National League kicks off in earnest
Alex gained revenge for their defeat in last season's final with a thrilling victory over defending champions Old Hararians in the first round of the Castle Lager National First League last weekend. Set 234 to win in 50 overs, OH came desperately close to victory, but in the end fell short by just three runs. It was a morale-boosting win for Alex who have developed the habit of winning tight matches. Alex batsman Andy Blignaut, who showed promise in the national one-day before being sidelined with injury, anchored the Alex innings with 77 with support from Doug Marillier who scored 44. Marillier was the find of the recent tour by New Zealand and was only excluded from the current ICC knockout tournament for logistical reasons. He is almost certain to be selected for the forthcoming one-day tournament in Sharjah, and may well be lost to Alex on national duty for the much of the season. For the home side Ray Price bowled well without reward and Gary Brent spoiled some good bowling with too many wides.
OH made a good start in pursuit of their target with most of the top order making contributions, but nobody was able to bat through to a big score, and they fell tantalizingly short in the final over.
In Mutare, Old Georgians were far too strong for Manicaland and romped to a seven-wicket win with more than 30 overs to spare. Manicaland batted first and were bundled out for just 103 despite some wayward bowling from the visitors who conceded 26 runs in wides and no-balls, and extras were easily the highest score. Craig Evans turned in a good all-round performance with three wickets and an unbeaten 50. For Manicaland it was a disappointing performance and they will look for more runs from their top order which includes promising youngsters Neil Ferreira, Kingsley Went and Tafadza Madondo.
At Harare Sports Club, the home side easily defeated the newly promoted Winstonians side thanks to some fine bowling by new signing Eddo Brandes. The former Zimbabwean and OH star bowled immaculately with the new ball, dismissing star Winstonian batsmen Tatenda Taibu and Hilton Masakadza whilst conceding just nine runs in his ten overs. Significantly, Brandes did not bowl any wides, whilst the other bowlers conceded 22 between them. Anthony Brookes captured five wickets to crush the middle order and the eventual total of 146 was never likely to be enough, and so it proved as Trevor Gripper steered the home side to a comfortable victory. Winstonians have played well so far this season in the Vigne Cup and a first win in this league is surely not too far away.
Universals thrashed the Bulawayo Mac Club in the most one-sided match of the weekend with a nine-wicket win with 37 overs to spare. Douglas Hondo destroyed the Mac's batting with 6/21 to roll the visitors over for 89 runs, a target which Darlington Matambanadzo and Alester Maregwede made short work of.