Englishman Paul Horton top-scored with 71 runs off 56 balls for Matabeleland Tuskers who dismissed Mountaineers by 26 runs to book a place in the semifinals of the Stanbic Twenty20 cricket series with a game to spare at Harare Sports Club on Thursday.
The opening batsman, who plays for Lancashire in the English county, earned himself the man-of-the-match award after the good batting performance which helped his side post a competitive 162-6 in their allotted 20 overs.
In reply, Mountaineers put up yet another mediocre performance with the bat, crumbling to 136 all out in 17,4 overs to succumb to their second consecutive defeat in the tournament.
Seam bowlers Christopher Mpofu, Njabulo Ncube, Neil Carter and spinner Keith Dabengwa claimed two wickets apiece as the Mountaineers batting line-up never looked like they would be in the match with a shout.
Former Zimbabwe national team all-rounder Sean Ervine top-scored for Mountaineers with a quick fire 33 off 18 balls but only five batsmen managed to get to double figures on his team’s batting scorecard.
Ervine shared a 48-run fifth wicket partnership with Gregory Smith who was dismissed by Keith Dabengwa for 24 off 21 balls.
In contrast, Horton struck a patient match-winning knock, smashing four boundaries and a six after his side won the toss and elected to bat first on what looked like a slow-batting track.
The aggressive right-hander shared the highest partnership of 59 off 29 deliveries with fast improving all-rounder Keegan Meth and raced to a quick fire 33 off 14 deliveries, clearing four boundaries and two sixes.
It looked like Tuskers would struggle after they lost five wickets in the first five overs after opener Neil Carter (6) was clean bowled in Lance Klusener’s first over.
However, Charles Coventry accelerated the run rate as he took on the Mountaineers bowlers before he was caught by Greg Smith off Panyangara at long off, but not before he had hit a four and two sixes in his 10 off 20 balls.
The result sets up an enticing encounter on Friday as Mountaineers and Southern Rocks square off in a match where the other semifinal spot will be at stake after the two teams managed a win in three matches.