Tough battles expected as Pro50 Championship resumes
Zimbabwe’s main List A competition, the Pro50 Championship, is set to resume this Thursday.
The first two rounds of the 50-over provincial competition were played in February, and the interesting point is that the table at this point shows the four teams in exactly the reverse order from the way they finished up in the recently concluded Logan Cup.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers at present top the Pro50 standings with two handsome victories and nine points, recorded in Bulawayo over Midlands Rhinos and Manicaland Mountaineers.
Behind them are the defending champions Harare Metropolitan Eagles, with six points – they beat Mountaineers in Harare but did not finish their match against Rhinos due to rain.
Rhinos are third with two points from their no-result match, while the Logan Cup champions Mountaineers have yet to earn a point.
Tuskers could well claim to be tournament favourites at this point, as not only do they have a three-point lead, but also they enter the coming matches with a stronger team than they were able to put into the field for most of their Logan Cup matches.
Their coach, the former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman Wayne James, says Craig Ervine is fit to play again after a long period out of the team through injury, while Sean Williams is also ready for action.
These two between them are a formidable force, and they should have good backing from Charles Kunje and Richmond Mutumbami, who have both prospered in difficult times in the Logan Cup.
Brian Chari is also overdue for a major innings.
Brian Vitori is back in the Tuskers’ bowling line-up, and the only top player they are missing is Luke Jongwe, who is playing in England at present.
They play Eagles at home on Thursday, and this is the match that could decide the competition.
Another victory for Tuskers would give them a lead of at least six points at the top of the table and make it very difficult for any other side to overtake them.
However, victory for Eagles would take them to the top of the table and open up the whole competition.
Eagles have a history of success in the 50-over game and are well known for rising to the occasion when it really matters.
Taurai Muzarabani and Nathan Waller have been their most successful bowlers in the Logan Cup, and will be a challenge to the batting power of Ervine and Williams.
The Eagles batting has often been unimpressive this season, but their key batsman is Chamu Chibhabha, who seems finally to be reaching maturity and is enjoying a fine season in all forms of the game.
Regis Chakabva is due for a big score, while Elton Chigumbura is a threat to any team in the one-day game.
The top-order batsman Kudzai Maunze came good at the end of the Logan Cup season, and he is another player to watch.
Mountaineers and Rhinos will be playing at Kwekwe to stay in the tournament, and the loser of that match will have little chance of making up the lost ground.
All the provinces will be able to play most of their top players for this competition, which reduces the advantage Mountaineers had with their large experienced squad during the Logan Cup.
Rhinos do not enjoy the same depth, but in players like Graeme Cremer, Malcolm Waller, PJ Moor and the aggressive opener Bothwell Chapungu, with Neville Madziva and Mike Chinouya, they have players capable of turning a match.
Mountaineers will welcome back Hamilton Masakadza from Bangladesh, and although without Vusi Sibanda, playing in England, are likely to turn out a very experienced eleven.
They have Shingi and Wellington Masakadza, Donald Tiripano, Natsai M’shangwe and the rejuvenated Tafadzwa Kamungozi to form a very strong bowling attack, while Kevin Kasuza, Foster Mutizwa and Timycen Maruma add to the batting.
There are other significant players who could be mentioned in each of the teams, and none can doubt that, when these teams are able to play their full strength, there is still much talent in Zimbabwean cricket.
PRO50 CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES
|DATE||STARTING||HOME TEAM||AWAY TEAM||VENUE|
|25/05/17||0900 hrs||Tuskers||Eagles||Queens Sports Club|
|25/05/17||0900 hrs||Mountaineers||Rhinos||Mutare Sports Club|
|28/05/17||0900 hrs||Mountaineers||Eagles||Mutare Sports Club|
|28/05/17||0900 hrs||Rhinos||Tuskers||Kwekwe Sports Club|
|02/06/17||0900 hrs||Rhinos||Eagles||Kwekwe Sports Club|
|02/06/17||0900 hrs||Mountaineers||Tuskers||Mutare Sports Club|
|06/06/17||0900 hrs||Eagles||Tuskers||Harare Sports Club|
|06/06/17||0900 hrs||Rhinos||Mountaineers||Kwekwe Sports Club|