Trial run ends: Domestic cricket season review

LAST week the curtains came down on Zimbabwe’s restructured domestic cricket season: a watershed season that among other things ushered the much-hyped franchise system to restore confidence in the local game and boost players’ bank accounts, and an exciting Stanbic Twenty20 competition that attracted unprecedented crowds for domestic cricket.

Certainly, Zimbabwe Cricket rehabilitated its battered image in the 2009/10 season.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect on the domestic front was that honours went according to projection. The usual suspects came to the party while few newcomers made a strong case for better contracts next season.

It was all too predictable at the end.

On paper, Mountaineers had the best limited overs squad by virtue of having the bulk of the regular national team players. True to forecast, they wrapped up both the Stanbic Twenty20 series and the Faithwear Metbank One-Day competition.

In the Logan Cup, the experience of player adept to the longer-version was always going to come in handy. And true to projection, players like Ray Price, Greg Lamb and Elton Chigumbura’s ability to toil for hours in the field, long after their teammates and opponents have wilted, paid handsome dividends for Mashonaland Eagles, the winners of the country’s premier cricket competition.
Logan Cup

Highs: The arrival of foreign professionals such as England hopeful Rikki Wessels of Midwest Rhinos, Kenyans Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo of Southern Rocks and Eagles coach Chris Silverwood raised the  profile of the competition in the cricketing world.

Former Zimbabwe all-rounder Sean Ervine, who at one stage was contemplating playing for Ireland, was also a massive addition to the competition when he belatedly signed for Rocks.

Matches were played in a new sense of provincial rivalry which can only be good for the game if players are able to transfer that competitive fighting spirit into the international arena.

Lows: Turnout for the country’s premier cricket competition was pathetically low. The Logan Cup has never been a crowd puller and the situation could worsen further with the pinnacle of longer-version cricket, Tests, coming under threat from shorter and more exhilarating forms.

There was virtually no young sensations, among players without first-class and international experience before the season started, challenging the status quo.

Most runs (Top 10): Vusi Sibanda (1287), Hamilton Masakadza (1111), Brendan Taylor (1058), Greg Lamb (1050), Forster Mutizwa (1031), Elton Chigumbura (756), Dion Ebrahim (746), Graeme Cremer (738), Stuart Matsikenyeri (710), Regis Chakabva (667).
Most wickets (Top 10): Graeme Gremer (59), Timycen Maruma (53), Shingi Masakadza (42), Elton Chigumbura (41), Chris Mpofu (41), Ed Rainsford (37), Ray Price (35), Trevor Garwe (33), Hilary Matanga (33), John Nyumbu (31).

Stanbic Twenty20 series
Highs: Twenty20 is facing stern resistance among the game’s traditionalists, but the inaugural Stanbic tournament was the public display of Zimbabwe cricket’s revival in recent months.
Sponsors came back to the game, and the general organisation of the tournament was of a standard long discarded in this country.

Matches were screened on SuperSport, a first for any domestic sporting competition in Zimbabwe.
More foreign professionals were lured, testimony of the ever-changing times in Zim cricket.

The final between Mountaineers and Eagles attracted over 7 000 jolly spectators. Overall, there were few dull moments for the crowds, befitting this form of the game.

Lows: The T20 venue must be a hard hat area. Fans come to see big boundaries and big scores. Unfortunately a lot of players were playing for the stats rather then for the team and for entertainment.
Most runs (Top 10): Hamilton Masakadza (317), Chamu Chibhabha (230), Tatenda Taibu (205), Dwaine Pretorious (193), Elton Chigumbura (184), Rikki Wessels (168), Raymond van Schoor (139), Craig Williams (132), Steve Tikolo (123), Greg Lamb (119).

Most wickets (Top 10): Antonio Palladino (12 wickets), Greg Smith (9), Chris Mpofu (9), Darren Stevens (8), Louis Klazinga (7), Prosper Utseya (7), Timycen Maruma (6), Craig Williams (6), Christi Viljoen (6), Keegan Meth (6).

Faithwear Metbank One-Day Trophy
Highs: Unlike the Logan Cup, it was the “other” players who shone.
Tino Mawoyo, who was chopped from the national side after just three ODIs against Bangladesh in 2006, was the top run-scorer with 424 runs.

A sweet timer of the ball, Mawoyo is a former captain of the national Under 19 and Zimbabwe A sides whose talents beg for a place among Zimbabwe’s best players- in the national side.

Even more remarkable, the wicket-taking chat was topped by a promising19-year-old leg-spinner from Highfield, named Natsayi Mushangwe.

A Mountaineers regular at first-class this past season, Mushangwe showed all-round qualities for Zimbabwe at the Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand, and with such talents in our midst, the country’s spin bowling resources will for some time be intact.

Lows: It was overshadowed by the Twenty20 and Logan Cup competitions.
Most runs (Top 10): Tino Mawoyo (424), Brendan Taylor (416), Steve Tikolo (322), Timycen Maruma (310), Hamilton Masakadza (292), Friday Kasteni (280), Dion Ebrahim (266), Vusi Sibanda (266), Greg Lamb (261), Forster Mutizwa (247).
Most wickets (Top 10): Natsayi Mushangwe (14), Taurai Muzarabani (13), Graeme Cremer (12), Malcolm Waller (10), Timycen Maruma (10), John Nyumbu (10), Ed Rainsford (10), Prosper Utseya (9), Elton Chigumbura (9), Michael Chinouya (9).
IndependentSport’s Domestic Awards
Logan Cup Player-of-the-Tournament: Graeme Cremer.
Stanbic Twenty20 Player-Of-Series: Hamilton Masakadza.
Faithwear Player-Of-The-Tournament: Tino Mawoyo.
Domestic Player-Of-The-Season (joint winners): Hamilton Masakadza/Graeme Cremer

Enock Muchinjo