Matches on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 October:
Harare: Mashonaland Eagles v Matabeleland Tuskers
Kwekwe: Mid-West Rhinos v Mountaineers
Bye: Southern Rocks
In last weekend’s matches we saw a break from the previous trend where one team would win both the Pro50 and the T20 matches against their opponents. In Masvingo, Southern Rocks went down to a fifth successive defeat in their Pro50 match against Matabeleland Tuskers, but finally, in the T20, Tendai Chisoro hit the final two deliveries for four each to bring his team a narrow victory. In Kwekwe, fine batting from Mashonaland Eagles chasing 184 to win in the T20 match turned the tables after Mid-West Rhinos had won the Pro50 match quite easily.
The tables read as follows, with the number of matches played in brackets:
Pro50: Mid-West Rhinos 9 (2), Mashonaland Eagles 5 (2), Mountaineers 4 (1), Matabeleland Tuskers 4 (2), Southern Rocks 0 (3).
T20: Mashonaland Eagles 9 (2), Mountaineers 4 (1), Mid-West Rhinos 4 (2), Southern Rocks 4 (3), Matabeleland Tuskers 0 (2).
Mashonaland Eagles are flying high and will be favourites to win when they take on Matabeleland Tuskers at Harare Sports Club, in traditionally the great domestic match of the season. But Eagles have memories of several recent crushing defeats at the hands of Tuskers in the Logan Cup, so they will certainly not be over-confident. Forster Mutizwa and Chamunorwa Chibhabha have showed the best overall batting form for Eagles, while Craig Ervine is in fine form for Tuskers. Both have strong bowling attacks, with Tuskers – led by Chris Mpofu - probably having the edge in pace, but Eagles, with Raymond Price and Tino Mutombodzi bowling superbly, better with spin.
In Kwekwe, Mountaineers are probably favourites to beat Rhinos after starting the season so well, but Rhinos are an unusual team. Their batting is heavily reliant on Vusimuzi Sibanda and Brendan Taylor, aided by Jaik Mickleburgh and Malcolm Waller – though the latter is struggling at present - and tend to be fragile down the order. Sibanda is in great form right now, with 324 runs in four limited-overs innings so far, and the result of these matches can well depend on him.
On the other hand, Hamilton Masakadza for Mountaineers can be equally devastating, and there may well be some friendly rivalry between these two, with Taylor not wanting to be overshadowed. With Zimbabwe’s three top batsmen in the same matches, there will be plenty of interest. Both have good bowling attacks, with perhaps Shingirai Masakadza for Mountaineers and Graeme Cremer for Rhinos holding the key.