 overs (Brian Mudzinganyama 95*, Gareth Chirawu 50*, Brandon Mavuta 4; Andre Odendaal 2/34)
Rainbow Sharks won by eight wickets
A brilliant innings of 95 not out off 78 balls by Brian Mudzinganyama sped Rainbow Sharks to an eight-wicket victory over Great Zimbabwe at Old Hararians Sports Club today.
Mudzinganyama shared an unbroken partnership of 165 for the third wicket with Gareth Chirawu after the first two wickets had fallen to the bowling of André Odendaal for only six runs.
This was after the Masvingo-based team had put together a respectable score of 170 for nine wickets in their innings, batting first.
They too had suffered a bad start, losing their opening batsmen for 11 runs, but William Mashinge at No 3 came to the rescue with 57, his main helper being Luke Oldknow with 44; at one stage they had taken the score to 131 for three, but the tail was unable to make much impact.
Then came the Rainbow innings and the fine batting of Mudzinganyama, well supported by Chirawu.
The latter, opening the innings, was able to reach his fifty, but it was unfortunate that it was not possible for Mudzinganyama to reach the century he deserved.
He faced only 78 balls in his 95 not out, and hit 15 fours and a six.
Queens – 193-8 in 45 overs (Tinashe Chimbambo 72, Dalubuhle Mboyi 50*, Gift Mavharaire 24; John Masara 3/27, Vincent Masekesa 2/15, Kevin Kasuza 1/37)
Easterns – 194-4 in 36.1 overs (Kevin Kasuza 121, Tinashe Chiorah 34, Kudzai Sauramba 11; Tanatswa Bechani 2/31, Sheunopa Musekwa 1/33, Chris Mpofu 1/34)
Easterns won by six wickets
A brilliant century from Kevin Kasuza turned what should have been a hard chase for Easterns into a comfortable victory over Queens by six wickets at Masvingo Sports Club today.
Queens batted first and enjoyed a good opening partnership of 94 in just 21 overs between Gift Mavharaire and Tinashe Chimbambo.
Dalubuhle Mboyi at No 3 backed them up well with a fifty, but the later batsmen failed to contribute very much.
With a total of 193, though, Queens probably felt they had a good chance of victory, but if so they failed to account for Kasuza.
He completely dominated a second-wicket partnership of 138 with Tinashe Chiora, and was second batsman out for 121, the score at his dismissal being 158.
From there it was easy for the middle order to take Easterns home to triumph, and they had almost nine overs to spare.
Takashinga – 183-9 in 44 overs (Alvin Chiradza 35, Kudzai Maunze 34, Joylord Gumbie 32; John Nyumbu 3/27, Ainsley Ndlovu 2/24, Stephen Chimhamhiwa 2/38)
Amakhosi – 106 all out in 35.4 overs (Cunningham Ncube 19, Stephen Chimhamhiwa 18*, Tanaka Mutomba 17; Roy Kaia 4/16, Tapiwa Mufudza 4/23, Cuthbert Musoko 1/15)
Takashinga won by 77 runs
Takashinga are almost certainly the NPL champions for the 2020/21 season.
If MidWest win their match on Sunday, when Takashinga have a bye, they will finish equal on points, but Takashinga have such an advantage on net run rate, the tie-breaker, that they will surely be crowned champions.
Appropriately enough, it was a good team effort that saw Takashinga home to a 77-run victory over Amakhosi of Bulawayo in their final match.
Four middle-order batsmen scored between 27 and 35 runs to lead the team to a good, though not outstanding, score of 183 for nine wickets.
Then two bowlers, Roy Kaia, who was also one of the successful batsmen, and Tapiwa Mufudza, who has been picking up wickets well throughout the competition, took four wickets each.
The Amakhosi innings never got off the ground, with their opening batsmen out for just a single between them, and no batsman was able to reach a score of 20.
It is a pity that Takashinga could not have wrapped up the tournament on their home ground in Harare, and ironic that their tournament should close in triumph on the home ground of their nearest rivals, MidWest.
2020/21 National Premier League Points Table