WITH all eyes focused on what is happening in Abu Dhabi, where the Chevrons are on tour, it’s easy for the significance of events in domestic cricket yesterday, to pass without the notice they deserve.
But, for those who have been itching to see domestic sport swinging back into action, after the lockdown in January, what unfolded at Harare Sports Club and Old Hararians yesterday, is very important.
For the first time, since that lockdown, local sportspersons went into action, on the field, with Tuskers taking on Mountaineers, at Old Hararians, and Rhinos clashing against the Rocks, at Harare Sports Club, in the Logan Cup. Moutaineers were on 318-6, at stumps yesterday, after an impressive 86 from Under-19 captain, Dion Myers, who scored his maiden first-class half century.
Tony Munyonga added 79 and Baxon Copito contributed 48 with Luke Jongwe, the pick of the Tuskers bowlers, with 3/51 while Ansley Ndlovu and John Nyumbu picked a wicket each.
In the other match, Rocks were on 296-5, at stumps, with Roy and Innocent Kaia scoring 89, not out, and 88, respectively while Carl Mumba took 3/45.
Meanwhile, the Chevrons will be out to try and keep the Twenty20 International series alive, today, with victory over Afghanistan, who won the first match.
Rashid Khan, a global T20 superstar, one of the architects of their series-levelling second Test win, singlehandedly works magic for Afghanistan.
His presence automatically lifts a young side, many of whom are slowly spreading their wings in leagues like the BBL, CPL and the Abu Dhabi T10.
Many times, his four overs are like an insurance policy, when they defend or are under sustained aggression from opponents.
While he lived up to his reputation on Wednesday too, the star was opener Rahmanulla Gurbaz, who displayed a ferocity to his batting to make a 45-ball 87 at the top of the order.
Asghar Afghan, chipping in with just his fourth T20I fifty in his 64th innings, may have steered away from some of the “is he good enough” debates.
Only a week ago, he also became the country’s second Test centurion.
And it all bodes well for Afghanistan: the batting not being dependent on just one or two people alone is something they’d want to cultivate as they build up to the T20 World Cup in India in October.
Zimbabwe have no immediate requirements of that kind, because they won’t be playing in that showpiece event after failing to qualify for administrative reasons – their board was suspended at the time of the qualifiers. But there’s plenty of pride at stake and an opportunity to look a year into the future, when there’s another T20 World Cup in Australia in 2022.
For a while now, Zimbabwe’s schedule hasn’t been defined. So having an intense stretch of games such as this in a span of four weeks by itself is a positive sign.
Now, the next step is for them to overcome the batting dependency on Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza, if they’re to put up tall totals or chase down scores like the 199 were faced with in the first T20I. There’s also a streak to break.
They’ve lost each of their last five T20Is, including nine of the last 10 against Afghanistan. A prodigious batting talent at 16, Wesley Madhevere has found the transition to international cricket tough.
A member of two Under-19 World Cup squads and a heavy scorer for Eagles in domestic cricket, Madhevere has struggled for runs on tour.
He made two ducks in his first two Test innings and, on Wednesday, managed just two before being foxed by Rashid trying to slog. It speaks of the side’s confidence, perhaps, that he’s also batting at a lowly No. seven currently.
He didn’t bowl either in the opening game, so there is much to prove.
It’s likely to be a good surface in Abu Dhabi, but one of the square boundaries will be considerably shorter.
The heat at this time of the year isn’t yet intense, by UAE standards, but it’ll still test the fitness and endurance of the players nonetheless. — Sports Reporter/Cricinfo.