Tuskers – 193 all out in 42.4 overs (Craig Ervine 99*, Taffy Mupariwa 17, Milton Shumba 17; Ryan Burl 2/15, Carl Mumba 2/25, Trevor Gwandu 2/31)
Rhinos – 194-6 in 42.2 overs (Johnathan Campbell 55, Nyasha Mayavo 50*, Takudzwanashe Kaitano 43; Ainsley Ndlovu 2/31, Panashe Maphosa 1/31, Ernest Masuku 1/34)
Rhinos won by four wickets
Rhinos finally recorded their first Pro50 Championship victory at Old Hararians Sports Club on Thursday as they beat Tuskers by four wickets, thanks to a magnificent fighting partnership between Johnathan Campbell and Nyasha Mayavo.
All seemed lost for Rhinos when they lost their five top batsmen for 87 runs chasing a target of 194, but these two men rose to the occasion and their sixth-wicket partnership alone almost won the match for them in the end.
Craig Ervine stood as a giant among pygmies after Tuskers were put in to bat by Rhinos.
In the first six overs of their innings, Taffy Mupariwa and Tanu Makoni put on 19 runs before the latter was caught at the wicket off Carl Mumba for six, bringing in Ervine.
Mupariwa was soon bowled by Trevor Gwandu for 17, and then followed a steady procession of partners for Ervine, none of whom managed to outscore Mupariwa.
Sean Williams scored 10 before being caught by Ryan Burl off Tashinga Musekiwa at 45 for three.
Milton Shumba made 17, a good enough start, but he was then caught at the wicket off Gwandu to make Tuskers 69 for four off 21 overs.
Thamsanqa Nunu was lbw to Mumba for nine, and then Clive Madande was caught at the wicket off Charles Kunje for 12, making the score an unpromising 123 for six in the 33rd over.
With Luke Jongwe, the last recognised batsman, now joining him at the crease, Ervine decided the time had come to accelerate.
He reached his fifty off 72 balls and celebrated it by hitting four successive fours off Kunje, and then another two in three balls off Brandon Mavuta.
With Jongwe playing steadily, he then settled down, but then came a run-out for Jongwe (7) at the hands of Campbell, which proved disastrous for Tuskers.
The score at this point was 183 for seven wickets in the 41st over, but the last three batsmen now failed completely to support Ervine.
Musekiwa bowled Ernest Masuku for two, with Ervine on 99.
Ainsley Ndlovu took a single, but Ervine was unable to reach his century off the last two deliveries, one of which went for five wides.
Burl bowled the next over: his first delivery had Ndlovu caught at the wicket, and the last man Panashe Maphosa lasted three balls before he was bowled by Burl.
The innings was over for 193, and Ervine had been left stranded on 99 not out – he fought a magnificent lone battle for 101 balls and hit 11 fours and a six.
His 10 partners managed to find the boundary just eight times among them, three of those fours coming from Mupariwa in the power-play overs.
There were two wickets each for Mumba, Gwandu, Musekiwa and Burl.
Burl returned the best figures of two for 15, but Mumba was the most economical with only 25 runs scored off his seven overs.
Set a target of 194, Rhinos had a good chance of recording their first victory of the tournament if their batsmen could hold their nerve and do their job.
They made a bad start, as off the fourth ball of the innings, with two runs on the board, Prince Masvaure was caught at the wicket off Masuku without scoring.
Kunje joined Takudzwanashe Kaitano and soon decided it was time to attack, and hit Jongwe for two fours and a six.
A promising partnership developed, but it came to an end on 49 in the 13th over, as in three deliveries Ndlovu removed Kunje and Tarisai Musakanda, both lbw.
Kaitano rather surprisingly responded to this with a flurry of fours, but it was too good to last, and four overs later he was caught off Jongwe for 43, with the score on 77 for four.
He was soon followed by Burl, caught at the wicket off Williams for eight, and at 87 for five in the 20th over Rhinos looked once again in danger of defeat.
Campbell and Mayavo now had to try to repair the damage, with not too much batting to come in their side.
They made a fine effort, hitting the bad ball well and defending safely, and as the score passed 130 the match was once again in the balance.
The bowlers tightened up, but Campbell hit Williams for a six and a four as the total passed 150.
Campbell was the more aggressive of the two, and he reached his fifty off 51 balls, while Mayavo did a fine calm job in support.
As the score passed 180 victory was not far away, but then, after the pair had added 96 together, Campbell was finally out lbw to Maphosa for 55, scored off 62 balls with a six and six fours.
At 183, victory was just 11 runs away at this stage and almost 10 overs were left.
Musekiwa was the next man in, but he had little to do.
Mayavo took the responsibility, and in the 43rd over he hit Williams for four and two, not only bringing a first victory to Rhinos, but also his own magnificent fifty, scored off 77 balls in a crisis and containing four fours.
Williams, usually a very effective one-day bowler, was surprisingly off his best form today, and overall Ndlovu did the best job, taking two wickets for 31 in his nine overs.
Rhinos are still doomed to finish bottom of the Pro50 Championship table, but at least now they have one victory to their credit, thanks to the determination of their two middle-order men when all had seemed lost.
2021/22 PRO50 CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS