LOG leaders Mashonaland Eagles made a perfect start to the near year in the domestic twenty20 competitions when they defeated Mid West Rhinos by 46 runs in a top of the table clash at Harare Sports Club yesterday and remain unbeaten.
The hosts took control of the game when they were put in to bat first and recorded a decent score of 149/6 in their allotted 20 overs before good work from their bowlers sealed maximum points.
Tight bowling from Elton Chigumbura and his colleagues squeezed the life out of the visitors who could only manage 103 runs for the loss of nine wickets at the end of their innings.
Eagles have now won five matches in six outings and are now on 30 points, 12 clear of second placed Mountaineers on the log tables of the shortest version.
With only two rounds of matches remaining, Steve Mangongo's men have done enough to secure a top finish in the twenty20 league and a place in the final scheduled for early next month.
Team coach Mangongo yesterday heaped praises on his charges after seeing off the strong Kwekwe-based outfit in their first match after the Christmas break. This was a brilliant performance from these guys because Rhinos are a difficult opponent. They are a strong side and I am happy with our display.
We outplayed them in all departments and it shows the players had been working hard during the festive holidays.
"It's something that requires a lot of sacrifice to be able to keep in shape even when there is no activity. We are now looking forward to our next matches against Matabeleland Tuskers during the course of the week," said Mangongo.
Eagles were given a good start by the 59-run opening partnership between Sikandar Raza(62) and Chamu Chibhabha (22). It was not particularly a perfect day though as the rest of the batsmen could not fully compliment Raza once Chibhabha was removed by Richard Muzhange in the seventh over.
Mike Chinouya and Neville Madziva took two wickets each while Simon Mugava had 1-25 in his four overs. In response Rhinos suffered an early setback when they lost Jaik Mickleburgh, bowled out by Ray Price, with four runs on the board.
Chigumbura then sent back to the pavilion Rhinos' captain Brendan Taylor (21) and Malcom Waller (1) in succession to finish with 2/8 in two overs.
Prosper Utseya also bowled a tight spell to claim 2/16 in four overs while leg spinner Cephas Zhuwawo sealed the game when he claimed two quick wickets in the final over which only leaked one run.
Meanwhile, the Pro50 Championship match between the sides was called off on Saturday because of rains.
The match was abandoned after less than 10 overs with Rhinos having been put in to bat first on 30 for 1. However Grant Flower's men remain top of the table with 21 points, two ahead of Eagles who have also played one game more.