MOHAMMAD EQLAKH, an Indian player recommended to Manicaland Mountaineers by their former coach Stephen Mangongo when he was in that country, dominated the third day’s play for his team against Rising Stars with a century in only his second first-class match. Rain disrupted the afternoon’s play in this Logan Cup match at Harare Sports Club, and at the end of it Mountaineers were exactly 300 runs ahead of their opponents with four wickets in hand. The day began with Rising Stars, having fallen 75 runs behind Mountaineers on the first innings, having scored two without loss on the second afternoon before rain cut short the day’s play.
The overnight batsmen, Hamilton Masakadza and Eqlakh, put up the team fifty in the 11th over, and batted on until at 67 Masakadza (36) went for a big hit off Rugare Magarira and skyed a catch to Milton Shumba at mid-on. Eqlakh went on to reach his fifty off 70 balls, bringing up the team’s 100 at the same time. Vusi Sibanda was now Eqlakh’s partner, and between them they took the score to 149 for one at lunch, when Eqlakh had 82 and Sibanda 26. With the weather forecast for the rest of the match tricky, the batsmen tried to press on with the run-scoring after lunch. Sibanda did not last long, however, pushing a simple catch to gully when on 28; 163 for two.
The rain came at a most unfortunate time for Eqlakh: just as he drove a ball from Njabulo Ncube past mid-off for four to reach 99, a drizzle turned into heavy rain and the players had to leave the field. The score was 169 for two, with the new batsman Tinashe Chimbambo on one. Play was stopped for just over an hour and a half, and an early tea interval was taken. It took just two balls for Eqlakh to drive the ball through the covers for another boundary and reach his maiden first-class century, off 130 balls.
He continued to dominate the bowling, but there was a mix-up in running between wickets with Chimbambo, who was run out for nine; 201 for three. Another burst of rain hit the ground at 210 for three, when Eqlakh had reached 129 and Foster Mutizwa one, but this time the players were only off for 11 minutes.
Mutizwa tried to push the score along, but in trying to swing a ball from Mohammad Faraz Akram to leg he edged a catch to the keeper for 10; 224 for four. In the next over Kudzai Sauramba left without scoring, edging a ball from Blessing Muzarabani to Ryan Murray at second slip, and then Shingi Masakadza tried to shoulder arms to his first delivery, to be bowled out; 225 for six. Donald Tiripano came in and saved the hat-trick, but then more rain caused play to be suspended again; Eqlakh was now on 134.
Manicaland Mountaineers – 260 and 225-6 in 59.2 overs (Mohammad Eqlakh 134*, Hamilton Masakadza 36, Vusi Sibanda 28; Blessing Muzarabani 2/23)
Rising Stars – 185 all out in 73.2 overs (Milton Shumba 61, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe 32, Tony Munyonga 24; Victor Nyauchi 4/41, Donald Tiripano 2/14, Shingi Masakadza 2/41, Tendai Chatara 2/57)
Day 3 – Stumps: Manicaland Mountaineers lead by 300 runs with four wickets remaining. – zimcricket.