As the National Premier League (NPL) got underway on Sunday, a sound innings of 32 by Brian Mudzinganyama, the highest of the match, played an important part in steering Rainbow Sharks to victory over Gladiators at Harare Sports Club.
Rainbow had looked the likely winners all through, although the eventual margin of four wickets suggests a fairly close contest.
They played a much sounder game with the bat than Gladiators, who batted first and wasted their chances with a rather reckless batting display.
All their top order tried to attack the bowling from the start, rather than knuckling down to build a sound innings, and the team was all out for 131 with more than 20 overs of their scheduled 45 wasted.
Milton Shumba and Tadiwa Marumani opened with a flashing 32 off only 3.3 overs before the latter was brilliantly caught low down in the gully by Brandon Mavuta.
After this wickets fell steadily, apart from a stand of 42 for the sixth wicket between Wesley Madhevere and Tony Munyonga, the latter being the only batsman to show due patience.
Mavuta dismissed them both and then wrapped up the tail with his leg-breaks to take four wickets for only 14 runs.
Daniel Jakiel had been the main beneficiary of the indiscipline of the top order as he took four for 25.
Rainbow had no need to hurry unduly with their small target to chase, and wisely they did not.
Mudzinganyama and Simbarashe Gupo put on a solid 44 in 12.3 overs for the first wicket, and with Larvet Masunda (29) and Gary Chirimuuta (31) also playing well the 100 was passed with only two batsmen out.
The middle order was not too sound, and so six wickets were down when the winning runs were scored, but there never seemed any question that Rainbow would win.
Both teams were very active and enthusiastic in the field, and several brilliant catches were taken.
Elsewhere, batting woes also afflicted the Bulawayo derby match at Queens Sports Club between their club side and Amakhosi, where a remarkable fighting last-wicket partnership of 20 between Thabo Mboyi (15 not out) and Charlton Tshuma (two not out) took the visitors to a thrilling and unexpected victory by a single wicket.
Queens managed only 97 batting first, although Emmanuel Sharara and Chamu Chibhabha had promised much better with an opening partnership of 47.
But then Ainsley Ndlovu and Ernest Masuku got to work, taking four wickets each, and only Sean Williams, with 14, reached double figures after that.
Amakhosi rarely looked capable of chasing even this low target, as apart from Allan Chigoma’s 20 none of the other batsmen stayed long at all, and the match seemed lost when the last man Tshuma joined Mboyi at the crease with the score on 78.
However, both these batsmen, although tail-enders, are known for their steadiness, and in six overs they did the job, denying the best the Queens bowlers could produce to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Meanwhile, at Mutare Sports Club, Great Zimbabwe Patriots had little chance against the Harare Kings team that contained several international players who will shortly be off to Pakistan.
The top four of Cephas Zhuwao, Prince Masvaure, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza all scored well, with the highest score coming from Ryan Burl with 47, although Gabriel Jaya surprisingly proved the best bowler, taking three wickets and conceding only 19 runs off his eight overs, while the other bowlers all took rather a pounding.
A target of 213 was far too high for the largely inexperienced team, although for Richmond Mutumbami it was an old familiar role from about 10 years ago when he so often fought a lone battle for Southern Rocks in the Logan Cup.
This time at least he had Tendai Chisoro to help him, and the pair briefly revived the innings with a fourth-wicket partnership of 36, but there was little to follow, with Patrick Mambo doing most of the damage.
The best overall batting match of the day was played at Kwekwe Sports Club, where the MidWest team took on Takashinga.
Elton Chigumbura rolled back the years by hitting the highest innings of the day in any of the four matches, a fine 62 not out off 76 balls that saw Takashinga through to a five-wicket victory.
MidWest in fact had done very well to total 175 after losing their first seven wickets for only 87 runs, with the spinners Tapiwa Mufudza and Roy Kaia taking four and three wickets respectively.
The home side were saved mainly by Carl Mumba, primarily a bowler who bats a bit — though today he did more than a bit with a fine innings of 54, using his height and power to hit six sixes and one four in that innings.
Davis Murwendo was his chief assistant, scoring 25 in a partnership of 62 for the eighth wicket.
Takashinga in reply lost their top three for 56 before Chigumbura took over.
He played a responsible innings, 62 off 76 balls, and found good support from Tino Mutombodzi and Timycen Maruma.
Even after reaching 50, Chigumbura played a secure game and took his time, making sure he was still there when victory was achieved.