Manicaland Mountaineers yesterday slowly manoeuvred themselves into what should be a winning position against Midlands Rhinos on the third day of this Logan Cup match at Harare Sports Club. There were three innings in the forties, of which Tino Mawoyo's 49 was the best, while Rhinos' Welsh all-rounder Brad Wadlan took four wickets, but to do so he had to bowl 32 overs and concede 107 runs.
The teams will go into the final day with Mountaineers 287 runs ahead with four wickets in hand.
Overnight Rhinos were on 223 for nine wickets, Trevor Chibvongodze on 39 and Tafara Chingwara still to score, in reply to the Mountaineers' first-innings score of 278.
At first the batsmen concentrated on defence, and then Chingwara surprised with a superb cover drive for four off Victor Nyauchi. However, in his next over, Nyauchi ended the innings when Chibvongodze miscued an attempted pull and skied a catch to the fielder at long leg.
Chibvongodze made 40, a commendable début innings, Chingwara finished with six not out, and the total was 230.
The deficit was 48 runs on the first innings, a fine effort by a team missing nine top players against the reigning Logan Cup champions.
Nyauchi was the most successful bowler, taking four wickets for 48 and often working up a good pace, while there were two wickets for Donald Tiripano.
As in the first innings, Mawoyo and Kevin Kasuza opened with caution against the bowling of Chingwara and Neville Madziva.Kasuza was particularly slow, and Mawoyo was dropped at slip when he had scored 15.
After facing 45 balls for five runs, Kasuza suddenly came alive, driving the left-arm spin of Wadlan for three fours and a two in the same over.
The batsmen showed increasing fluency and at lunch they had 66 runs on the board without loss, Mawoyo on 29 and Kasuza 33.
Everything had gone right during the morning session for Mountaineers, and at lunch they appeared to be well on top again in this match.
After the interval, the first-wicket stand reached 83 before Trevor Gwandu took his first wicket in first-class cricket, beating Kasuza's stroke and trapping him lbw for 44; he faced 89 balls and hit seven fours.
Mawoyo looked set for a big innings, but on 49 he drove a low return catch to the bowler, Wadlan, making the score 97 for two.
This brought together Innocent Kaia and Timycen Maruma, both still to score.
They played themselves in for a long time, with even more care than their openers had taken. They put on 47 together in 19 overs, with Kaia just starting to open up and look for runs more quickly.
However, when he had scored 29, he dabbed very weakly at a ball from Prince Masvaure outside his off stump and gave the wicketkeeper a simple catch; 144 for three.
Foster Mutizwa came in and faced 10 balls without scoring before the tea interval arrived; the score was then 147 for three, with Maruma on 20 off 56 balls.
When he had scored 42, with the total 180 for three, Maruma was surprised by a bouncer from the Masvaure, and hit on the back of the helmet.
He tried to carry on batting, but had to leave the field, bringing on Kudzai Sauramba to replace him.
Even now, with a lead of well over 200 runs and seven wickets in hand, the Mountaineers batsmen never tried to dominate the bowling attack, but were content to accumulate steadily and no doubt plan on a declaration sometime the next morning.
Mutizwa played over a ball from Wadlan and was bowled for 21, scored off 90 balls without a single boundary; 222 for four.
In his next over, Wadlan trapped Sauramba lbw, also on 21, but this had taken him only 36 balls.
Three balls later, he bowled Clive Chitumba, who did not score, and the innings was in some disarray at 225 for six, with Maruma retired hurt.
However, Tiripano (11) and Wellington Masakadza (5) played out the day safely, when the score was 239 for six, a lead of 287.
Manicaland Mountaineers - 278 and 239-6 in 84 overs (Tino Mawoyo 49, Kevin Kasuza 44, Timycen Maruma 42*; Brad Wadlan 4/107)
Midlands Rhinos - 230 in 84.4 overs (Tendai Maruma 51, James Bruce 40, Trevor Chibvongodze 40; Victor Nyauchi 4/48, Donald Tiripano 2/58)
Day 3 - Stumps: Manicaland Mountaineers lead by 287 runs with four wickets remaining.