Rhinos achieved their second victory of the week over the powerful Mountaineers team by winning their Pro50 Championship match against last year’s runners-up in this competition by three wickets at Kwekwe Sports Club on Saturday.
It was a good toss for Rhinos to win and put their opponents in to bat, as the pitch was slightly damp in the morning and improved for batting later in the day.
Mountaineers stumbled in mid-innings and so did not get quite as many runs on the board as they would have been looking for.
After the early loss of Kevin Kasuza for four, the Kaia brothers shared a 47-run partnership for the second wicket before the opener Innocent was out for 22.
He was dismissed by Graeme Cremer, making a welcome return to the Rhinos team after his knee operation.
Then Tinashe Chimbambo (1) and the experienced Foster Mutizwa (7) fell in quick succession, and at 82 for four Mountaineers had to consolidate.
Roy Kaia was still there, playing a fine innings, and first Tafadzwa Tsiga, with 30 of a stand of 68, and the captain Donald Tiripano, 37 in their partnership of 60, gave him good support.
Kaia stayed right to the end, with a six off the final delivery of the innings from Mike Chinouya, taking him to 99, just falling short of what would have been a well-deserved century.
Cremer returned the best figures of two for 41 in his 10 overs, and received excellent support from Tendai Chisoro, whose 10 overs were without a wicket but only conceded 28 runs, a vital contribution.
The final Mountaineers total of 230 for seven probably gave neither side an advantage, and the Rhinos opening pair of Bothwell Chapungu (14 off 11 balls) and their captain Tarisai Musakanda gave the team a rollicking start with a stand of 40 off the first 4.3 overs.
This was to prove vital, as it put Rhinos ahead of the required run rate from the start, and after that they were never under undue pressure to score faster.
Vusi Sibanda was not at his best in scoring 18, but when PJ Moor joined Musakanda the pair put their team well ahead by adding 79 for the third wicket in less than 13 overs, both batting in fine form.
Musakanda was dismissed for 78, and then Moor for 55, quickly followed by Prince Masvaure for 14 as Mountaineers fought back; 187 for five, but with more than 15 overs to go.
As the later batsmen had to play with care, Rhinos were in danger of faltering, but their good run rate meant that they were not under the added pressure of having to force the pace.
Malcolm Waller went for 17 and Nyasha Mayavo for seven, both to the bowling of William Mashinge, and at 201 for six and 220 for seven Mountaineers were still in the game, but they would have to bowl Rhinos out to do so.
Neville Madziva played a cautious game for six not out, but Tendai Chisoro was the man who saw Rhinos home in the end, hitting 10 not out off six balls.
Victor Nyauchi was the best of the Mountaineers bowlers with three wickets for 28 in his eight overs, but the spinners Wellington Masakadza and Natsai M’shangwe also deserve credit for their tight bowling at an important time.
There were three outstanding fifties scored during the day, while Chisoro qualifies as a fourth match hero for his vital bowling and batting contributions just when they were needed.