Inter-franchise cricket begins with a bang this weekend in Harare and Bulawayo, appealing in particular to lovers of one-day cricket. At Harare Sports Club Mashonaland Eagles are at home to Southern Rocks, while at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo Matabeleland Tuskers play Mountaineers. Mid-West Rhinos have a bye.
The new domestic programme planned by Zimbabwe Cricket schedules one-day fixtures on Saturdays and Sundays, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The first day sees a more traditional 50-over match, and the second morning a T20 match between the same teams. During the next three weeks each of the franchises will meet the other four, and a further block of one-day cricket is to follow in December and January. All the national players are expected to be available for these matches.
Mashonaland Eagles will expect to have the edge over Southern Rocks at Harare Sports Club, as they have most of the big names in their team, such as Elton Chigumbura, Raymond Price and Kyle Jarvis, their three ‘central contract’ players with Zimbabwe Cricket. Other top Eagles players with proven track records are Forster Mutizwa, Regis Chakabva, Cephas Zhuwao, Sikandar Raza and Chamu Chibhabha, among others, giving the home side a very exciting line-up.
Against this Southern Rocks can play only Brian Vitori of the central-contract players, but with Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara and Trevor Garwe they can turn out a creditable pace-bowling attack. The batting may struggle, with Richmond Mutumbami and Roy Kaia perhaps the most likely to succeed. Chibhabha, who transferred to Eagles, will be sorely missed. On paper Southern Rocks look unlikely to succeed, but they handle the one-day game better and they have a new coach in Dave Houghton, so they may play with the extra enthusiasm and optimism that would enable them to spring a surprise.
The Bulawayo cricket should be a very good match, with Matabeleland Tuskers, the Logan Cup champions, playing a particularly impressive pace attack including Glen Querl, the surprise of last season, Chris Mpofu, Njabulo Ncube and Keegan Meth. Their batting is also strong, leading lights being the captain Gavin Ewing, Charles Coventry, Keith Dabengwa, Terry Duffin and Craig Ervine, while Sean Williams has returned and Sean Ervine has also signed up for the season. Despite such strength, though, Matabeleland Tuskers did not crack the one-day game last season and they will be determined to put that right.
They will be a hard test for Mountaineers, a strong one-day team, with Hamilton Masakadza, Timycen Maruma, Kevin Kasuza and Greg Lamb, the last-named moving from Eagles, heading the batting. They have a strong pace attack led by Shingi Masakadza, Tendai Chatara and Donald Tiripano, with Prosper Utseya and Natsai Mushangwe providing quality spin. This should indeed be a battle of the giants.
Full October one-day programme:
6 and 7 October
Harare: Mashonaland Eagles v Southern Rocks
Bulawayo: Matabeleland Tuskers v Mountaineers
10 and 11 October
Mutare: Mid-West Rhinos v Mashonaland Eagles
Masvingo: Southern Rocks v Mid-West Rhinos
13 and 14 October
Kwekwe: Mid-West Rhinos v Mashonaland Eagles
Masvingo: Southern Rocks v Matabeleland Tuskers
17 and 18 October
Harare: Mashonaland Eagles v Matabeleland Tuskers
Kwekwe: Mid-West Rhinos v Mountaineers
20 and 21 October
Bulawayo: Matabeleland Tuskers v Mid-West Rhinos
Mutare: Mountaineers v Southern Rocks