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The four National First League teams to take part in the Castle Lager knockout tournament were decided on 3 February but the destiny of the league champions will only be known on 10 February. The league had initially been set to end on 3 February, but there are two matches that could not be fulfilled earlier on in the season and were rearranged to 10 February.
The matches will involve three championship contenders in Mutare Sports Club, Old Georgians and Universals, who all qualified to the semi-final of the knockout tournament, together with Takashinga who finished fourth. Mutare already have one hand on the National First League trophy and a victory over winless Bulawayo Sports Club at a neutral Old Hararians will see them win the title ahead of OGs and Universals, who clash in another rearranged match at Universals Sports Club.
Mutare retained pole position after a crushing nine-wicket win over Takashinga who had at one stage looked set to run away with the championship before losing all their matches in the new year. The match was, however, affected by rain and had to be decided under the Duckworth-Lewis method. Takashinga batted first and were all out for 156 in 47 overs with Justin Lewis taking five wickets for 46 runs off his 10 overs while Mutare reached 129 for one in 14.1 overs.
In a weekend when a number of national team players made a welcome return to the domestic scene, opener Trevor Gripper smashed an unbeaten 113 as Harare Sports Club were dismissed for 258 in 49.3 overs by second-placed OGs. Former national team one-day all-rounder Gus Mackay took three wickets for 37 off 8.5 overs. OGs reached 259 for seven in 46.2 overs to win by three wickets. Opener Grant Flower top-scored with 88, while fellow national team batsman Craig Wishart added 52.
Third-placed Universals travelled to Bulawayo where they emerged with a 40-run win over Queens Sports Club to keep pressure on Mutare and OGs. Universals were 223 for nine off their allotted 50 overs with Ali Shah scoring 74 while Hamid Adam contributed 50. The hosts were dismissed for 183 in 47.3 overs with David Mutendera taking three wickets for 38 off eight overs, while Adam claimed three for 33 off 7.3 overs.
The biggest win of the weekend went to Kwekwe Sports Club who thumped hapless Bulawayo side Macdonald Club by a massive 142 runs. Kwekwe made 321 for five off 50 overs with all-rounders Douglas Marillier and Raymond Price making 96 and 89, while Terrence Duffin weighed in with 84. In reply Mac Club were then dismissed for 179 in 47.3 overs.
In other matches, Bulawayo Athletic Club beat Bulawayo Sports Club by eight wickets, while Alexandra beat OH by 91 runs.