Zimbabwe’s premier Twenty20 (T20) cricket competition, the Stanbic T20 series looks set to capture the attention of local cricket fans when it explodes at Harare Sports Club on Friday.
The official launch of the highly-anticipated tournament takes place in the capital today at a function where coaches and captains from five domestic franchises are expected to attend ahead of the start of the battle royale.
Expectations for this year’s tournament are high after a record crowd of about 10 000 fans watched the thrilling final between Mashonaland Eagles and MidWest Rhinos.
Eagles — led by player-coach Andrew Hall — soared to a thrilling one-run victory in their home ground at Harare Sports Club.
Last year’s tournament also gave local fans a chance to watch legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara and South African Lance Klusener, among a host of other big names in action.
This year looks set to be no different as organisers have managed to bring a strong contingent of overseas professionals who are set to feature for the five domestic franchises.
The presence of big names like the former West Indies captain Chris Gayle, Australian pace-bowler Shaun Tait, Hall, Lou Vincent and Ryan Ten Doeschate, will no doubt attract a lot of interest.
Gayle, who jetted into the country on Monday night, will feature for Matabeleland Tuskers, with an array of both overseas and local stars.
Tuskers will no doubt be aiming to improve from their third-place finish last year as they clearly have the talent to do so, with clean hitters like Charles Coventry and Paul Horton in their team.
Last year’s losing finalist MidWest Rhinos will be banking on Tait’s pace to intimidate their opponents while also hoping Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor continues with form he displayed for the national team.
Defending champions Mashonaland Eagles have managed to retain some of their players like Doeschate and Hall while capturing two more overseas players in Peter Trego and Rory Hamilton-Brown.
Mountaineers — winners of the inaugural competition in February last year — have brought in some exciting overseas professionals in Australian fast bowler Dirk Nannes, Chris Harris, Phil Mustard and Ned Eckersley.
Coach Gary Brent will be hoping his foreign stars gel well with local ones like Hamilton Masakadza, Prosper Utseya and Tymicen Maruma.
Southern Rocks will be the dark horse of the tournament as they have only brought in Kenyan opening batsman Alex Obanda and South African all-rounder John Kent while also retaining local stars Chamu Chibhabha, Tatenda Taibu and Brian Vitori.
Matabeleland Tuskers: Paul Horton, Charles Coventry, Chris Mpofu, Njabulo Ncube, Bradley Staddon, Keith Dabengwa, Keegan Meth, Craig Ervine, Steve Trenchard, Gavin Ewing, Glen Querl, Tafadzwa Ngulube, Adam Wheater, Tom Smith, Chris Gayle
Coach: Dave Houghton
Mashonaland Eagles: Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva, Cephas Zhuwao, Trevor Garwe, Mark Mbofana, Nathan Waller, Kyle Jarvis, Ray Price, Andrew Hall, Rory Hamilton-Brown, Elton Chigumbura, Peter Trego, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Foster Mutizwa, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Coach: Kevin Curran
MidWest Rhinos: Brendan Taylor, Graeme Cremer, Roland Benade, Mike Chinouya, Neville Madziva, Simon Mugava, Richard Muzhange, Ian Nicolson, Remembrance Nyati, Ed Rainsford, Malcolm Waller, Gary Balance, Lou Vincent, Riki Wessels, Shaun Tait
Coach: Jason Gillespie
Mountaineers: Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Prosper Utseya, Shingirai Masakadza, Natsai Mushangwe, Kevin Kasuza, Donald Tiripano, Dirk Nannes, Chris Harris, Phil Mustard, Ned Eckersley, Tendai Chatara, Donald Tiripano, Kudzai Sauramba
Coach: Gary Brent
Southern Rocks: Tatenda Taibu, Chamu Chibhabha, Brian Vitori, Alester Maregwede, Roy Kaia, Chamu Chibhabha, Prince Masvaure, Richmond Mutumbani, Tinashe Panyangara, Hilary Matanga, Tendai Chisoro, Robertson Chinyengetere, Tanyaradzwa Munyaradzi, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Alex Obanda, John Kent
Coach: Monty Lynch