The eagerly anticipated clashes between Mashonaland Eagles and Mountaineers in Mutare last week were affected by unexpected rain, which washed out the Pro50 match between the two teams. The winner of this match would have closed the gap significantly on Mid-West Rhinos, at the top of the table; instead both teams had to settle for two points for an abandoned match.
The T20 match that followed was thankfully left alone by the rain. This was the critical match, with both teams having won all three of their fixtures before now. Mashonaland Eagles won the toss, as they so often do on important occasions, and were able to field first. Only Hamilton Masakadza of the top Mountaineers batsmen succeeded, and Eagles were able to complete a four-wicket victory, their chief performer being Sikandar Raza with a fine fifty.
This means, at the halfway point of the competition (which will continue in December), Mashonaland Eagles have a clear lead at the top of the T20 table, while Mid-West Rhinos are ahead in the Pro50. The points situation is as follows, all teams having played four matches:
Pro50: Mid-West Rhinos 14, Mashonaland Eagles 11, Mid-West Rhinos 10, Matabeleland Tuskers 9, Southern Rocks 0.
T20: Mashonaland Eagles 18, Mountaineers 13, Southern Rocks 4, Matabeleland Tuskers 4, Mid-West Rhinos 4.
Before the teams resume the one-day game, we have five rounds of “The Big One” – the four-day, first-class Logan Cup, which is the biggest prize in Zimbabwe domestic cricket. The matches for the coming week, 30 October to 2 November, are as follows:
At Harare Sports Club: Mashonaland Eagles v Southern Rocks
At Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo : Matabeleland Tuskers v Mountaineers
Bye: Mid-West Rhinos
Mashonaland Eagles are strongly favoured to beat the struggling Southern Rocks team. The Masvingo side have only one real strength, and that is their opening bowling attack of Brian Vitori and Tinashe Panyangara. If they were to achieve a surprise victory, it would almost certainly have to be on the back of magnificent bowling from these two – or else over-confidence from their hosts. Their batting is fragile; there is talent, but it is so far undeveloped. If one batsman is to come through this season, it may be Tendai Chisoro, who has real ability and a string nerve in a tight situation.
Eagles have a strong all-round side, and their successes in the limited-overs competitions have usually been due to collective team performances rather than outstanding individual feats. Their main weakness is perhaps the lack of a good opening partnership, which was changed numerous times last season without success. Sikandar Raza has struck good form recently and if he maintains his attacking spirit he will be a player to follow, while Forster Mutizwa is always a major threat to opponents in the Logan Cup, as he knows both how to build an innings and how to handle a crisis. Kyle Jarvis heads a strong pace attack and Raymond Price the spin, but the team will be wanting more from Elton Chigumbura. Chamu Chibhabha and Regis Chakabva are two other players currently in good form.
Matabeleland Tuskers are the reigning Logan Cup champions, but Mountaineers no doubt feel they still have a score to pay, after dominating the Logan Cup competition two seasons ago, only to lose the final against all expectations due mainly to the brilliant bowling of Keegan Meth. It will be a tough match, but Matabeleland Tuskers are the side with the greater depth. They have the Ervine brothers, with Craig in fine form especially, but some of their other batsmen have not really fired yet; the returning Sean Williams in particular will want to make an impact. Meth, Njabulo Ncube, Chris Mpofu and Glenn Querl form a formidable pace-bowling quartet, but their spin department is weak.
Hamilton Masakadza is in magnificent form with the bat for Mountaineers, and his brother Shingi with the ball. Tino Mawoyo and Kevin Kasuza are both in excellent batting form, while Greg Lamb has also been doing well, but the rest of the batting has been fragile. Another player to look for is the pace-bowling all-rounder Donald Tiripano, while Tendai Chatara will want to start taking wickets again. This should be an excellent match.