Southern Rocks – 131 all out in 37 overs (William Mashinge 41, Tadiwanashe Marumani 16, Brian Mudzinganyama 16; Tendai Chatara 3/43, Tony Munyonga 2/14, Wellington Masakadza 2/18)
Mountaineers – 132-2 in 22.1 overs (Ben Compton 45, Kevin Kasuza 43, Kudzai Sauramba 31*; Sikandar Raza 1/12, William Mashinge 1/24)
Mountaineers won by eight wickets
Tendai Chatara, with three wickets in his opening spell, rocked the top order of the previously unbeaten Southern Rocks team in a Pro50 Championship match at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday, resulting in a fine victory for Mountaineers by eight wickets.
Rocks batted on winning the toss, and all appeared to be going well as their openers Tadiwanashe Marumani and Brian Mudzinganyama took 34 runs off the first six overs from the international bowlers Chatara and Victor Nyauchi.
With the last ball of those overs, though, Nyauchi had Mudzinganyama caught by Donald Tiripano for 16, and Chatara opened his next over with the wicket of Marumani, caught by Ben Compton also for 16.
The table leaders never recovered from this double blow.
Ben Curran and Roy Kaia took the score past 50, but then Timycen Maruma caught Curran off Chatara for nine, and in his next over Chatara had Sikandar Raza caught by Kevin Kasuza for two; 58 for four.
Wickets continued to fall in pairs, as at 68 Kaia was caught at the wicket off Wellington Masakadza as Chatara finished his opening spell, and in the following over the keeper, Kudzai Sauramba, held another chance to remove Tafadzwa Tsiga (9) off Tiripano.
At 72 for six in the 18th over, Rocks were now in considerable trouble.
They needed a major partnership, but never found it, although William Mashinge played a fine fighting lone innings as the tail collapsed around him.
The loss of Tendai Chisoro to Tiripano for six removed the last of the other recognised batsmen with the score 90 for seven.
Blessing Muzarabani went for five and Travor Mutsamba for zero – 109 for nine – before the last man, Dylan Hondo, played a gallant defensive innings to support Mashinge, facing 24 balls before Tony Munyonga ended the innings by bowling him for five.
This left the Rocks total at 131 all out off only 37 overs, with Mashinge unbeaten on 41.
Mashinge scored his runs off 61 balls, with two sixes and for fours, and without his fine effort Rocks would have failed to reach 100.
Chatara did most of the early damage with the ball, taking three wickets for 43 without having a chance to bowl his final two overs.
There were two wickets each for Tiripano and Munyonga, while Wellington Masakadza finished with the impressive figures of two for 18 off his full 10 overs.
Mountaineers had done a wonderful job to bowl out the hitherto dominant Rocks team for only 131 and now it was up to their batters to finish the job and send their opponents to their first defeat.
Mountaineers captain Kevin Kasuza led the victory charge in fine style: in the first four overs he raced to 31 out of a score of 40, with Mutsamba travelling for 30 runs off his two overs.
Kasuza was not to complete the job himself, though, as, having scored 43 off 35 balls, including seven fours and a six, he was bowled by Mashinge with the score on 64 in the ninth over.
His opening partner Compton had given him his head, playing a sound game, and he continued to do so with Sauramba now as his partner.
They continued to keep the score moving at about a run a ball, and Mountaineers never looked like losing their grip.
Compton was stumped off Raza when he had scored 45, the team total at this stage being 125, just before victory was completed.
Maruma came in and scored a single, while Sauramba took Mountaineers through to victory with 31 not out.
None of the Rocks bowlers were able to make much impact – perhaps, having made their place in next week’s final certain, they subconsciously relaxed and so went down to their first defeat of the tournament.
Alliance Health Eagles – 261 all out in 46.4 overs (Kudzai Maunze 87, Tino Mutombodzi 71, Marshal Takodza 40; Manson Chikowero 3/34, Ryan Burl 2/32, Brandon Mavuta 2/64)
Rhinos – 236-8 in 50 overs (Nyasha Mayavo 86*, Ryan Burl 56, Charles Kunje 27; Tapiwa Mufudza 3/46, Wessly Madhevere 2/38, Malcolm Chikuwa 2/48)
Alliance Health Eagles won by 25 runs
A fourth-wicket partnership of 121 between Kudzai Maunze and Tino Mutombodzi was vital for the resurgent Alliance Health Eagles who beat Rhinos by 25 runs in their Pro50 Championship match at Takashinga Sports Club on Tuesday.
Eagles, put in to bat, saw Tinashe Kamunhukamwe hit Trevor Gwandu for two fours before being caught by Ryan Burl off Carl Mumba for those eight runs.
Maunze began his innings fluently, but when Gareth Chirawu was caught by Mumba off Gwandu for two, the score was 25 for two in the fourth over.
Eagles continued to take risks in order to score quickly, and their daring policy paid off.
Third to go was Wessly Madhevere, bowled by Manson Chikowero for 19 off 14 balls at 58 for three in the eighth over.
Then came the partnership of the match as Mutombodzi joined Maunze and the pair put the Rhinos bowling to the sword with a dynamic stand of 121 in 19 overs.
Maunze again showed brilliant form in scoring 87 off 71 balls, including two sixes and 11 fours, the partnership finally ending at 179 in the 27th over when he was caught by Johnathan Campbell off Tashinga Musekiwa.
There was no respite for the bowlers as Marshal Takodza continued his recent good batting form in company with Mutombodzi.
The scoring rate did dip somewhat, as their partnership added 65 runs in 12 overs, but when Mutombodzi was caught by Burl off Brandon Mavuta for 71 (91 balls, three sixes, three fours) Eagles were beautifully placed at 244 for five in the 39th over – a score of 300 seemed assured.
However, unexpectedly, Rhinos fought back and there was a sudden batting collapse, with Takodza next to go, stumped off Mavuta for 40; 248 for six.
Mavuta finished his 10 overs, but Chikowero and Burl took advantage of his breakthrough and the tail folded against their bowling like a pack of cards.
Shoun Handirisi (7) and Tapiwa Mufudza (1) fell to Burl, Malcolm Chikuwa (3) and Daniel Jakiel (1) were caught off Chikowero, while the last man Honest Ziwira was unbeaten without scoring, and the innings crashed from 244 for four to 261 all out.
Chikowero with three wickets for 34 returned the best bowling figures, while the spinners Mavuta and Burl had two each.
Rhinos found themselves unexpectedly with a chance of victory still.
They needed one or two of their top-order men to rise to the occasion and play a big innings, but this did not happen.
Takudzwanashe Kaitano was the first man to go, caught at the wicket off Chikuwa for four.
Tarisai Musakanda again disappointed, scoring 14 before he was stumped, also off the bowling of Chikuwa.
When Charles Kunje was caught by Mutombodzi off Madhevere for 27, scored off 40 balls, the score was 58 for three in the 14th over, and a Rhinos victory was looking more unlikely.
Campbell also settled in but was unable to turn it into a major innings – he was lbw to Madhevere for 15, making the score 91 for four in the 24th over.
Nyasha Mayavo now joined Burl, and a promising partnership began to develop, as they kept their wickets up and the score ticking over.
They put on 63 together for the sixth wicket, but struggled to keep up with the run rate, until at 154 Eagles got their breakthrough, when Mufudza bowled Burl for 56 – he faced 85 balls and hit a six and six fours.
Musekiwa hit well for a while to score 15 before being bowled by Jakiel, and then Mufudza struck again.
Mumba seems to have lost the brilliant batting form he showed earlier this season as he was bowled for three by Mufudza, who then bowled Mavuta first ball.
The game was almost over for Rhinos now, 208 for eight in the 46th over, but Mayavo kept playing a superb fighting innings.
He could not do the job of securing victory single-handedly, but he stayed unbeaten to the end of the innings with 86 not out – he faced 90 balls and hit a six and seven fours.
In with him at the close was Gwandu, six not out, with the total being 236 for eight wickets.
Mufudza as usual was Eagles’ key bowler, taking three wickets for 46 in his 10 overs, while there were two wickets each to Chikuwa and Madhevere.
The Eagles victory has ensured that there will be two cracking matches at Harare Sports Club on Thursday and Saturday between them and Mountaineers, for the more successful of the two teams will meet Rocks in the Pro50 Championship final next Tuesday.