Rising Stars seals top spot
Harare Metropolitan Eagles – 236 all out in 49.1 overs (Elton Chigumbura 65, Liam Roche 54, Keith Kondo 31; Tinashe Muchawaya 3/47, Mohammad Faraz Akram 2/41)
Rising Stars won by 21 runs
An invaluable all-round performance by Mohammad Faraz Akram, who scored 66 runs at a critical stage and took two vital wickets, inspired Rising Stars to a 21-run victory over Harare Metropolitan Eagles at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday, despite superb fifties from the experienced Elton Chigumbura and the youthful Liam Roche.
This match had little resting on it as far as the tournament results were concerned, as Eagles were doomed to finish in fourth place whatever the result, while Stars, at the top of the table on net run rate, were guaranteed a place in the final, but at least a good victory in this match would see them top the league table and give them a boost for Saturday’s final.
This they achieved, although there were points in both innings when they were in trouble, only for their players, Akram in particular, to turn the innings at a critical stage.
Stars won the toss and decided to bat first on a mild sunny morning with the ground looking in fine condition, although the pitch proved to be slow.
Eagles opened their bowling with Tafadzwa Muzarawetu and the left-arm spinner Kuda Munyede, against Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who took 12 runs off Muzarawetu’s first over, and Tafadzwa Tsiga.
Kamunhukamwe did not last long this time, though, as the ploy of opening with Munyede worked perfectly; in his second over the batsman swung across the line and was bowled for 14 (eight balls), with the score at 25.
Taffy Mupariwa, next in, scored only three before he drove at a ball from Muzarawetu and sliced a low catch to backward point; 32 for two in the seventh over.
Tarisai Musakanda came in and immediately drove Muzarawetu for two fours and a three off his first five balls.
As so often, though, he burned his candle at both ends and drove a catch off Munyede straight to mid-off; out for 14 off eight balls to make the score 48 for three in the eighth over.
Joined by Ryan Burl, Tsiga now began to open up and attack the bowling.
They took the stand to 86 in the 18th over before Tsiga (28) drove a catch to mid-off from the bowling of Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi.
The scoring rate slowed as Tony Munyonga found it hard to get going, and the team hundred only came up in the 24th over.
Munyonga eventually fell for seven scored off 28 balls, groping outside the off stump to a rather wide delivery from Brighton Zhawi; 107 for five in the 25th over.
Burl had a life on 32, when he tried to steer a ball from Zhawi to third man and second slip failed to hold the chance.
Akram was not able to score very quickly either at first, and although Burl was more fluent, he did not get enough of the strike.
When Donald Samunderu came on to bowl his off-breaks, Burl successfully reverse-swept him for four, but, trying to repeat the stroke next ball, was trapped lbw for 40, off 63 balls.
At 130 for six in the 33rd over, Stars were now in some trouble.
Brandon Mavuta has often batted usefully in such situations for Stars, but on this occasion he was bowled by Liam Roche for one; 135 for seven.
Faraz Akram and Patrick Mambo now decided to take some chances against the spinners, and succeeded with some big hits, although they did not have the skills to work the ball around the field.
The bowlers were unable to get them out and they grew in confidence, Faraz Akram driving straight impressively and reaching fifty off 73 balls.
The 200 was reached in the 46th over, but at 206 Mambo (28) drove straight back to Munyaradzi, who held a sharp catch in his midriff.
The pair had put on 71 runs in 12 overs.
With Tinashe Muchawaya also hitting out, Akram went for everything until in the 49th over he was bowled by Zhawi for 66; 239 for nine.
Off the last over Muchawaya hit Munyaradzi for 16 runs, the last ball being a dropped catch in the deep, to finish on 30 not out off 14 balls, the total being 257 for nine wickets, an excellent revival after being 135 for seven.
There were two wickets each for Munyede, Zhawi and Munyaradzi, with Roche the most economical bowler, taking one for only 28 off his 10 overs.
Like Eagles, Stars used a spinner in Rugare Magarira to bowl their second over, and this also brought success, as with his third ball he struck a vital blow by bowling out Chamu Chibhabha for one.
Zaheer Muhammad, who has had little success in the tournament so far, made a very spirited start to his innings, driving two fours and a six.
Then he drove uppishly into the covers, was dropped, and the fielder then tried to run out his partner, Keith Kondo, only to provide four overthrows to the batsman’s account.
There Zaheer’s luck ended, as off the next delivery he was given out caught at the wicket off Faraz Akram when he did not think he hit the ball; he scored 21 off 16 balls and the score was now 23 for two in the fifth over.
Kondo and Samunderu then shared a very skilful partnership of 53 for the third wicket, working the ball around the field well, until Kondo (31) chipped a catch to midwicket and left with the score 76 for three in the 21st over.
Samunderu did not last much longer as at 82 he was stumped off Munyonga for a well-played innings of 21.
The key man appeared to be Chigumbura, now partnered by Roche.
Sure enough he played his part, but Roche did better still, playing his strokes fluently all round the wicket and reaching fifty off only 42 balls, before Chigumbura did.
Chigumbura reached his fifty in the following over, the 39th, and the stroke also brought up the century partnership.
Chigumbura was not the devastating hitter of old, but he was a more mature and determined model, taking no chances and very certain.
The score had reached 193 in the 40th over when Roche went on one big hit too many, and was caught at deep midwicket off the bowling of Muchawaya.
He had played a fine confident innings, including four sixes and two fours, and brought his team back into the match; the pair had added 111 for the fifth wicket in 17.3 overs.
Chigumbura was still the key man as he was joined by Njanji, and if Stars could dismiss him now they would be well on top.
Njanji scored just three before, in Muchawaya’s next over, lofting a catch to long-on; 201 for six.
Chigumbura continued to bat responsibly with Munyede, but at 208 in the 44th over came the blow that decided the match.
Chigumbura played forward to a ball from Akram, which unexpectedly beat him and trapped him lbw.
He had scored 65 off 73 balls, with two sixes and four fours, looking in good touch throughout.
This left three tail-end wickets to score another 50 runs to win in just under seven overs.
News had just come through of Manicaland Mountaineers’ defeat to Midlands Rhinos at Takashinga, which assured Stars of finishing top of the league table.
Munyede and Munyaradzi did their best, but in the desperate search for quick runs Munyaradzi was well run out and then Munyede very well caught overhead by Magarira in the covers off the bowling of Muchawaya again; 223 for nine in the 47th over.
Zhawi and Muzarawetu took the match to the final over before another run-out brought the match to a close, Eagles still 21 runs behind.
Muchawaya with three for 46 was the most successful bowler, while Faraz Akram took two for 41, including the vital wicket of Chigumbura.
Stars will go to the final on Saturday, the venue of which has been changed to their home ground of Takashinga, on a high, but they will face tough opponents in Mountaineers, who have the experience to overcome their two defeats and put up a great fight in the final.