The Zimbabwe Cricket managing director was in Kwekwe on Wednesday, for meetings on the sidelines of the second day’s play in the Logan Cup match between Mid-West Rhinos and Mashonaland Eagles.
Mr Wilfred Mukondiwa was shown around Kwekwe Sports Club – the headquarters of Mid-West Rhinos – by chief executive officer Kenyon Ziehl and franchise management committee chairman Ken Connelly.
They discussed the plans for the ground and its potential for the future of cricket in Zimbabwe. Mr Mukondiwa also saw the excellent progress that is being made on the second field, which is to be shared with the adjoining Goldridge College.
Mid-West Rhinos hope to host international matches again in the near future, even if these are only warm-up matches against touring teams.
Kwekwe is ideally situated for this as it is halfway between Harare and Bulawayo and so would be an ideal stopping place when visiting teams travel between the two main centres.
Kwekwe Sports Club hosted a One-Day International match between Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2002.
LOGAN CUP MATCH: MID-WEST RHINOS v MASHONALAND EAGLES
Day 2 at Kwekwe Sports Club, 23 January 2013 Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (166 and 84/4) v Mid-West Rhinos (279)
Graeme Cremer is fit, flourishing and all ready to tour West Indies, judging by his form for Mid-West Rhinos on the second day of their Logan Cup match against Mashonaland Eagles at Kwekwe Sports Club.
Cremer did not bowl at his best on the first day, but in the Mashonaland Eagles second innings he teased, tossed and flighted, luring the batsmen to destruction with all his old guile and skill. The visitors, who fell 113 runs behind on the first innings, ended the day still 29 runs behind with six wickets in hand.
Mid-West Rhinos resumed on their overnight score of 108 for one, with Vusimuzi Sibanda on 40 and Mark Vermeulen 61. Vermeulen continued to bat in the extravagant vein he had shown the previous afternoon, running to 67 off 74 balls before he slashed at a widish ball from Nathan Waller and was caught at slip. Sibanda also failed to register the big innings his team needed, as Waller made a ball lift unexpectedly and wicket-keeper Regis Chakabva brought off a good flying catch: out for 56. Mid-West Rhinos were now 137 for three.
Mashonaland Eagles, greatly enthusiastic at the fall of both these wickets, were fighting back. It was perspiration rather than inspiration, as the bowlers worked hard to keep the batsmen pinned down and the fielders gave little away.
Malcolm Waller broke the shackles with a six off Raymond Price, and Peter Moor gave him good support in a partnership of 70, as they took the lead over Mashonaland Eagles and passed 200 while together. In the over before lunch, Moor hit Prosper Utseya for six, but the experienced bowler struck back next ball with a faster ball of fuller length that beat and bowled him for 37. Mid-West Rhinos were 207 for four at the interval.
This left Waller in with the notorious Mid-West Rhinos tail, which as so often crumbled gently – the last six batsmen scoring only 33 runs between them. Waller was not in his best form and he struggled to farm the bowling. He made 73 and was ninth out when he unwisely attempted a reverse sweep against Tinotenda Mutombodzi and was caught at backward point.
The innings closed for 279, a slight disappointment after the good overnight position. Innocent Chinyoka took three for 62, and there were two wickets each for Nathan Waller, Price and Mutombodzi.
Mashonaland Eagles, 113 runs behind, went in a second time after tea with yet another opening pair in Keith Kondo and Clement Rizhibowa. They did not look very convincing, and Mike Chinouya soon trapped Kondo lbw for five. Rizhibowa soon followed for 15, perishing in the deep as he swept a ball from Cremer, but Chamunorwa Chibhabha and Regis Chakabva fought back positively. Just as they were looking well settled, Chakabva (11) was out to a superb catch at slip by Vusimuzi Sibanda, who dived to hold a firm cut from Cremer’s bowling. Mashonaland Eagles were 59 for three.
Cremer now seemed to be back to his best form, spinning the ball right up to the batsmen and causing them all sorts of trouble. Chibhabha tried to hit him off his length, only to miscue a ball into the covers and depart for 37: 73 for four.
Stuart Matsikenyeri and Sikandar Raza Butt played with great care to survive until the close, but unless Mashonaland Eagles find a way to counter Zimbabwe’s best attacking spin bowler and effect a remarkable recovery on the morrow, they appear to be doomed to defeat, probably in three days.
LOGAN CUP MATCH: MID-WEST RHINOS v MASHONALAND EAGLES
Day 1 at Kwekwe Sports Club, 22 January 2013 Close of play: Mashonaland Eagles (166) versus Mid-West Rhinos (108/1)
It seems that victory in the Pro50 final in Bulawayo last Saturday has done Mashonaland Eagles’ confidence no good as far as the Logan Cup competition is concerned.
As soon as the four-day championship resumed, they had a forgettable day at Kwekwe Sports Club, as a poor batting display was followed by a difficult time on the field, with Vusimuzi Sibanda and Mark Vermeulen putting their bowlers to the sword.
It was a sunny morning in Kwekwe, but much rain has fallen during the past 10 days, and Sibanda – captaining Mid-West Rhinos as Brendan Taylor is playing in the Bangladesh Premier League – decided to bowl first, knowing the pitch was likely to be damp underneath but would dry out later in the day.
This proved to be correct to a limited extent, as the bowlers found significant movement for less than the first hour of play, and after that the pitch flattened out. However, the weakness of the Mashonaland Eagles batting quite justified the decision.
Apart from Taylor, Mid-West Rhinos have a full team for this match, with Graeme Cremer having returned from injury. Mashonaland Eagles are without Kyle Jarvis in New Zealand, Elton Chigumbura in Bangladesh and the injured Lovemore Gumunyu-Manatsa, while they also took the major step of omitting Forster Mutizwa – badly out of form this season.
Once again, Mashonaland Eagles produced another opening partner for Chamunorwa Chibhabha, this time bringing back Kevin Kondo after an absence of three seasons.
The early movement in the pitch cost them the wickets of Kondo (5) and Regis Chakabva (3), both caught by Sibanda at first slip off the bowling of Mike Chinouya, for 17 runs. Then came a determined and promising partnership of 48 between Chibhabha (32) and the captain Stuart Matsikenyeri (31), who stayed together until the pitch had eased.
Unfortunately for the visitors, both lost their wickets when they should have been digging in for high scores. Chibhabha admittedly was bowled by a superb yorker from Neville Madziva, but Matsikenyeri – straight after lunch – tried to hit a ball from Cremer against the spin and skied a catch into the covers.
The score was then 86 for four, and the team never recovered, while the Mid-West Rhinos bowlers did a fine job, continuing to attack with accuracy and backed by tight fielding. Sikandar Raza Butt and Prosper Utseya both got bogged down and ended their innings with poor shots. Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Nathan Waller were more aggressive in intent as they tried to wrest control from the bowlers. All four made between 15 and 19. Nobody else reached double figures.
There was a ninth-wicket partnership between Waller and Raymond Price (9), which added 25, the second-best stand of the innings. A brilliant catch by Cremer at second slip eventually removed Price, and the innings closed soon after tea for 166. All the bowlers returned reasonable figures, although Cremer – out of cricket for so long – was rather expensive. The best was Madziva, with three wickets for 24 runs.
In reply, Mid-West Rhinos soon lost Jaik Mickleburgh, caught at the wicket first ball in the first over, but Sibanda and Mark Vermeulen were looking to dominate the bowling. Vermeulen in particular lived dangerously at times, sometimes swishing and missing, sometimes hitting in the air, but always on the attack, especially with the drive and short-arm pull through midwicket.
Both batsmen survived a chance and neither is a good runner between the wickets, so they enjoyed a couple of narrow squeaks there. An uppish cut over backward point brought Vermeulen his fifty off 54 balls, which included nine fours.
By the end of the day, the two were taking runs with ease, making nonsense out of the laborious Mashonaland Eagles innings. They finished 58 runs behind the visitors’ total, with nine wickets still in hand.
Rhinos will be looking for a big score and a big lead on the morrow but, as the Logan Cup this season has shown so often, nothing can be taken for granted and they will need to continue to apply themselves well to the task.
Makorokoto, Southern Rocks, for becoming the first franchise to move from the comfort of their main franchise centre and take franchise cricket into the further reaches of their terrain. And congratulations also to Mountaineers for giving this bold venture their fullest support.
Admittedly Triangle is not a new frontier in the country’s cricket, although the area has fallen on hard times as far as the game was concerned. Their facilities are far better than anywhere else in Zimbabwe outside the five main franchise cities. Indeed, during the eighties four touring teams – Pakistan International Airlines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan B and Young West Indies – all played matches against Zimbabwe B or Zimbabwe Select teams on the Triangle ground, as well as a Zimbabwe B match against Border in 1979/80, the only first-class fixture on the ground to date. But when Test status was achieved in 1992, the concentration fell on the Test-match centres of Harare and Bulawayo, and by then Triangle cricket was in slow decline.
Interest in resuscitating Triangle cricket began as recently as November last year, when Graeme Nish (one of the prominent figures at Southern Rocks) initiated a request for Tongaat Hulett at Triangle to assist in sponsoring one of the Masvingo franchise cricket matches and to bring in a corporate tent if desired. Geoff Richards, who is the company secretary of Tongaat Hulett Triangle, passed this request letter from Graeme on to his wife Rose who then continued communications with Graeme. It was suggested that the franchise team consider playing one of their games at Triangle, which would generate a renewed interest in the sport within the Lowveld community, and facilitate an approach being made to Tongaat Hulett to consider sponsoring this initiative.
Graeme liked the idea and put it to the committee at Southern Rocks, while Rose went to Tongaat Hulett Triangle to drum up support and some sponsorship. Both sides responded with wholehearted approval. Tongaat Hulett agreed to sponsor all the meals and the Man of the Match awards (which in retrospect should have gone to Rose, who spent many busy weeks co-ordinating the entire operation!), and the accommodation of the officials at the Mteri Dam at Hippo Valley. Triangle Boating and Angling in turn agreed to sponsor the players’ accommodation at the Jiri Dam, which the players themselves much appreciated. Delta then also joined the party and agreed to sponsor drinks for the players.
Shirley Kuttner, who is responsible for the grounds at Triangle, and her team proceeded to prepare, with the guidance of Dave Houghton and ZC, an impressive pitch for the visitors. It was then arranged that Southern Rocks and Mountaineers would play one 50-over game on the Saturday, followed by a T20 game on the Sunday, for which purpose both teams travelled to Triangle on the Friday afternoon.
Sadly, the cricket itself was then again washed out by the weather. Prior to that particular week, Triangle had experienced very little rain at all; but now it came down in one deluge after another, and even the dry, well-drained sandy soil could not cope with that much water. It was a poor reward for Shirley Kuttner and her ‘team’ of workers for all the magnificent hard work they had put in since mid-November to prepare the pitch and outfield.
However, it was by no means a wasted weekend. All who visited were greatly impressed with all the facilities, including the two coaches, Dave Houghton of Southern Rocks (who frequently played on this ground during his own career) and Gary Brent of Mountaineers. Both were very keen to play there again, and the Mountaineers CEO, Jon Brent, promised, “We’ll be back.”
There have been suggestions that Southern Rocks should play half of their four home one-day fixtures in both competitions at Triangle in future, beginning perhaps at the start of next season in September or October 2013. This would mean braving the intense Lowveld heat but, as Gary Brent noted, “It would be excellent preparation for the national team prior to playing on the Indian subcontinent.”
According to Peter Hingeston, one of the last survivors of early Triangle cricket, who now lives in retirement at Umwindsidale in Harare, the growing of sugar cane in the area really took off during the late 1950s, and sugar farmers from Natal in South Africa, in particular, were invited to immigrate and share their expertise. One of these was Nainby Starling, a former captain of the Orange Free State cricket team, and with several other keen farmers, he really introduced serious cricket into the area.
The Triangle Country Club was built around 1960 by these private farmers, and included a field that doubled for both cricket and rugby. A team also started in Hippo Valley, and a rivalry developed between the two teams.
From there Lowveld cricket grew, and the two teams combined to form a Lowveld team under the auspices of Midlands, and competed for the Globe and Phoenix Trophy with Gweru and Masvingo.
They were hampered by poor roads and isolation, but they made several tours to Natal and Swaziland, due to the sugar connection. At one stage in the seventies they were aiming for full provincial status and a Lowveld team playing in the Logan Cup and put it to the committee at Southern Rocks, while Rose went to Tongaat Hulett Triangle to drum up support and some sponsorship. Both sides responded with wholehearted approval. and put it to the committee at Southern Rocks, while Rose went to Tongaat Hulett Triangle to drum up support and some sponsorship. Both sides responded with wholehearted approval. p, but that remained just out of their grasp, although they certainly had a strong team then. The national captain of the day, Brian Davison, was a strong supporter of their promotion and, as the national coach, was a frequent visitor.
There was also the famous Triangle double-wicket competition which ran for about six years in the late seventies, with some prominent Zimbabwean players taking part, as well as a few famous former South African cricketers such as Peter Carlstein, ‘Tiger’ Lance and Denis Lindsay. Another major annual fixture was the visit by Harare Stragglers, who always sent a strong team.
After independence, however, the cricket began to decline, as young players moved out and perhaps not enough was done to encourage and develop young black talent. The fast bowler Eddo Brandes, however, was a genuine local product who grew up in the Lowveld and often played for the Triangle Club.
When the farm invasions took place and all the former white sugar plantations were taken over, the cricket club came to an end. The field is still used regularly, however, by the neighbouring Murray McDougall Primary School, who carry on the Triangle tradition with an annual double-wicket tournament for junior school cricketers who are invited from schools all over the country. Now the Southern Rocks decision to play in Triangle has given hope for the future of adult cricket in Triangle again.
There was tremendous disappointment throughout the Lowveld at the abandonment of the Mountaineers matches due to the rain. It had confidently been expected that the attendance would have been at least five hundred, if not over a thousand. But the event has stirred up enthusiasm anew for the game in the area, and the locals are hoping that the Triangle Cricket Club may be revived, perhaps in partnership with Chiredzi, and that a small cricket league may be possible. Outside teams may be invited, Mutare Sports Club being one interested possibility. Some even envisage a day when “the Lowveld” will again be able to host touring teams and to resurrect the South-Eastern Districts cricket festival, which was also last held some time back in the eighties.