Mountaineers bank on strong batting line-up
Zimbabwe's revamped and slightly delayed domestic season gets underway on Monday with two Logan Cup matches. At the Harare Sports Club Mashonaland Eagles take on Mountaineers, while Midwest Rhinos meet Matabeleland Tuskers at Kwekwe Sports Club. The new structure means that the franchises' four-day matches will be followed by a limited-overs game at the same venue. In the past, the formats have never mixed and the first-class season has been kept separate from the one-day competitions.
Since the changes were adopted by Zimbabwe Cricket at the recommendation of the ICC, some of the newly-created franchises have been busy on the market, signing players.
Matabeleland Tuskers have been the biggest beneficiaries of former players making a comeback, as three have signed up for the franchise. Gavin Ewing and Terrence Duffin, who just returned from club stints in the UK, and hard hitting batsman Gregory Strydom, who played club cricket in New Zealand last season, have been snapped up by the franchise, which will be coached by former national team supreme Robin Brown.
While Duffin and Strydom have been training with the rest of the squad, Ewing only arrived in Zimbabwe on Wednesday and was not included in the team making the trip from Bulawayo to Kwekwe.
The inclusion of Duffin and Strydom has strengthened the Matabeleland batting line-up which already has Tafadzwa Ngulube, Bonaparte Mujuru, Sean Williams, Charles Coventry and Mark Vermeulen. In the bowling department, Brown can bank on the experience of Tawanda Mupariwa and Christopher Mpofu. Their third seamer, Njabulo Ncube, has moved to the Mutare-based Mountaineers with Thabo Mboyi, Taurai Madhiri and Brendan Marsh set to fill in the gap. Offspinner John Nyumbu is under pressure to perform, as Ewing is waiting to take up his place in the team if he fails to impress.
Mashonaland Eagles have lost a few key players with Tatenda Taibu moving to Mountaineers, while Brendan Taylor and legspinner Graeme Cremer have moved to the Kwekwe-based Midwest Rhinos.
Taylor has just finished playing club cricket in the UK and will not be available for the opening game for the Rhinos, who are coached by Andy Waller. This leaves them leaning heavily on their captain Vusi Sibanda, last season's leading run-scorer in the Logan Cup, as well as Malcolm Waller and Bothwell Chapungu. Ed Rainsford is expected to lead the bowling attack.
Greg Lamb and Barney Rogers make a return for the Eagles who are hoping to get off to a good start at home. The duo should get support from skipper Elton Chigumbura, Regis Chakabva, Foster Mutizwa, pace bowler Trevor Garwe and left-arm spinner Raymond Price.
The Steven Mangongo-coached Mountaineers, who won the Logan Cup as Easterns last season, have an upper had as they have a strong batting order including Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Johnson Marumisa, Steven Nyamuzinga and Tino Mawoyo. Ncube, Shingi Masakazda and Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya make up their bowling attack.
The Masvingo-based Southern Rocks, who are rumoured to have signed up former Kenya captain Steve Tikolo as their player-coach, have a bye.
Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare