MOUNTAINEERS, the most successful franchise team in Zimbabwe’s Twenty20 domestic competitions, will be looking to maintain their dominance in the shortest version of the game when this year’s 20-overs tournament gets underway at Harare Sports this week.
The Mutare-based cricket franchise has won three of the last four editions of the tournament since the advent of the franchise system during the 2009/2010 season.
In fact, Mountaineers have won the last two editions of the tournament and could seal a memorable hat-trick of titles with another win in this year’s week long tournament which will be used to prepare for next month’s ICC World Twenty20 competition.
Given such an impressive record and an array of stars such as bowling sensation Tendai Chatara, aggressive batsman Hamilton Masakadza and skipper Mawoyo, among others, the Gray Brent-coached side will without a doubt go into this year’s tournament as favourites.
Mountaineers begin their Domestic Twenty20 title defence with a potentially tricky tie against rivals Mash Eagles in a repeat of last year’s final tomorrow.
Mash Eagles, who won the then Stanbic Twenty20 tournament during the 2010–11 season will be hoping for a better show against Mountaineers having lost to them in the last two finals in 2012 and last year.
The Stephen Mangongo Eagles side, who will enjoy home advantage for this week-long tournament will be hoping to hit the ground running when they square off against MidWest Rhinos in the tournament opener this morning.
MidWest Rhinos’ best performance in domestic T20 competition was finishing as runners-ups to Mountaineers during the 2010–11 season. Having come close a few times Rhinos will be one of the teams to watch.
The Kwekwe-based franchise which will be coached by Grant Flower has assembled a balanced side which has a good balance of youth and experience.
However, for Rhinos to challenge for honours they will need their key players such as Brendan Taylor, Vusi Sibanda and Malcolm Waller to lead from the front while the likes of Simon Mugava, PJ Moor and Richard Muzhange will be hoping to make a positive impression.
Matabeleland Tuskers, who will miss Dubai-based big hitting batsman Charles Coventry and star bowler Glen Querl are probably the dark horse of the T20 tournament. Tuskers tackle Southern Rocks in today’s second match scheduled for Harare Sports Club.
Led by the consistent Sean Williams, Tuskers who also have seasoned campaigners such as Keith Dabengwa, Tawanda Mpariwa, Keegan Meth and Chris Mpofu will be difficult to beat in this tournament.
The seam bowling trio of Mpariwa, Meth and Mpofu will also be aiming to use the competition to get themselves back in contention for national team places after having recently fell out of favour with the selectors. National team coach Andy Waller earlier this week said team selectors would use the T20 tournament to assess the players’ form before selecting the final squad for next month’s ICC World Twenty20 competition in Bangladesh.
Full list of fixtures below:
Today: Mash Eagles vs Midwest Rhinos (9:30am), Southern Rocks vs Matabeleland Tuskers (1:30pm).
Tomorrow: February 11: Mountaineers vs Mountaineers v Mashonaland Eagles (9:30am), MidWest Rhinos vs Southern Rocks (1:30pm).
Wednesday, February 12: Mashonaland Eagles vs Southern Rocks (9:30am), Matabeleland Tuskers vs Mountaineers (1:30pm).
Thursday, February 13: Midwest Rhinos vs Matabeleland Tuskers (9:30am), Southern Rocks vs Mountaineers (1:30pm).
Friday, February 14: Matabeleland Tuskers vs Mashonaland Eagles (1:30pm), Mountaineers vs Midwest Rhinos (1:30pm).
Saturday, February 15: 3rd and 4th place- TBC (09.30), Final- TBC (13.30).