The weekend saw two victories in the one-day matches for Mashonaland Eagles and Mountaineers, over Southern Rocks and Matabeleland Tuskers respectively. These two are due to clash in Mutare on Wednesday (50-over match) and Thursday morning (T20).
Both are strong teams, and at this stage of the season the results are unpredictable. Mountaineers were weak in batting last season, but in Bulawayo they began with a bang. There were two fine innings from Tino Mawoyo, determined to push his way into the national one-day teams, and one each from Hamilton Masakadza, in the finest form of his career, and the exciting Under-19 batsman Kevin Kasuza. The middle order has had little chance yet, so it remains to be seen if Mountaineers can still do well if their top three fail. They also bowled well and kept their nerve in that tense T20 match against Tuskers, where they pulled off a remarkable five-run victory after Tuskers entered the final two overs needing 19 runs with seven wickets left.
Mashonaland Eagles owed their victories more to strength in depth and, it must be admitted, the luck of the toss, which in both matches allowed them the considerable advantage of bowling first on the helpful Harare Sports Club pitch. The luck of the toss will hold less advantage in Mutare, and perhaps the deciding factor may be the success of the top three Mountaineers batsmen.
In Masvingo, Mid-West Rhinos enter the fray for the first time as they visit Southern Rocks. Rhinos have the stronger team on paper, despite the loss of Gary Ballance and Riki Wessels, their star batsmen of last season. However, they still have quality batsmen in Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor and Malcolm Waller, which is more than the unfortunate Rocks possess.
Rocks’ fighting spirit will be put to the test, as they have no real stars apart from Brian Vitori, although their new captain Tinashe Panyangara showed good form in spurts last weekend. On their home pitch, however, their batsmen can expect a fair deal whatever happens at the toss. One player to watch is the talented Tendai Chisoro, who it is hoped will build on his superb 73 not out last Saturday and finally start to realize his potential.