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Twenty20: The revolution unfolds…

AT the time of writing, Manicaland Mountaineers were the only team almost guaranteed at least a top two finish in the Stanbic Twenty20 series.

A look at the statistics shows that the bulk of their runs came from skipper Hamilton Masakadza, with just two or three other batsmen chipping in.
But the Mutare-based franchise has simply been the best team of tournament. Fears about their bowling attack have been allayed. While their spinners were always going to be their trump cards, their seamers have not sat on their laurels. 
Opening bowler Njabulo Ncube, signed from Matabeleland at the beginning of the season, has shown great recovery ability in matches after nervy starts, while Zimbabwe Under 19 fast bowler Tendai Chatara’s raw pace has been a revelation.

Bet batting
The first two days witnessed some negative batting, as batsmen were seemingly content with protecting wickets, apparently using this series as a selection platform. But happily, after realising that this approach does not win matches at T20 or endear them with demanding spectators, they adjusted, and fans have been treated to some big hits since then. 

Masakadza massacre
The man with an unquenched taste for records, the Mountaineers captain Hamilton Masakadza’s century (102) against Southern Rocks on Monday — the first of the series — was a classical, swashbuckling T20 innings. After dropping   him twice, the Southern Rocks bowlers got stick from a fired up Masakadza. Before reaching his 50, Masakadza picked the half-volleys with aplomb, cutting loose after the half-century to deposit massive boundaries all over the park.

Chamu’s charm
If one wanted proof that Twenty20 was anyone’s game, the Southern Rocks camp is good enough a place to start looking, particularly for one Chamunorwa Chibhabha. Who would have imagined at this point in the series, a laid-back, reserved, fashion-conscious chap considered too slow even for 50-overs cricket would have turned into a slayer to become the series’ second leading run-scorer by quite a distant?

Blignaut blitzkrieg
So much was expected from Andy Blignaut by his legion of fans, and he didn’t disappoint on his return against the Mountaineers last Saturday. Though partly helped by the Mountaineers’ wayward bowling, the Matabeleland Tuskers man slogged his way to an unbeaten 63. In a 32-ball assault, he constantly came down the wicket to smash the bowlers, making sure that nothing short of a good length and right width went unpunished.

Crowds cry
The turnout has not been overwhelming, but the few hundreds that have come have created a good atmosphere inside the Harare Sports Club. To many local cricket fans, it’s almost as if Zim cricket starts and end at the national level, as shown by the impressive attendances at international matches. Domestic games are generally watched by tens of relatives and non-participating players. There has been a marked improvement for this Twenty20 tournament, and hopefully it will sow the seed of greater interest in Zimbabwean domestic cricket.

 

Enock Muchinjo

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