Rhinos fight back to edge Mountaineers in Logan Cup thriller

Mountaineers – 290 and 366 all out in 89.2 overs (Timycen Maruma 143, Dion Myers 116, Clive Chitumba 29; Tafara Chingwara 4/26, Brandon Mavuta 4/161, Tarisai Musakanda 1/7). Rhinos – 286 and 371-9 in 86.1 overs (Brendan Taylor 86, Prince Masvaure 64, Remembrance Nyathi 60; Brighton Chipungu 4/49, Shingi Masakadza 1/19, Dion Myers 1/27). Rhinos won by one wicket

In a thrilling finish at Harare Sports Club this Saturday, Rhinos chased down a daunting target of 371 to beat Mountaineers by the narrowest possible margin of just one wicket, with Brandon Mavuta playing a vital innings of 20 at the death.

The foundation, however, had been laid by Prince Masvaure, Brendan Taylor, Remembrance Nyathi and Nyasha Mayavo, who all played innings of 47 or more, but just needed that boost that Mavuta gave them at the end for Rhinos to get over the line.

The day began with the start of Rhinos’ second innings, and Masvaure and Takudzwa Kaitano opened the batting to the bowling of Victor Nyauchi and Clive Chitumba. Kaitano looked in fine form, hitting three boundaries off Chitumba’s first over, although the third was a thick edge over the slips.

Masvaure struggled at first, and was dropped in the slips off Nyauchi when he had five, but as he found his touch he scored faster than Kaitano. Their stand reached 67 at about three runs an over before Kaitano was caught at mid-on off Tinashe Muchawaya for 28, Masvaure then being on 37.

Now joined by Tarisai Musakanda, Masvaure reached his fifty off 74 balls, and then hit two fours in an over from Brighton Chipungu immediately before lunch. The score at the interval was 99 for one wicket, with Masvaure on 59 and Musakanda 10.

Masvaure began well again after lunch, but then on 64 he had an uncharacteristic slash at a ball from Dion Myers outside his off stump and was caught at the wicket, with the score at 108 for two wickets. Without another run being scored, Musakanda hit out recklessly and was caught at mid-on off Tony Munyonga for 13.

Nyathi now joined Taylor at the crease and hit his first delivery for four. Taylor looked in fine form from the start, playing the ball with time to spare and looking very capable of playing a long innings.

On 31, though, scored with ease off 33 balls, he carelessly lofted a ball high on the leg side, between two deep fielders, who converged on the ball but were just unable to take the possible chance. Taylor cruised to his fifty off 54 balls, and when tea came the score was 211 for three wickets, with Taylor on 53 and Nyathi on 40.

Rhinos were still in with a fair chance of victory. The batsmen continued to prosper without making any apparent attempt to push for victory, and Nyathi reached his fifty off 84 balls.

Taylor looked capable of scoring a century, but a loose stroke on 86 cost him his wicket, caught at deepish square leg off Chipungu for 86; 262 for four. The pair had put on 154 for the fourth wicket. Six wickets needed 109 runs to win in 27.5 overs, so a result for either side was still possible.

However, seven runs later Chipungu had Nyathi caught in the covers off a leading edge for 60, and the balance had turned against Rhinos. Charles Kunje and Mayavo, two new batsmen, were now together and Mountaineers were on top.

Mayavo played some positive strokes and the 300 came up without further loss, but Mountaineers could not break through and Rhinos appeared to be playing steadily for a draw. However, as the batsmen stayed in the belief that they might still win became clear and they started to push the score along with more urgency.

With 10 overs left the score was 343 for five, with 28 runs needed for victory, and Rhinos were well on course. Then Kunje, playing across the line to a ball from Nyauchi, was dismissed lbw for 28 in answer to the frantic appeal. This brought in Carl Mumba to join Mayavo.

There was another vital blow struck in the next over, as the experienced Shingi Masakadza had Mayavo edging and caught at second slip for a fine innings of 47, scored off 58 balls. Rhinos were in trouble at 343 for seven, and all their major batsmen had gone, as Mavuta joined Mumba.

Commendably, the two were intent on scoring the runs if they could and played positive cricket. The field was spread and runs came mainly in singles, but due to the slow Mountaineers over rate throughout the day the light was now starting to fade and it was obvious that the eight remaining overs could not all be bowled.

Mavuta drove Masakadza through extra cover for four, and down at the other end he did the same to Nyathi, despite the poor light, reducing the target to 10. Three twos came off successive deliveries, and a single, all to Mavuta; 11 off the over and three more needed.

Then Chipungu came on with his leg-breaks, a masterstroke. Mavuta slashed at his first ball, but was caught at the wicket for a gallant 20 off 17 balls. Chris Mpofu pushed his first ball for a quick single to mid-off; Mumba slashed and edged to the keeper, to be out for four.

One wicket left, with one to tie and two to win, and the last man Tafara Chingwara joined Mpofu at the crease. He nudged his first ball for a single backward of point to level the scores. Nyauchi bowled the last over, and Chingwara nudged his first ball backward of point again to take the winning run.

Rhinos have now completed their four-match programme with 20 points, for a win, a loss and two draws. They currently stand second in the Logan Cup table behind the winners, Southern Rocks.