By Edward Makuzva
On the opening day of the Logan Cup season at Harare Sports Club yesterday, Craig Ervine and Richmond Mutumbami starred with the bat, while Trevor Garwe and Chris Mpofu were the leading bowlers.
Ervine and Mutumbami, the only two batsmen to distinguish themselves, Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers made 238, although Garwe gave them many anxious moments, while the Harare Metropolitan Eagles batsmen were unimpressive against Mpofu in particular during the final session.
Eagles won the toss and, looking at the greenish colour of the pitch, decided to put Tuskers in to bat.
The green on the pitch no doubt persuaded Tuskers to make the experienced John Nyumbu the twelfth man, playing Ainsley Ndlovu as their first-choice spin bowler, with assistance from Sikandar Raza if necessary.
The pitch did allow the bowlers some movement with the new ball, but that wore off, and it was rather slow.
In a statement, Tuskers opened their batting with Brian Chari and Charles Kunje to the bowling of Taurai Muzarabani and Garwe.
The first wicket to fall was that of Kunje for three; rather tied down, he tried to loft a ball from Muzarabani over the field but was caught fairly easily at mid-on over his head; 10 for one.
Ervine, in next, beautifully off-drove the second ball he faced to the boundary.
“After this, though, he concentrated on keeping his wicket intact, especially against some fine bowling by Garwe.
“Garwe rested after bowling seven good overs for just 11 runs, and Nathan Waller, replacing him, bowled an uncharacteristic full toss first ball that Ervine drove through extra cover for four to reach double figures.
“Chari was playing well at the other end, but suddenly he drove loosely at the wrong ball from Cuthbert Musoko and sliced a sharp catch to third slip, making the score 48 for two; Chari made 19”, said the statement.
Waller remained strangely erratic and Ervine fed richly off his loose deliveries, and then when Tapiwa Mufudza took over and also began with a full toss, Ervine hit that for four as well.
Soon afterwards Ervine drove a ball from Musoko through the covers for four to reach the first fifty of the Logan Cup season, which came off 72 balls.
At lunch the score was 86 for two, with Ervine on 51 and Sean Williams nine.
Probably Tuskers had slightly the better of the morning session, the key factor being the patient batting of Ervine who saw off the threat of Garwe with the new ball.
Ervine continued well after lunch, easing two classy boundaries from the off-spin of Mufudza.
Garwe came on for a second spell at the opposite end of the ground from his first, and although easier to score from with the older ball, he soon had the wicket of Williams, who drove, edged and was caught at second slip for 15; 104 for three.
Sikandar Raza, in next, drove his first ball through mid-off for four — ‘through’ being the operative word, as the fielder there clumsily failed to stop it.
Ervine, however, failed to make the most of a fine innings, as in the next over, from Muzarabani, he drove handsomely on the off side, but straight to backward point, who took a sharp low catch to remove him for 63.
Ervine faced 91 balls and hit 12 fours, most of them classics; the Tuskers innings was now at the crossroads at 108 for four.
The batsmen decided on the positive response, and Raza hit Muzarabani for two fours in an over.
After three overs, Garwe was surprisingly taken off and Waller had another spell, but again he started with a full toss that Mutumbami hit for four.
Waller was perhaps trying to bowl too fast, but he did produce a lethal yorker that knocked out Raza’s off stump for 13.
Eagles were now right on top, and Tuskers urgently needed somebody to dig in and make a big score, especially in view of their fragile tail.
It wasn’t to be Shoun Handirisi, who struggled against some fine bowling from Muzarabani before he finally dabbled a catch to the keeper without scoring; 127 for six.
Luke Jongwe also failed to score, trapped lbw by a full-length ball from Waller, and seven were gone for 133.
Tuskers’ one remaining hope was Mutumbami, who spent several years holding together a weak Southern Rocks batting side.
Thabo Mboyi proved a tougher proportion than some of his predecessors, and he dug in admirably while Mutumbami led the rescue act.
Mboyi made an invaluable innings of 18 before Garwe returned to have him caught in the gully, and then Mpofu was run out in the following over attempting a quick single to give his partner the strike.
The double blow reduced the score to 189 for nine, with Mutumbami still there on 49.
He successfully completed his fifty, which came off just 59 balls without ever looking hasty.
The last man, Ndlovu, startled everybody by hitting a ball from Mufudza back over his head for six, which also raised the 200.
The spinners now came on, Mufudza and the captain Tino Mutombodzi, and Mutumbami became strangely bogged down against them.
The pair delayed tea for half an hour, though, and were still there after that time with the score 212 for nine wickets, Mutumbami on 62, now having faced 96 balls, and Ndlovu 10 from just two scoring shots.
After tea, as play continued, there seemed a lack of intensity from the Harare team, as they stopped trying to get Mutumbami out and simply tried to block his scoring and keep him away from the bowling.
They were not very successful, and Mutumbami responded with two successive reverse-sweeps for four off Mutombodzi.
He showed great astuteness in manipulating the strike, but finally drove a ball from Mutombodzi straight to long-off and was out for 83; he faced 117 balls and hit 13 fours.