ZIMBABWE'S preparations for next month's Twenty20 international triangular series at home to Australia and Pakistan got underway yesterday with the Board XI team losing to Kenya by five wickets at Old Hararians in the first match of a three-team practice tournament.
The match was dominated by two fine innings, by Elton Chigumbura, who saved the Board XI from disaster, and Rakep Patel, who won the match for Kenya almost single-handedly.
On a cold but sunny morning, Kenya won the toss and put the Board XI in to bat.
The home side soon lost their dynamic opening batsman Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who miscued a big hit, and was caught in the second over for five.
The Kenyan opening bowlers, Nelson Odhiambo and Lucas Oluoch, did a fine job and there was some good work in the field, notably the stop and throw by Gurdeep Singh that ran out Prince Masvaure for four.
By this stage Chamu Chibhabha had gone for eight and Richmond Mutumbami without scoring, so the first four wickets were down for 18.
Nyasha Mayavo briefly fought back, scoring 11 before being caught in the deep.
But apart from this, it was a case of Chigumbura versus Kenya.
The experienced campaigner never appeared troubled by the bowling, although he played himself in with care, held the innings together and only in the final overs unleashed the full power of his strokes.
In the 19th over he reached his fifty, off 36 balls, and also brought up the team hundred, which for most of the innings had never looked likely.
He was dropped off a skyer in the final over, and finished with 60 not out off 42 balls, with four fours and three sixes.
The innings closed for 123, the most successful bowler being Oluoch with three for 26.
Kenya were given a fair start to their innings by Dhiren Gondaria and Alex Obanda.
Obanda soon proved himself a strong driver, hitting John Nyumbu for a powerful four and a six in the third over.
Gondaria was well caught by Mayavo in the deep for 10 in the sixth over, the opening partnership having put on 28 runs.
Then at 39 a fine run-out by Chamu Chibhabha removed the dangerous Obanda for 26 in the seventh over.
Kenya now began to struggle for runs against the tight Zimbabwean attack.
Board XI - 123-9 in 20 overs (Elton Chigumbura 60*, Nyasha Mayavo 11, John Nyumbu 9; Lucas Oluoch 3/26, Collins Obuya 2/9)
Kenya - 125-5 in 19.2 overs (Rakep Patel 53*, Alex Obanda 26, Nelson Odhiambo 13*; Natsai M'shangwe 2/21, Brandon Mavuta 1/19, Chamu Chibhabha 1/21)
Kenya won by five wickets -- Zimcricket.