Six Matabeleland Tuskers Cricket Franchise players have secured off-season deals in Europe and are scheduled to leave the country during the second week of April.
The Logan Cup champions’ captain Godwill Mamhiyo, veteran Keith Dabengwa, Nkosana Mpofu, Steve Chimhamhiwa and the Mupariwa brothers Tawanda and Tafara, will be based in the United Kingdom.
Wayne James, the Matabeleland Tuskers’ coach who saw his charges fail to lift their first limited overs silverware on Saturday losing to Mashonaland Eagles by four wickets, confirmed that the six players would be active during off-season.
“We’ve organized for quite a few guys to play in the United Kingdom during our off-season. This will help them keep in shape so that when the 2015-2016 season resumes they are sharp. We are also trying to organize for two more players that is if we manage to get them teams”, said James.
Mamhiyo, 22 led Matabeleland Tuskers to their fourth Logan Cup since the start of franchise cricket in 2009. He has played in England before, turning out for Cookham Dean Cricket Club in 2013 after being recommended by ex-Matabeleland Tuskers coach Dave Houghton.
Seamer Tawanda, 29, also spent some time at Strabane, in Northern Ireland last year before returning home to join Matabeleland Tuskers. He was part of the Zimbabwe senior national team that played at the ICC World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
Dabengwa, 34, played for Lymington Cricket club for the 2006 season. He went on to sign for Scottish side Fergus lay for the 2013 season. After a successful season helping them win the CricHQ40 Cup, he returned in the summer of 2014.
The 2014 season for Ferguslie was a successful one for Dabengwa returns as he scored over 700 league runs including a high score of 184 against Greenock. He also helped Ferguslie win the WDCU CSL first Division title.
According to online information, Dabengwa returns to Ferguslie once again with overseas amateur Fritz de Beer of Free State, South Africa.
Matabeleland Tuskers – 266 for 7 in 50 overs (Godwill Mamhiyo 63, Luke Jongwe 45; Wellington Masakadza 2/39, Sikandar Raza Butt 2/58) Mashonaland Eagles – 268 for 6 in 49.3 overs (Tinotenda Mutombodzi 79, Chamunorwa Chibhabha 59; Sean Williams 1/35)
Eagles Won by 5 wickets.
The Mashonaland Eagles held their nerve to sneak home by four wickets and with three balls to spare in a nail-biting Pro50 championship final against arch-rivals Matabeleland Tuskers, played at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Saturday.
Half-centuries by Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Chamunorwa Chibhabha, together with an unbeaten cameo by Joylord Gumbie were responsible for the successful run-chase by the visiting Eagles.
Chasing 266 runs in a pressure final, the Eagles began competently with the opening pair of Simbarashe Gupo and Chibhabha putting on a 60-run stand inside the first mandatory powerplay.
The Tuskers’ new-ball bowlers of Tawanda Mupariwa and Brian Vitori failed to find penetration upfront and were guilty of bowling at least one boundary ball per over, this to which the Eagles openers were readily on hand to dispatch to the boundary.
Tuskers skipper Godwill Mamhiyo then opted to ring the changes, and in a bid to change the pace of the ball he turned to Sean Williams, who is fresh from the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup. Williams immediately found the much needed breakthrough when he had Gupo caught at slip by John Nyumbu for 21 runs.
Chibhabha continued stroking the ball away for runs with relative ease which allowed number three batsman Regis Chakabva to get his eye in from the other end. Subject to thoughtfully-placed field settings and mounting dot ball pressure created by the Tuskers bowling outfit, Chakabva decided to increase the scoring rate, only to gift Christopher Mpofu his first wicket of the game with a chip that found Mamhiyo at mid-on for 14.
Two overs later another wicket fell, when another ICC Cricket World Cup returnee Sikandar Raza Butt mistimed a Tawanda Mupariwa shot-ball to mid-wicket for two.
At 89 for three into the 19th over, Tuskers began to squeeze even more with disciplined bowling and committed fielding, and even though Chibhabha brought up his half-century amidst that pressure, the home side stuck to the task at hand.
The pressure eventually paid dividends when veteran left-arm spinner Keith Dabengwa trapped the danger-man Chibhabha for a well-played 59.
At this point, the momentum of the game somewhat fizzled during the middle overs when Tuskers had men patrolling the boundary while the Eagles middle order duo of Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Ryan Burl picked the singles on offer. The two put on 56 runs for the fifth wicket stand and looked well on course to eclipse the Tuskers total, until a fatal mix up while running between the wickets resulted in Burl being run out for 15.
With the asking rate swelling, Mutombodzi threw caution to the wind with some aggressive shots that resulted in six fours and one six in his 76-ball 79.
In the 46th over, the match took another twist when Mutombodzi was stumped by Richmond Mutumbami while attempting to get to the pitch of a Nyumbu delivery.
The old adage of keeping wickets in hand at the back-end of an innings saved the Eagles in the end, as Wellington Masakadza (24*) and Joylord Gumbie (36*) were on hand to knock off the remaining runs with some lustful blows.
Earlier Tuskers had won the toss and opted to bat first but found themselves in a spot of bother at 138 runs for five wickets in the 33rd overs. It had to take a spirited 63 from the captain Godwill Mamhiyo and a late burst by Luke Jongwe (45) to guide the home side to a below-par 266 runs in their allotted 50 overs.
Wickets were shared in the Eagles bowling effort, with Wellington Masakadza finishing with the most economical figures of two wickets for 39 runs in his ten overs.
The Pro 50 final marked the end of the domestic season, in which Tuskers finished top of the Logan Cup standings, meaning they did not walk away empty handed.
Mashonaland Eagles will challenge Matabeleland Tuskers dominance
The Pro50 tournament final takes place at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, tomorrow (Saturday the 21st of March, 2015) starting at 9.30 a.m.
This is the last match of the franchise season, and it sees the two ancient rivals of Zimbabwe cricket, Mashonaland and Matabeleland, in action against each other.
If justice is done, strictly speaking, Matabeleland Tuskers will win, as they have dominated this tournament from start to finish. They have seven victories in their nine Pro50 matches, with only two defeats. But, significantly, the defeats came during the period in January when the national players were available in between their tours to Bangladesh and the 2015 International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup.
Mashonaland Eagles have five victories and four defeats, a much inferior record. They only reached the final when the Mountaineers team went down to MidWest Rhinos at Kwekwe Sports Club on Tuesday, while they themselves were losing to Matabeleland Tuskers in the last of the round-robin programme. Mountaineers would have reached 23 points and a place in the final had they won their match.
The international players have rarely been available this season due to the tours and, as was seen during January, their inclusion changes the balance of the competition.
Matabeleland Tuskers had only three of their players in the ICC Cricket World Cup squad. Of these, Sean Williams and Tawanda Mupariwa are expected to play. Craig Ervine remained in Australia.
Williams could be a key figure in this final, as it was he who got his team off to a superb winning start to the season in both the Pro50 and Logan Cup competitions. He is a fighting batsman, at his best in a crisis, and a very effective and economical left-arm spinner, worth two ordinary players and more. But he, as with the other international players, may be suffering from physical and mental exhaustion after Zimbabwe’s ICC Cricket World Cup campaign.
Matabeleland Tuskers have an impressive batting line-up which also includes Brian Chari, who rediscovered his form and confidence with an outstanding century against the same opposition on Tuesday, Nkosana Mpofu, Bonaparte Mujuru, the experienced Keith Dabengwa, the captain Godwill Mamhiyo and Richmond Mutumbami, who has not been keeping wicket regularly this season due to a back injury.
Mpofu, Chari and Mamhiyo have all scored more than 200 runs in this Pro50 tournament this season, although the coach, Wayne James, would like to see more really big scores from his players.
Mupariwa is back as the most consistent of a strong pace-bowling attack which includes Christopher Mpofu, in fine form in this competition with a season total of 18 wickets, Brian Vitori, very quick in Tuesday’s match, and the exciting young all-rounder Luke Jongwe.
John Nyumbu leads the spinners – although he has much to live down after Mashonaland Eagles’ number 11 Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa drove him for two sixes on Tuesday – and he is supported by the two left-arm spinners Dabengwa and Ainsley Ndlovu. It is a strong team and will take much beating.
Mashonaland Eagles were handicapped by the loss of no fewer than six of their players in the Zimbabwe ICC Cricket World Cup squad, but only three are in the starting line-up for the final.
Elton Chigumbura is still injured; Prosper Utseya will not be playing, neither will Brendan Taylor make a farewell appearance in Zimbabwe cricket. The Eagles’ coach, Mufaro Chiturumani, says that batting has been his team’s main weakness this season, so he will be delighted to have three fine attacking batsmen in Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva and Chamunorwa Chibhabha back in his team for this final. Their presence will certainly challenge the home team’s superiority!
Of the Eagles’ other batsmen, only Ryan Burl has passed 200 runs in this competition this season, and he has been out through injury recently. The other major batsman is the captain, Gregory Lamb, who also bowls off-spin, but he has also been injured and is not expected to be fit for the final. Tinotenda Mutombodzi, an exciting but inconsistent batsman and leg-spinner, will take over the reins.
The opening batsmen, Keith Kondo and Simbarashe Gupo, have not had much Pro50 success this season, neither has the powerful hitter Cephas Zhuwao, while the English professional Mark Pettini has returned to Essex for the coming English season.
On the other hand, there could be a dark horse in Joylord Gumbie, the young 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who scored a very impressive 172 not out in the Logan Cup match last weekend and could possibly be in the national team next season. Taylor has left, while other recent national wicketkeepers, Mutumbami and Chakabva, both suffer frequently from back injuries.
In bowling, the main threat to the home side is the greatly underestimated Trevor Garwe. He is overlooked nowadays by the national selectors and often failing to take the wickets he deserves, but is very much respected by opposing batsmen for his hostility and movement. He has 15 wickets in this competition at an average of 14, while Taurai Muzarabani has also been very impressive as a pace bowler this season. They have done such a fine job between them that the shortage of quality back-up bowling has often escaped attention. Gumunyu-Manatsa is fit again and the left-arm spinner Wellington Masakadza is coming along, but Mashonaland Eagles will very much need their other bowlers to back up their new-ball pairing.
Both sides tend to be inconsistent in the field, so the holding or dropping of catches may also prove an important part in this match.
Matabeleland Tuskers may look just the stronger team on paper as they have more bowling talent in depth, but the way of one-day cricket is that one superb individual performance, especially in batting, can turn a whole game. There is also the question of how much fuel the players returning from the ICC Cricket World Cup have left in their tanks for a domestic final.
It would be justice for Matabeleland Tuskers to win the final, as they have much the better overall playing record of the two, but Mashonaland Eagles will be looking to overturn all that.
Mountaineers – 211 for 8 in 50 overs (Innocent Kaia 101*, Tapiwa Mufudza 27*; Tendai Chisoro 3/38, Mukhululi Nyathi 2/23, Michael Chinouya 2/42) MidWest Rhinos – 212 for 7 in 35.3 overs ( Prince Masvaure 68*, Bradley Wadlan 50; Natsai M’shangwe 3/40, Tatenda Mupunga 2/25)
Rhinos won by three wickets with 87 balls remaining.
MidWest Rhinos spoiled whatever chance was left for the Mountaineers to win silverware this season with a sketchy three wicket win in what effectively was the last Pro 50 game of the season for both sides, at Kwekwe Sports Club on Tuesday.
Two half-centuries from the left-handed pair of Bradley Wadlan and Prince Masvaure were responsible for cancelling out Innocent Kaia’s fighting hundred that had rescued the Mountaineers from a total batting collapse earlier in the day.
Chasing 212 runs to victory, Wadlan and Masvaure batted with contrasting styles, with the former bludgeoning a 25-ball 50 while Masvaure anchored the Rhinos innings with an unbeaten 68 off 78 balls.
Wadlan came in with a lot of positive intent and his aggression proved difficult to contain in the powerplay overs for Tinotenda Mawoyo and his men.
Within the first four overs Rhinos had 50 on the scoreboard courtesy of Wadlan’s brutal force that conjured five fours and three towering sixes on his way to a half-century.
Mawoyo rung the changes in a bid to stop the haemorrhage of runs and in paceman Tatenda Mupunga he got the breakthroughs he was after. Mupunga struck twice in quick succession to see the back of Vusimusi Sibanda (18) and Brad Wadlan (50) and that seemed to stem the flow of runs. Masvaure and Peter John Moor then put 73 runs for the third-wicket partnership during the middle overs in a period where the spinners were in operation and there were plenty of gaps on offer.
Against the run of play, Moor (32) was deceived by Tapiwa Mufudza with a delivery that cluttered into his leg-stump.
Leg spinner Natsai M’shangwe came into the attack and struck three crucial blows that slowed the home side, accounting for Malcolm Waller (10), Remembrance Nyathi (3) and Mark Mbofana (3) in his 10-over spell.
Masvaure however remained steadfast, picking up boundaries at key moments of the game to see his side home in the 36th over.
Earlier, Innocent Kaia had scored an unbeaten hundred that saved the visitors from being skittled out cheaply after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
Kaia came in at a time when his side had lost two early wickets, as the Rhinos made the most of the dewy surface during the first hour of the morning.
Kevin Kasuza (10) edged to slip off the bowling of Carl Mumba while Mawoyo failed to negotiate a Michael Chinouya rising delivery off a length that touched the glove on its way to the keeper for five.
The pint-sized Kaia watched from the other end as the Rhinos bowlers ran through the Mountaineers batting order with relative ease.
Tendai Chisoro was the most impressive bowler on display for the Rhinos outfit as he found the right pace to bowl to finish on three wickets for 38 runs in his 10 overs.
It had to take a last gasp 109 run partnership for the ninth wicket between Kaia and number 10 batsman Tapiwa Mufudza from 102 for eight to 211 for eight in their allotted 50 overs.
Most impressive about Kaia’s knock was his calmness under pressure and the late acceleration at the back end of the Mountaineers innings on his way to 101 not out.
In the end, 211 proved to be insufficient on a wicket that became easy to bat on as the day progressed, as the Rhinos finished the season with a win despite an average season that saw them finish trophy-less.
The result means Tuskers will play Eagles in the final at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, with the possibility of the returning International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup squad players turning out for their franchises.