By Enock Muchinjo
EXCITING one-day cricket returned to Harare this week before the men from England arrive for their high-profile tour of Zimbabwe at the end of the month. Zimbabwe’s own limited-overs compet
ition, the Faithwear series, began in earnest on Tuesday and continues today.
While Namibia were making their victorious debut in Zimbabwe domestic cricket at the CFX Cricket Academy on Tuesday, the real action was unfolding at Harare Sports Club in the one that went down to the wire – Mashonaland versus Matabeleland.
In one of the most fiercely contested and intriguing clashes in Zimbabwe domestic cricket ever, Matabeleland edged their old enemy by 12 runs, avenging the Logan Cup defeat they suffered a fortnight ago.
The game had all the ingredients of quality one-day cricket. A fast pitch, free scoring batsmen and bowling variance, coloured clothing and, of course, suspense. It only lacked a decent crowd.
The major success story of the day was Matabeleland’s unveiling of a new star bowler. Although only 18, Chris Mpofu is perhaps the tallest cricket player in Zimbabwe. Good if you are the fast bowler that Mpofu is, but if anything, the reserved Plumtree-born lad seems conscious of his remarkable height.
On Tuesday, Mpofu, fresh from a 10-day fast bowling coaching clinic stint at the Commonwealth Bank School of Excellence in Brisbane, Australia, turned on the style and let his bowling do the talking for him. It spoke loud and clear.
In devastating fashion, the CFX Academy student ripped through the Mashonaland top order, removing five batsmen inside his first four overs.
Three of them had their furniture rearranged. It was an inspired spell of bowling that unsettled Mashonaland, who were chasing an imposing 276 runs for victory. Mpofu, who put a lot of pace in his deliveries, swung the ball admirably and extracted significant bounce on a well-prepared HSC track.
Overall, Matabeleland played brilliant cricket. Their innings of 275 runs was built around national team batsman Mark Vermeulen, who played all shots in the book for his 75 before succumbing to young spin bowler Kudakwashe Samunderu.
Vermeulen has struck a rich vein of form ahead of the England series, scoring a century in the Logan Cup last week and 90 runs in a National League club match at the weekend. All-rounder Gavin Ewing gave Vermeulen good support on his way to an unbeaten 56 runs, as he tries to claw his way back into the national team for the England matches.
A total of 275 runs was always going to be a tough task for Mashonaland to successfully chase. But even when they were reduced to 25-5 inside eight overs, one could still feel the Mashonaland resistance mounting.
Captain Tatenda Taibu came to the crease with his team in serious trouble and, once again, he displayed a distinctive fighting spirit and almost took Mashonaland to the brink of victory. His magnificent 121 runs, his second century against Matabeleland this season, was the highlight of the Mashonaland innings in which only youngsters Elton Chigumbura (41) and Samunderu (43) provided meaningful support for their skipper. So when Kevin Curran’s boys needed 16 runs to win from the last over, Matabeleland knew they had done enough to record well-deserved maximum points.
At the CFX Academy, Namibia beat Midlands by 89 runs. Midlands were never in the game, as pace bowler Innocent Chinyoka top-scored for them after only coming to bat at number eight. He also grabbed three wickets from eight overs.
Experience, more than anything, carried the day for the Namibians, as their long-serving batsmen JB Burger (61) and Gavin Murgatroyd (52) helped them to 220/7 in their allotted 50 overs. Medium fast bowler Rudi van Vuuren and off-break bowler Danie Keulder claimed three wickets each as Midlands were bundled out for 131 runs.
This morning, Midlands will play the wounded lions, Mashonaland, at Takashinga Cricket Club with both sides hoping to register their first series victory. Namibia stay at the CFX Academy to play Manicaland, while Matabeleland will not be engaged.
On Monday, Mashonaland will face Namibia at Harare Sports Club in a potentially explosive tie. Mutare will get its first taste of the Faithwear series when Manicaland host Matabeleland at Mutare Sports Club.
Meanwhile, focus will also spread to junior cricket when three age-group national teams set off for their traditional end-of-year tour to South Africa next month. The Zimbabwe Under-19, Under-16 and Under-14 sides are regular visitors to South Africa every December.
The Under-19s used to compete in the Coca Cola Week, with the Under-16s and Under-14s participating in the Bison Week and the Standard Bank Auto Week respectively. However, Zimbabwe stopped playing in these development tournaments after South Africa introduced one of new provincial teams in the tournaments and could not accommodate Zimbabwe. The local sides though continue to tour, playing against the provinces outside the traditional tournaments.
The Zimbabwe teams’ confidence will this year be boosted by the exploits of the national Under-19 side that reached the Super League stage at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup tournament in Bangladesh early this year. Zimbabwean teams have done well in previous tours to South Africa.
The Under-16s had a wonderful tour last year which also took them to Namibia. They won all their seven matches. The Under-14 side toured South Africa at the same time as their Under-16 counterparts, managing five wins in seven games.
Just four of the 14 members of the 2003 Zimbabwe Under-19 Cricket World Cup squad will be travelling to South Africa. Of the remaining 10, seven are with the senior national team and the trio of James Cameron, Craig Ervine and Stanley Marisa was not available for selection.
Those travelling are captain Tinotenda Mawoyo, spin bowling all-rounder Sean Williams, batsman Tafadzwa Mufambisi and all-rounder Colin De Grandhomme.
To make the sides, players have to undergo a trial phase, which starts at provincial level. A number of players under the age of 19 play domestic cricket and some have already played in the Logan Cup and Faithwear series.
Zimbabwe age-group squads to tour South Africa:
Tinotenda Mawoyo (captain), Sean Barry, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Archibald Chirinda, Colin De Grandhomme, Ryan Higgins, Gary Manchip, Bernard Mlambo, Chris Mpofu, Tafadzwa Mufambisi, Ian Nicholson, Glen Querl, Kudakwashe Samunderu, David Seager and Sean Williams.
Coach – Walter Chawaguta
Manager – Dilip Chouhan
Raymond De Jong (captain), Daniel Landman, Tendai Mashonganyika, Tinashe Chitongo, Simbarashe Gupo, Titus Chipare, Graham Balance, Jason Gaisford, Kyle Jarvis, Richard Morgan, Karl Sittig, Richmond Mutumbami, Trymore Taruvinga.
Coach – Keith Dabengwa
Manager – Owen Chirombe
Craig Dollar (captain), Andrew Lindsay, Landilani Wizilamu, Sasha Galiao, Kudakwashe Huni, Aleem Achtar, Mandla Mafu, Peter Moore, Maxine Chamburuka, Wisdom Bandura, Keith David, Tony Mupariwa, Gary Chirimuuta.
Coach – Clement Mahachi
Manager- Jeremiah Matibiri.