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NZ 'A' Draw with Mountaineers

Presented without much comment, the scorecard (below the cut) for the 2-day tour match between New Zealand A and Mountaineers. With each side playing 15 players (11 batting, 11 fielding) and a rash of "retired out" entries for the Kiwis, it's clear that this was simply a little batting practice for both sides - although it should be noted that Tino Mawoyo still managed a knock of 208 not-out, carrying his bat for the full Mountaineers innings. Impressive.
New Zealand 'A' 391 (83.5 overs; How 78, Tiripano 4/47), Mountaineers 332/7 (89 overs; Mawoyo 208*, Martin 2/16). Match drawn.

Mountaineers Cruise to Huge Win as Eagles Remain Winless

The other Pro40 match of the day was Mountaineers v Mashonaland Eagles, which while technically a home match for Mountaineers was played at Zimbabwe Cricket Academy in Harare (I'm hearing that there are issues with the pitch at Mutare Sports Club which may not be resolved until mid-season). Eagles have had a poor start to the season but were hopeful of getting in the win column today - but sadly for them, Mountaineers had other ideas. Batting first after losing the toss, an opening partnership of 127 between Tino Mawoyo (eventual top-scorer with 73) and new signing Jonathan Beukes (69) saw the side race to a dominant position, with Tmycen Maruma's 43 off 31 balls helping to cement their position. Eagles' bowlers finally started making some breakthroughs, but with Trevor Garwe's 2/45 being the best of the bunch it was hardly an inspiring display, and Mountaineers closed on an imposing 274/5 at the end of their 40 overs.

In reply, Eagles were never even remotely in the chase - starting with the first-ball departure of Cephas Zhuwawo, the wickets continued to flow, with only Simbarashe Gupo (36) and Trevor Garwe (28) hanging around long enough to make an impression as the side were bowled out in the 33rd over for a paltry 163, handing Mountaineers a huge 111-run victory in the process. That also gave Mountaineers a bonus point which puts them clear at the top of the tournament table, while Eagles are now languishing in last place. Full scorecard below the cut.
Mountaineers 74/5 (40 overs; Mawoyo 73, Garwe 2/45), Eagles 163 (32.2 overs; Gupo 36, Mujaji 3/30). Mountaineers win by 111 runs.

Feisty Mountaineers defeat Mashonaland Eagles

A rollicking partnership of 102 for the second wicket between Prince Masvaure (51) and Peter Moor (53) set Mashonaland Eagles on course to score 220 for victory over Mountaineers. For 69 minutes the two dominated the attack, but after both fell in quick succession, the Eagles had nobody else to carry on the assault, and faded away to defeat by 14 runs in an exciting three-day finish. Mountaineers well deserved their victory, although this was spoilt by some excessive appealing.

The two previous mornings' play both started with quick wickets, followed by a recovery, and the third continued the trend. Timycen Maruma, the overnight batsman, was soon caught in the slips for 27, and the
night-watchman Silent Mujaji and Benjamin Katsande soon followed. At 95/6, Mountaineers were looking at trouble, but then there stepped in the heroes of the Faithwear Metbank final last year, Prosper Utseya and
Shingirai Masakadza. Utseya in particular counter-attacked well, and their partnership of 49 was worth far more on this particular pitch than it would under normal circumstances.

After Masakadza fell for 18, Natsai Mushangwe gave Utseya good support, hitting the bad ball well and making 16 not out. Utseya was finally dismissed for 38 off 53 balls, an invaluable innings that should have earned
his team the victory, as any target of over 200 would be very difficult to chase on this pitch. The innings closed on the stroke of lunch for 178, leaving Eagles 220 to chase. All six wickets to fall during the
morning were caught either by the wicket-keeper or slips, four of them to Innocent Chinyoka, who bowled a brisk medium-pace just outside the off stump, cutting the ball predominantly away from the right-hander, and the pitch and poor batting techniques did the rest.

There was much tension on the field as Eagles began their innings, which was increased when the umpire disagreed with the Mountaineers' belief that they had Ishmael Senzere caught at slip off the very first ball. The batsmen still failed to score, though, very well run out by Shingirai Masakadza as he called for a quick but reasonable single to midwicket, only to be sent back by his partner. Then came a key wicket, as Forster Mutizwa was superbly caught by the same fielder at extra cover for 4. Eagles were 17/2, in spite of the bowlers being perhaps a little over-excited and tending to bowl too short.

Then came what might have been the turning point of the match. Peter Moor had not scored when he got a leading edge and lobbed a high but simple return catch to the bowler Tendai Chatara, who somehow seemed to lose sight of it and failed to get a hand to it. After this Moor and Prince Masvaure decided to go for their strokes, perhaps a wise gamble on an untrustworthy pitch. They took some risks, but Moor raced ahead with some powerful, uppish but safely falling hooks as the bowlers tried to bounce him, and also drove a straight six. It was heady stuff and quite unpredictable but, all things considered; he did the right job for his team by carrying the attack to the opposition. He still has technical flaws, but to score 53, as he did, off only 35 balls, with four sixes and four fours, shows the raw material is of high quality. He and Masvaure shared the only century stand of the match, the latter soon following Moor back to the pavilion with 51 off 73 balls to his credit.

With Eagles now 119/4, the match was again in the balance. Cephas Zhuwao did what he does best, and swung two sixes in an over from Prosper Utseya over the midwicket boundary to make the tea score 135/4. However, Zhuwao did not last long after the interval, skying a catch to deep midwicket for 18. After this, the batsmen fell back on the defensive, probably a mistaken tactic considering that earlier success had
come through attack. Regis Chakabva made 21 without showing his usual sparkle, and the bowlers worked their way through the lower order. The ninth wicket fell at 199; the last pair needed 21 but managed only 6, made
by painful method, before Mbofana was adjudged LBW to Shingirai Masakadza and the match was over. Masakadza and Maruma took three wickets each. It was a closely fought match with an exciting finish, but that did not really justify the poor pitch.

Full scorecard below the cut. Match report courtesy ZC.
Mountaineers 249 (82.2 overs; H Masakadza 90, Garwe 4/35) & 178 (47 overs; H Masakadza 41, Chinyoka 6/44), Eagles 208 (69 overs; Masvaure 67, Chatara 4/64) & 205 (49.4 overs; Moor 53, Maruma 3/§3). Mountaineers win by 14 runs.

Tuskers Upset Mountaineers

In the second match of this week's MetBank One-Day games, Matabeleland Tuskers scored an upset win over Mountaineers in a low-scoring encounter in Bulawayo. Mountaineers won the toss and elected to field, going on to make short work of most of Tuskers' line-up, with seven batsmen failing to reach double figures. Terry Duffin, batting 7th, finally found some form in time to give Tuskers some semblance of credibility, scoring an unbeaten 54, with the only notable support coming from Keith Dabengwa (39) and Charles Coventry (29). The side were bowled out for a low 185, though, with one ball remaining from their 40 overs. Tendai Chatara led Mountaineers' bowling with 3/34.

Given the strength of Mountaineers' batting lineup, then, that should have left them a she-in for an easy win, but led by Chris Mpofu's 3/28 Tuskers dismantled Mountaineers' lineup. Hamilton Masakadza but up the only resistance, scoring 71, but none of the other batsmen passed 13 as Mountaineers were bowled out for 168, giving Tuskers a 17-run win. On top of Mpofu's contribution, Tawanda Mupariwa, Keegan Meth and Keith Dabengwa all took a pair apiece to help secure the win.

That leaves Tuskers top of the table on run-rate over Rocks, with Mountaineers propping up the bottom. With only one round played it's hardly the time to make predictions for the season, but it's certainly off to a different start from last year. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 185 (39.5 overs; Duffin 54*, Chatara 3/34), Mountaineers 168 (37.3 overs; H Masakadza 71, Mpofu 3/28). Matabeleland Tuskers win by 17 runs.

Mountaineers Off to Winning Start Over Tuskers

Mountaineers signalled their intent to have another impressive season with a win over Tuskers in Bulawayo that left the home side looking to once again be the also-rans of the domestic setup. Tuskers, having won the toss and elected to bat, were saved from a dismal first innings by Charles Coventry, who claimed the first ton of the season with an impressive 116 - but that was almost half of Tuskers' total - Keegan Meth (31) and Sean Williams (30) were the next-best scorers in a disappointing total of 267, with Natsai Mushangwe claiming 4/68 for the visitors.

That said, Mountaineers' weren't much better first time around, managing only 256 and giving Tuskers the point for a first-innings lead. Opener Tino Mawoyo top-secret with 66, while Prosper Utseya's 55 and Hamiltn Masakadza's 40 were the best of the rest. Njabulo Ncube's 4/43 and Chris Mpofu's 3/66 helped keep Tuskers in the hunt.

Tuskers' second innings managed to be worse than the first, with one innings again propping up the side, this time Keegan Meth's 94. The home side were bowled out for 243, with Shingi Masakadza claiming 5/53. That left Mountaineers chasing 255 to win and, led by another comeback performance by Mark Vermeulen (105* - which would have been doubly sweet at the home ground of the franchise that just axed him), they secured the win with minimal problems. That leaves Mountaineers sitting happily on top of the tournament table, for now at least, and Tuskers wondering when they'll ever be able to find those winning ways. Full scorecard below the cut.
Tuskers 267 (102.2 overs; Coventry 116, Mushangwe 4/68) & 236 (72.5 overs; Meth 81, S Masakadza 5/53), Mountaineers 256 (90.3 overs; Mawoyo 66, Ncube 4/43) & 248/5 (70.4 overs; Vermeulen 105*, Ncube 2/33). Mountaineers win by 5 wickets.

Mountaineers Sign Mark Vermuelen

Troubled cricketer Mark Vermuelen, released by Tuskers at the end of last season after disciplinary issues, has been signed for the new season by Mountaineers, according to the Daily News. The deal was confirmed by Mountaineers spokesman Godfrey Koti:

"He has his history, but he is a good man and a good player. We want to give him another chance. If you have noticed, we are more of a bowling side. A batsman of his calibre will add value to the team."

Even in light of Vermuelen's talent, you do have to wonder if this is his final chance. Hopefully he makes the most of it.
Daily News - Manicaland rescues bad boy Vermeulen

Q&A with Donald and Gillespie

There was a press conference at HSC this morning for the official 'unveiling' of Alan Donald and Jason Gillespie as Rhinos and Mountaineers coaches respectively - obviously, I wasn't able to get there myself, but here are a few key quotes:

Reaction towards the appointment as a franchise head coach in Zimbabwe
Jason Gillespie (MidWest Rhinos)
“I was delighted to take the opportunity, it’s fantastic because the cricket in Zimbabwe is very much on the up and to be a part of it is very humbling. I have been telling the people in Australia that I’ve only been here for a few days and the atmosphere here on cricket and everything is really exciting and as a new coach it really exciting and something we can sink our teeth in. ”

Alan Donald (Mountaineers)
“I did not hesitate one inch and I agree with Jason [Gillespie], we were commentating in Dubai talking about the situation in Zimbabwe and the efforts being made to get cricket where it belongs. It has been a very good move for me and I did not hesitate to make the move.”

On their roles as coaches in Zimbabwe
Jason Gillespie
“Although my main role will be to focus on the Midwest Rhinos but as coaches we have a role to develop the game at all levels and if I can be a part of that in any small way I will certainly jump on that. Midwest Rhinos have a lot of young players and my role is to help them achieve their goals both as individuals and a collective group and if i can be a part of that and work at grass roots level then that will be a real bonus.”

What impression they have on fast bowlers in Zimbabwe
Alan Donald
“I’ve been watching the triangular between Zimbabwe, India and Sri Lanka and I’ve already been talking about a few guys. We will be bumping into a lot of guys along the way and we will certainly identify the talent that is around. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is got what it takes to play at the highest level-test cricket.”

Notions on their assigned teams
Alan Donald
“I am coming into a team that has two out of three so no pressure at all. That is also the challenge after a dream season like that and you win two trophies, not only is the pressure for the coach but the team as well. I believe that I can maintain the attitude and intensity levels at the franchise for the guys to respond to the responsibility that lies this season and winning becomes a culture. For me one of things I need to do is to make a lot of the youngsters thinks like international cricketers or prepare like international cricketers and that is my aim to try and get that mentality straight up there.”

Jason Gillespie
“My focus is on the Rhinos and getting things in place, first and foremost we will be looking to enjoy our cricket and the number one focus is to be an entertaining side. We want people to walk away and say that we really play positive cricket and we were entertained today. That will be our focus and we are really excited about that.”
[Source: ZC]

Allan Donald New Mountaineers Coach

A week is a long time in cricket, it seems - this time last week, Mountaineers were touting Australian Sean Clingeleffer as their new head coach (although they admitted at the time that negotiations had not yet been completed). Today, South African fast bowler Allan Donald has been unveiled as the man for the job, in his first appointment as head coach. It's a responsibility he's looking forward to taking on, in the hope that he'll be in the post long-term:

"I have always wanted to move away from being a bowling specialist and become more of a head coach, and this is exactly the sort of opportunity I've been looking for. Quite a few jobs I've applied for have asked for 'at least two or three years experience' as a head coach. It's the old chicken and egg story, how do you get the job without the experience, and how do you get the experience without a job! But now that's behind me and I can't wait to get started.

"We are still putting the finishing touches to the contract but I certainly want to do it for more than one year. I don't think you can prove too much in one season. And it's exciting to be part of Zimbabwe cricket's revival."

So the foreign influx continues, with some real talent now using the Zimbabwean franchises as a proving ground for coaching careers. If even some of the talent on offer rubs off on Zimbabwean players, then the future should be bright.
CricInfo - Allan Donald to coach Mountaineers

Mountaineers Raid Counties for New Signings

No doubt aiming to fill some holes after losing the services of Tatenda Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Njabula Ncube, Mountaineers have turned to the English counties for three new signings. Derbyshire's Greg Smith returns after making a cameo appearance for the side in last season's Stanbic Twenty20, and is joined by Essex's Tony Palladino and Lancashire's Gareth Cross, according to the Manica Post. Mountaineers CEO Phil Senzani confirmed the appointments:

"Yes, I can confirm the acquisition of the three players who were based in the UK. They are experienced players whom we hope will play a crucial role in enhancing our dominance on the local scene. We also want to take this opportunity to welcome back those players who were part of the franchise last season and are continuing from where they left. As Mountaineers, we are geared to cement our dominance in franchise cricket. We will also go out of our way to ensure that we identify and develop talent from grassroots level."

The Mutare-based side are also aiming to sign Australian Sean Clingeleffer as head coach, with Steve Mangongo stepping down to deputy to allow him to fulfil his duties as national 'A' coach - although Senzani confirmed that negotiations with Clingeleffer had not yet been completed.

Finally, Tinashe Panyangara will be making a return to Zimbabwean cricket for the side, after playing at club level in England in recent years.
Manica Post - Foreign quartet joins Mountaineers

Mountaineers Win Faithwear MetBank Series

An hour before lunch, Mountaineers appeared to be certain winners of the Faithwear-Met Bank Trophy final after bowling Mid West Rhinos out for 144. At the interval, Mid West appeared certain winners after taking six Mountaineers wickets for only 66 runs. Yet, after all, in this incredible final where the balance swung so strongly from one side to another, it was Mountaineers after all who took the trophy. Helped by some strange bowling changes, the two bowling all-rounders Prosper Utseya and Shingi Masakadza shared a magnificent and totally unexpected unbroken partnership of 83 for the eighth wicket that took the home side home.

Mountaineers won the toss and decided to field, despite the apparently good batting conditions: the weather was hot and sunny, while the pitch looked flat. The first few overs certainly suggested this would be a batsman's game: Vusi Sibanda drove the first ball through the covers for three, and a total of ten runs came off that opening over from Shingi Masakadza. But it did not last long; Sibanda, though looking in superb form, fatally moved across his stumps to aim a straight ball to leg and was lbw to Tendai Chitara for 19 off 23 balls; 33 for one.

Brendan Taylor made a cautious start, and then ran out his partner, Friday Kasteni (16), calling him unexpectedly for a quick run for an overthrow. Briefly the bat took over again, with Taylor pulling Shingi Masakadza for a four and six in quick succession; his new partner, Rikki Wessels, hit a big six off Njabulo Ncube, only to swat a catch to cover in the same over. Then came another run out, with Taylor again culpable, calling Malcolm Waller for a risky single to the vacant slips while disregarding the speed of Tatenda Taibu. After these running misadventures, Taylor owed it to his team to play a major innings - but he then holed out on the midwicket boundary off the bowling of Ncube, and Mid West were 69 for five in the 15th over, after just 80 minutes' play. All their specialist batsmen had gone and the match looked as good as over.

Graeme Cremer and Bothwell Chapungu now got their heads down and put on a useful partnership in a seemingly hopeless cause. Chapungu played some good aggressive strokes, with wise discrimination, and made 27 off 36 balls before edging a catch to the keeper off Utseya. He was destined to be the top scorer of the innings. Cremer, in an hour, scored a determined 19 before getting a thick outside edge to a drive and lobbing an easy catch into the covers. Taurai Muzarabani, 19 not out, was the only other batsman to make a significant contribution, and the innings closed for a mere 144 in less than 36 overs.

Mountaineers had done well in the field, though without quite touching their best, helped by a poor display from the Mid West top order and poor running. The Mid West coach, Andy Waller, did not feel it was big-match nerves; "just poor cricket," he said. Utseya was the best of the Mountaineers bowlers, taking three for 24 with his nagging accuracy and just letting the batsmen get themselves out under the pressure. It looked like a dismally one-sided final and a formality for the home team.

Unfortunately for Mountaineers, their batsmen seemed to think the same thing. It was the sort of match where, if Mid West had made 100 more runs, Mountaineers would probably have knuckled down and got them. But the batting of their top order suggested they were over-confident and eager to finish the match as soon as possible. Mid West for their part came out fighting.

They opened the bowling with the leg-spinner Cremer opposite Ed Rainsford, their two best bowlers. Tinotenda Mawoyo immediately lofted Cremer for two leg-side fours, both only yards short of six, but the captain and bowler did not panic. Cremer adjusted, while Mawoyo failed to do so. He lived dangerously, dropped off a low chance at backward point on 16, and then slicing a catch into the covers off Rainsford for 21. His partner Stuart Matsikenyeri swatted a ball from Cremer straight to midwicket, and two wickets had fallen at 29.

Taibu also showed too little discrimination in his strokeplay, and was bowled for 12, having a big swing at a ball from Cremer. At the other end Rainsford had a good battle with Hamilton Masakadza, which ended in victory for the bowler; Masakadza skied a catch to mid-on for 11. This was the big wicket, and at this point the balance of the match swung from the home side to the visitors. The score was 56 for four.

Incredibly, Mountaineers continued the same senseless tactics that had got them into trouble in the first place. Timycen Maruma hit Rainsford for two fours; two balls later he was yorked for 9, and the score was 64 for five, in only the eleventh over. Rainsford and Cremer continued to bowl, Mid West knowing they now held the whip hand; Mountaineers still continued their march of the lemmings. Steven Nyamuzinga gave a low chance to second slip off Rainsford before slicing a catch to backward point, still without scoring, and now lunch was taken at 66 for six. Fine bowling and suicidal batting had turned the match on its head.

After lunch Rainsford and Cremer, who had still only bowled six overs each, finished their allotted ten, for one more wicket, Natsai Mushangwe going lbw to Cremer for one, departing with obvious dissent. Then Utseya and Shingi Masakadza showed that Mountaineers had not altogether given up hope and shared a partnership of great determination. Both players have first-class centuries to their credit, so Mid West knew that the match was not theirs yet. Muzarabani and Mike Chinouya took over the attack and bowled with purpose, but were resisted with great determination. A four through the covers by Masakadza off Muzarabani brought up the 100 in the 27th over.

This was now the best cricket in the match, with both teams fully concentrated and fighting for the final supremacy that would win the match and the trophy. Masakadza grew in confidence, some fine drives taking him past Chapangu's 27 to become the highest scorer of the match. 120 was posted in the 32nd over, and slowly Mountaineers regained hope. One or two false strokes almost resulted in catches, but the batsmen survived. Perhaps Sibanda erred in removing Muzarabani and Chinouya too soon, as the other bowlers tried made no impression, and even Wessels was called upon to turn his arm over, a quixotic decision. The match was clearly slipping away from Mid West again.

With eight runs needed for victory, Muzarabani was finally brought back. But it was not a good over and five came from it - four in singles and a no-ball. In the next over Mountaineers seized their incredible victory, as Masakadza lofted a ball from Waller high over mid-on for six. With the help and guidance of the national captain, who was unbeaten on 30, with his 41 he had dragged back for his team the victory and the trophy they had so nearly thrown away. They were wildly acclaimed by an enthusiastic crowd of several hundred that had swollen during the day.

Full scorecard & photos below the cut.
Rhinos 144 (35.5/50 overs; Chapungu 27, Utseya 3/24), Mountaineers 149/7 (37.5/50 overs; S Masakadza 41*, Rainsford 4/48). Mountaineers win by 3 wickets.

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