Northerns – 273-9 in 50 overs (Nkosana Mpofu 88, Chamu Chibhabha 50, Tarisai Musakanda 35; Victor Nyauchi 3/42, Ernest Masuku 3/60, Tafadzwa Tsiga 2/18)
Southerns – 270 all out in 47.4 overs (Johnathan Campbell 46, Tashinga Musekiwa 43, Kevin Kasuza 38; Ainsley Ndlovu 4/27, William Mashinge 4/34, Tanaka Chivanga 1/50)
Northerns won by three runs
Nkosana Mpofu struck his second consecutive half-century as his Northerns team pipped Southerns by three runs in an exciting finish to decide the three-match regional Pro50 Championship series at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
On the other hand, Brandon Mavuta was both hero and villain for Southerns – he had scored a valiant 29 at a vital time to take his side to the brink of victory, only to lose his wicket to an unnecessary stroke that in the end cost them the match.
Richmond Mutumbami as captain of Southerns won the toss and decided to bowl first.
Much depended, for both teams, on how the in-form Tadiwanashe Marumani performed, but this time round it was not his day.
Against the opening attack of Ernest Masuku and Victor Nyauchi he could not get going and in the eighth over, having scored 11 off 22 balls, he was caught by Mutumbami behind the wicket off Nyauchi.
Later in the same over his partner, Brian Mudzinganyama, also fell for 11, beaten by Nyauchi’s pace and trapped lbw.
Nkosana Mpofu began his innings more fluently than either opener, and scored freely while the Northerns captain Chamu Chibhabha settled into what proved to be a major partnership with him.
They put on 124 in 25 overs before Chibhabha, just having reached 50, was beaten and bowled by the spin of Johnathan Campbell, with their team in the advantageous position of 151 for three.
Mpofu stayed until the 39th over when, trying to speed up the scoring, he was surprisingly lbw to Tafadzwa Tsiga, who is better known as a wicket-keeper and very rarely bowls.
He departed having made a brilliant 88, with one six and nine fours, off 104 deliveries.
Perhaps unfamiliarity with his bowling gave Tsiga an advantage, as in his next over he also removed Tanaka Chivanga (4) lbw with a googly – 195 for five.
The wickets were a setback for Northerns, but Shingi Masakadza is always a good man for such a situation, as he joined Tarisai Musakanda at the wicket.
Masakadza launched three sixes on his way to 27 off only 13 balls to give his team a welcome boost before Masuku had him lbw on returning for his final spell.
At 249, Musakanda was caught at mid-off from Nyauchi after scoring 35 off 38 balls – 249 for seven in the 47th over.
In the remaining overs, Spencer Magodo (21 not out off 14 balls) and William Mashinge (10) had a clout, before Masuku had Mashinge caught in the gully and Ainsley Ndlovu bowled first ball with the last two deliveries of the innings, giving a total of 273 for nine.
This improved Masuku’s figures to three wickets for 60, but Nyauchi had the best record of three for 42 in eight overs, while the surprise package Tsiga had two for 18.
Kevin Kasuza may have missed out in the second match on Monday, but he regained his sparkling form of the first match when Southerns batted.
He and Takudzwanashe Kaitano put on 46 for the first wicket in eight overs, of which Kaitano scored just nine before Chivanga trapped him lbw.
Kasuza was looking set for another big score when on 38 he was also out lbw to a fine delivery from Ndlovu, having faced 41 balls and hit two sixes and four fours.
Mutumbami drove a catch to point and left without scoring three balls later, but Tsiga and Timycen Maruma took the score past 100, when both were out for 27 in quick succession.
At 109 for five in the 22nd over, Southerns were now in some trouble as Campbell and Tashinga Musekiwa came together.
Scoring well, they kept their team in with a chance as they added 84 together in 15 overs, of which Musekiwa scored 43 off 56 balls before at 193 for six he was caught at deep midwicket.
Carl Mumba played his usual big-hitting game, and was looking dangerous with 18 off 12 balls before he skyed a catch to long-on in trying to hit what would have been his third six – 222 for seven.
All this time Campbell was holding the innings together, but when he had made 46 off 53 balls he was beaten and bowled by Mashinge, and at 233 for eight after 41 overs Southerns were in trouble again.
Mavuta was now the leading batter remaining, and the policy seemed to be for him to make the strokes while Masuku kept his end up.
With five overs left, they needed 23 runs to win.
In the 47th over, Masuku hit off-spinner Mudzinganyama for four and then Mavuta for six, taking the score to 270 for eight, four more runs needed.
Off the final delivery of that over, however, in a situation where safe singles would have brought Southerns the match, Mavuta decided to go for glory, opened his shoulders and drove a catch to long-off.
He had made 29 in a very fine innings of 27 balls.
The score was 270 for nine.
Mashinge then bowled to Masuku, who also seemed to lose his head as he slogged the fourth ball to deep midwicket, where it was fumbled and then caught by Mudzinganyama to end the match.
Masuku had scored nine, while the last man, Nyauchi, had not faced a ball.
The score was 270, and there were still 14 balls to be bowled, leaving Southerns to rue the big lofted shots in a situation where only four more runs were needed for victory.
Ndlovu was the pick of the bowlers, with four top-order wickets for only 27 runs in his 10 overs, while Mashinge had four for 34.