Ryan Burl, the former Zimbabwe under-19 batsman, now aged 20, returned from England to Zimbabwe for this season, and immediately made such an impression that he went straight into the Zimbabwe A team against Canada.
On Wednesday, while his team-mates struggled against Mountaineers, Burl’s class shone out as he scored 50 out of a Mashonaland Eagles score of 95 for seven wickets when he was dismissed.
When a number of top Zimbabwe cricketers have retired prematurely or left the country to play elsewhere, it is encouraging to see one good player take the return journey, and opt for a future in Zimbabwe cricket instead of in England.
Ryan Burl is the man in question, and he has quickly established himself at number three for Mashonaland Eagles.
Burl had the benefit of a cricket-loving family, so he did not have to wait until school to gain an introduction to the game. He remembers playing with his grandfather and brother in the garden at home at the age of about three.
He continued his progress at Digglefold and then Springvale junior schools, before progressing to Peterhouse. A memorable occasion for him was scoring about 130 for Peterhouse in a schools Twenty20 final at Saint George’s College in Harare.
Burl played age-group cricket for Mountaineers and for Zimbabwe from the age of 13, and at under-19 level he scored three successive fifties against the Australia under-19 team.
He was nearly lost to Zimbabwe cricket, as after leaving school he went over to university in England for two years and played club cricket there.
“The highest standard I could play there was club cricket and I obviously wanted to get my degree,” he says. “The first-class season clashed with my studies in England, so I had to choose between cricket and studies. I chose cricket, so I had to come back here!”
Burl was quickly picked up by Mashonaland Eagles for their franchise team. He turned in some impressive performances, including two fifties in the Logan Cup match against Mountaineers at Mutare Sports Club.
As a result, he was included in the Zimbabwe A team for three of the one-day matches against Canada in January. Unfortunately he did not do himself justice, appearing very cramped and scoring just 25 runs at a slow pace in three innings on home turf – Harare Sports Club.
“I wasn’t too happy at the way I performed,” Burl says. “I wasn’t quite there mentally, but it was a nice experience to play at that level. I’m obviously hoping for another opportunity.”
A few more quality franchise performances should guarantee that.
Regarding the current match, Burl says, “The pitch was pretty flat; it was quite nice to bat on. It was a little bit two-paced at times; sometimes it will skid on, at other times it would carry with a bit of bounce. It’s quite a nice batting track; I don’t think the scores quite reflected that, but it’s quite nice to bat on.
“I think going on from the Canada series, I was still a bit tentative. In the last three innings I’d go out there and play some of my shots, not be too bogged down, not worry about technique, but just go out there and see ball, hit ball.”
So Burl made a slow start on this occasion, but as he settled in he gradually took charge.
Who did he find the best bowler? “I think it varied at times; they bowled some good spells and then some bad spells. Mbare (Tatenda Mupunga) was putting the ball in good places at times, and the off-spinner – we call him Bones (Tapiwa Mufudza) – was bowling good areas as well and he was quite hard to get away; I thought he bowled pretty well.”
Burl’s favourite strokes in that innings were some cover drives, played mainly off the back foot, “or one when I took a spinner over the top; that felt pretty good.” He also had to shepherd the lower middle order a bit as wickets kept crumbling at the other end.
“Once I get to fifty I want to convert those starts to big totals,” he says. “The big thing I’m trying to work on in my game is to try and be a bit more patient, maybe scoring a boundary or two and rotate the strike, not just hit boundary after boundary, but also take the single on offer.”
Regarding his future, Burl said, “I think like any typical Zimbabwean the dream is to play for the national side. I just try and play at the best level I can and do what I can do, and hopefully I’ll be able to play at that level one day.
“The whole four-day cricket is quite new to me; I think this is only about the fifth or sixth four-day game I’ve played. So it’s quite nice to be able to play in this format, and as well as enjoying it I am still getting used to it, so that’s quite a step for me.”
So far Burl is adjusting very well, and his first century should not be too far away at this rate of progress.
In the Pro50 match against Mashonaland Eagles at Harare Sports Club on the 25th of January, Mountaineers batsman Kudzai Sauramba played a brilliant innings with Roy Kaia.
The 23-year-old put up 75 runs off 53 balls, which included five sixes, to play a major part in his team’s 60-run victory.
Sauramba was born and bred in Mutare. He is a batsman who sometimes keeps wicket, and his batting skills are so noticeable that it is a puzzle why such a talented batsman does not score more runs.
Does he lose concentration too often? “Yes, sometimes,” he admits, adding: “I’m hoping in future to make higher scores. I am just working on my batting every time and I’m hoping to do that.”
Sauramba first learned his cricket at Sheni Primary School in Mutare, from Grade Six onwards. In his earliest days in the game he was a wicketkeeper-batsman, and still keeps wicket at times for Mountaineers, although at present Forster Mutizwa is the first-choice keeper.
Sauramba progressed at the Mutare Boys High School and played club cricket for Westside Cricket Club in the city.
“I made all the age-group teams from under-14 to under-19,” he says.
He was first selected for Mountaineers in the 2009/10 season, at the age of 17. “I had a bad time and didn’t score runs, but it was such a privilege to be in that team,” he says.
Sauramba went in on Sunday with Mountaineers batting first, on 125 for four wickets in the 32nd over – a reasonable score but not one to give real hopes of a daunting total.
He says, “It was tight first up so I tried to play myself in, but later on I was watching the ball nicely and it was coming on to the bat.”
Sauramba scored 75 out of his fifth-wicket partnership of 125 with Roy Kaia, who went on to score 85 not out. The two of them chatted together and encouraged each other during their stand.
“We usually do that every time,” says Sauramba. “We felt so great to put on a hundred partnership. He saw I was getting tired, so he kept saying, ‘Wake up, wake up, you’ve got to work hard,’ and it worked so much.”
Six Mashonaland Eagles bowlers were used, so who did Sauramba find the best of them during his innings? “Maybe Taurai Muzarabani,” he says. “He bowled pretty well to me. And also Trevor Garwe bowled some very good slower balls to me, because he knew I was trying to go after him.”
Sauramba has never hit as many as five sixes in an innings before, and some of them were well over the boundary. “I like to go over cow corner or hit it straight back,” he says.
Looking to the future, Sauramba says, “I think if I score lots of runs in this domestic season maybe I will get picked for the Zim A squad. But I think I need to score more runs to get picked for that or the senior national team. I need to put in a lot of work and I need to score centuries.”
Mountaineers – 193 all out and 10 without loss in 6 overs (Kevin Kasuza 6*, Innocent Kaia 4*) Mashonaland Eagles 1st Innings – 191 all out in 69 overs (Trevor Garwe 73*, Ryan Burl 50, Cephas Zhuwao 13; Tafadzwa Mupunga 3/53, Victor Nyauchi 2/30, Natsai M’shangwe 2/35)
Day 2, at Harare Sports Club
Poor batting was again the order of the day at Harare Sports Club as Mashonaland Eagles replied to the Mountaineers’ first-innings score of 193, and fell two runs behind.
The bright exceptions were Ryan Burl and Trevor Garwe, who both scored fifties while their team-mates did next to nothing.
Play started half an hour early owing to the rain on the first evening.
Mountaineers resumed on 188 for nine wickets, with Tapiwa Mufudza on 28 and Tatenda Mupunga on four. Off the fourth ball of the day, bowled by Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa, Mufudza edged a low chance to first slip, who scarcely got a hand on it and allowed it to go through to the boundary. But Trevor Garwe soon had Mufudza out, successfully caught at second slip this time, for 32, closing the innings for 193 – no worthy total.
However, Mashonaland Eagles do not have an imposing batting line-up.
Mufudza’s 32 was the highest score apart from the fine 87 by Kudzai Sauramba, without whom the innings would have been a disaster. Garwe was the best and most successful bowler with three for 41, while Tafadzwa Muzarawetu took two for 31.
Mountaineers missed the chance of an early breakthrough as Shingirai Masakadza could not hold a return catch from Keith Kondo before a run had been scored. But the opening stand put on only seven runs, as Kudzai Maunze (6) fell victim to perhaps cricket’s most unfair law. He was doing his job in backing up when Kondo again drove the ball uppishly back down the pitch. Mupunga failed to hold a low chance but accidentally knocked the ball straight on to the stumps at the bowler’s end with Maunze unable to get back into his crease in time.
Kondo himself made only 10, feeling for a ball from Mupunga outside the off stump and edging it to the keeper: 19 for two. Then Tinotenda Mutombodzi came in at four, to be superbly yorked by Masakadza for six: 28 for three.
This brought together two left-handers in Ryan Burl and Cephas Zhuwao. Burl began his innings with great caution, but then began to play some impressive and powerful strokes against the loose balls, especially off the back foot through the covers. Zhuwao as usual looked to score a run a ball, and the pair did double the score, but it ended when Zhuwao flashed at a ball from Victor Nyauchi and edged to the keeper for 13 off 13 balls: 57 for four.
It became 69 for five when Joylord Gumbie (6) poked a catch to slip off Nyauchi. Burl was now on 28. By lunch he had progressed to 41, out of a total of 84 for five, with a defensive Wellington Masakadza keeping him company.
Soon after lunch, Masakadza was bowled by M’shangwe for two, and Burl was under pressure with the tail threatening to crumble around him. He reached his fifty off 97 balls, with the field set to keep him off strike, but the next ball he faced he drove a low catch to deepish mid-on. He departed sadly, having looked several classes above all the other batsmen in his team, despite being the least experienced. The score was 97 for seven, and he had more than half of them.
Perhaps Mountaineers were now overconfident, as they let the game slip. Trevor Garwe, who survived a claimed catch in the slips because the umpires were unsure, and Admire Manyumwa were able to add 37 runs in 11 overs, and then Tafadzwa Muzarawetu stuck in with Garwe, who was playing a fine innings.
Muzarawetu had only a single when the fielders badly fumbled what should have been a simple run-out opportunity, and shortly afterwards Garwe went to his fifty off 80 balls, with the total now past 150. The ninth-wicket pair was still together at tea, with the total now 161, steadily closing the gap with the visitors.
The pair added 40 runs together, taking the score to 172, before Mufudza bowled Muzarawetu for just three of those. Gumunyu-Manatsa hung around a while for five, his second-best first-class score, which enabled Garwe to reach a fine unbeaten 73 off 113 balls, and the total to reach 191 – only two runs short of the Mountaineers’ total, which was itself an undistinguished effort.
The off-spinner Mupunga, with three for 53, bowled most successfully, while there were two wickets each for Nyauchi and Mushangwe, but the bowling was not consistent enough to merit dismissing a first-class side for below 200 on a good pitch.
As for the Mashonaland Eagles batting, it was even less distinguished generally than the Mountaineers’ had been; the third-highest score of the innings was only 13.
Mountaineers had scored 10 for no wicket, rather ponderously, in their second innings when, at 4.22 pm, the umpires took the players from the field due to bad light, which soon afterwards developed into a downpour, ending play for the day with the match as evenly balanced as could be.
The winning team will be the one that bats the better – weather permitting!
Mountaineers – 188 for 9 in 79.0 overs 87, Roy Kaia 29; Tafadzwa Muzarawetu 2/31, Trevor Garwe 2/40, Ryan Burl 1/20) Day 1, at Harare Sports Club
Kudzai Sauramba, fresh from his match-winning innings of 75 in the Pro50 match against Mashonaland Eagles at Harare Sports Club on Sunday, did the trick for Mountaineers again on Tuesday.
The visitors had slumped to 100 for seven wickets before Sauramba, ably helped by Tapiwa Mufudza, fought back against their hosts. Sauramba eventually fell for a fine innings of 87, on the first day of the Logan Cup match against hosts Eagles.
When rain brought about an early finish, though, Mountaineers were still in an unfavourable position due to the inadequacies of the other batsmen, none of whom reached 30.
The match so far has not reflected well on the batting abilities in particular of the domestic cricketers, with the international players removed.
The talent was further reduced by the unusual occurrence of both captains being unable to play due to injury. Gregory Lamb and Tinotenda Mawoyo were replaced as captains by Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Forster Mutizwa respectively. Donald Tiripano is also absent after the death of his mother.
The weather was mainly cloudy but humid as Mountaineers won the toss and decided to bat. It was a decision they were soon to regret.
The seam bowlers did find a little early movement from the pitch, but not a great deal, and it had virtually gone by lunch. Within eight overs, the score was 27 for three. Innocent Kaia (10) got a leading edge from Trevor Garwe and skied a gentle catch to mid-on. Charles Kunje (3) was caught at the wicket off Tafadzwa Muzarawetu, and then Kevin Kasuza (8) was run out very smartly by Mutombodzi when attempting a risky single.
Mutizwa looked scarcely a shadow of the confident, prolific batsman he was three years ago, as he struggled in making four off 32 balls before Admire Manyumwa came on and had him caught in the slips to make the score 40 for four. With the pitch easing, Roy Kaia and Sauramba knuckled down and stood firm until lunch, when the score was 67 for four wickets.
Afterwards, Kaia did not last long and failed to add to his 29, as a ‘snorter’ from Garwe flicked his glove on its way to the keeper: 71 for five. Sauramba, on the other hand, thrived. He hit Muzarawetu for two superb successive fours down the ground and continued to play confident, aggressive cricket. For a while there was an intriguing battle between Sauramba and Garwe, who was bowling with considerable hostility and once rapped him painfully on the glove. The result was an honourable draw: Sauramba survived, but he could score few runs from the big man.
Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa and Muzarawetu also kept up the pressure, bowling perhaps better than they had done before lunch, and Muzarawetu accounted for Shingirai Masakadza for a dogged 6 runs: 98 for six. This left the tail for Sauramba to bat with. He was now batting cautiously, however, as the team 100 came up in the 43rd over.
Natsai M’shangwe went without scoring, a thick-edged drive off Gumunyu-Manatsa being caught in the covers, while Sauramba seemed to have lost his verve. Then he casually flicked a ball from Mutombodzi over long on for six to reach his fifty off 196 balls. He and Tapiwa Mufudza were still together at tea, when the score was 134 for seven.
Afterwards Mufudza kept up a solid defence, while occasionally hitting a loose ball hard. Sauramba passed his previous highest first-class score of 62, and then the first fifty partnership of the innings was reached. Sauramba reached 87 with a six over long on off Ryan Burl, but two balls later miscued a shot into the covers and was caught. He faced 173 balls and hit five fours and two sixes. The stand was worth 78 runs.
Victor Nyauchi soon ran himself out for two, and the last man Tatenda Mupunga had joined Mufudza, on 28 not out, when a light rain started and the players left the field, just before a quarter past four.
No further play was possible and, in spite of Sauramba’s heroics, Mashonaland Eagles will start the second day with confidence.