March 1, 2002

Mark Vermeulen shines for Mashonaland A after day one

Mark Vermeulen of Mashonaland A filled his boots against CFX Academy on a hot sunny day at Country Club in Harare, scoring 169 not out and hungry for more on the morrow, with his team score at 326 for five.

The Academy came fresh from their victory over Manicaland two weeks previously, while Mashonaland A are playing their first match of this season's tournament, having had their match against Midlands postponed. The pitch had little in it for the bowlers and Academy coach Dave Houghton expected it to get flatter as the match progressed. After being in danger of floods during the last two or three Februaries, Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a drought, and conditions were dry and likely to remain so.

CFX Academy took the field without Mluleki Nkala and Glen Barrett, both suffering from injury. Alester Maregwede opened the batting for Mashonaland A with 16-year-old St John's College schoolboy Brendan Taylor, but never really looked settled against fair but undemanding bowling. He scored 5 before being caught by wicket-keeper Glenn Goosen off the bowling of Jordane Nicolle.

Taylor, who also keeps wicket, is highly rated as a player for the future and looked composed and comfortable. He lost 2001 Academy graduate Andre Neethling (19), caught down the leg side off left-arm medium-pacer Allan Mwayenga's fifth delivery in first-class cricket. Mark Vermeulen was soon under way with his usual effortless strokes, and Taylor finally fell for an excellent debut innings of 47, Pete Rinke picking up a sharp low return catch.

Vermeulen and the 15-year-old Elton Chigumbura continued quietly after lunch until Neetan Chouhan came on to bowl his erratic leg-spinners and Vermeulen hit him for four boundaries in his first over, reaching his fifty in the process off 87 balls. In his next over, though, Chigumbura slammed a high full toss straight at midwicket to depart for 13; next man in, fellow debutant Andrew Durham, just evaded the same fielder and took four runs instead.

Vermeulen calmly looked to take the bowlers apart, scorning singles - he has a reputation as a lazy runner - and aiming for powerful boundaries. However he was quietened by an impressive spell by the medium-paced Innocent Chinyoka, who bowled seven overs for 13 runs and put a brake on the scoring.

He reached his century in the first over after tea, scored off 168 balls. Durham fell for 35, flicking a slower ball from Mwayenga to midwicket, but Vermeulen set out his stall for 200, although he was missed at mid-off from a low, hard drive on 124. Nicolle caused him one or two problems with the second new ball, but he passed 150 and was still unbeaten at the close, along with his fighting partner Norbert Manyande.