Easy wins for Mountaineers and Eagles
Mountaineers cruised to an easy victory over Mid West Rhinos in the opening match of Zimbabwe's revamped domestic Twenty20 competition at Harare Sports Club. A typically bellicose innings of 76 by their captain Hamilton Masakadza swept them to an eight-wicket victory with more than four overs to spare.
Mountaineers decided to field on winning the toss, and had the Rhinos five down for just 38 after nine overs of tight bowling and fielding. Brendan Taylor and Riki Wessels fell within the first 12 balls, and after the in-form Vusi Sibanda was dismissed for 7, the English imports, Darren Stevens and Ollie Rayner, were also disposed of for single figures. Malcolm Waller then found an able partner in Graeme Cremer, and with positive and judicious batting they put on 72 runs for the sixth wicket. Waller struck Shingi Masakadza for a superb six over extra cover and then lofted him straight for four on his way to 55 from 52 balls before skying a catch to mid on in the 19th over, while Cremer finished the innings unbeaten on 35.
Despite their decent recovery, Rhinos were always going to struggle to defend 125 against a strong Mountaineers line-up. Bernard Mlambo hit the first three balls of the innings for four to grab the ascendancy, and Masakadza quickly hit his stride hitting sixes over extra cover and straight back past the bowler. Mountaineers stormed to 61 in five overs and never looked back, and although Masakadza was bowled by a full toss from Ed Rainsford on the verge of victory, Tatenda Taibu struck the winning boundary to finish on 27 not out.
Mashonaland Eagles completed a five-wicket victory over Matabeleland Tuskers in the second match of the day. After an early stutter in their pursuit of 119, Elton Chigumbura, the Eagles captain, seized the initiative with an unbeaten 48 from just 34 balls to guide his side to a win.
The Tuskers did themselves no favours in an innings containing four run-outs; the result of frenetic running and some fine fielding by the Eagles. Gavin Ewing ran himself out without facing a ball, and after Mark Vermeulen - who was the leading scorer in last year's Twenty20 competition - departed for 7, Charles Coventry played a high-risk innings, hitting two fours and a six from the seven balls he faced. His dismissal, a catch driven straight to long-off, left Tuskers in trouble at 29 for 3. Then followed the only sizable stand of the innings - 40 between Sean Williams and Greg Strydom. Their partnership ended in another run out, and after that Williams played a lone hand in holding the innings together. But he is a strokeplayer in a competition that favours power hitters, and finished on 44 off 58 balls, hitting only two fours.
The total of 118 for 7 was scarcely likely to test the Eagles. Tuskers began with a tactical surprise, opening the bowling with the part-time medium pacer Dion Ebrahim, who began with two wide balls to Doug Marillier, one of a group of former national players to return to the fold in recent weeks. After a slow start, and with the help of a brilliant leaping catch by Ewing in the covers to send Marillier back for 10, Tuskers reduced Eagles to 36 for 3. Chigumbura decided a change of policy was needed, and announced himself with a straight six off Ewing that hit the media centre. He lost Greg Lamb for single figures, and had a couple of lucky escapes, but hit another spectacular six and continued the assault. Forster Mutizwa was run out at 89, but Chigumbura was not to be denied, and another big six over long-off eventually saw the Eagles home.