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Franchise cricket roars into life

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Zimbabwe’s domestic cricket season takes centre stage this weekend under a new format which promises to add a new dimension to the competition.

Report by Daniel Nhakaniso Sports Reporter

The new format will see the five franchises competing in five rounds of one-day matches and Twenty20s.

The four-day Logan Cup competition begins on October 21.

In this weekend’s matches, Mashonaland Eagles will host Southern Rocks at Harare Sports Club while Matabeleland Tuskers welcome Mountaineers at Queens Sports Club.

NewsDay Sport has compiled a lowdown on all the five franchises, taking a look at all the ins and outs and the prospects of each side going in to the new season.

Matabeleland Tuskers
After two successive Logan Cup titles, Tuskers will without doubt, be the team to beat this season.

They might have lost their coach Dave Houghton to Rocks, but they remain a formidable outfit under his successor Heath Streak, who is not new to both the team and the players.

Tuskers’ major strength will lie in their bowling department. Despite losing Tawanda Mupariwa to Southern Rocks, they still have a formidable attack led by Christopher Mpofu, Njabulo Ncube, Glenn Querl and Keegan Meth.

Their batting will also be boosted by the return of Sean Williams, although they will miss the English duo of Paul Horton and Adam Wheater.

Southern Rocks
Southern Rocks have traditionally struggled in the domestic franchise system. While they have done well in the shorter formats, they have failed to register a win in the four-day Logan Cup throughout their three-year history.

They will be hoping that the arrival of the highly respected Houghton will see their fortunes improve.

The Masvingo-based outfit has been very active in the transfer market after losing influential players such as former skipper Tatenda Taibu and all-rounder Chamu Chibhabha.

Rocks, who have in the past preferred local players, have gone out of their way by bringing in two overseas players, Ben Slater and Peter Burgoyne from English County side Derbyshire, to add to Trevor Garwe (Mashonaland Eagles), Mupariwa (Tuskers) and Bothwell Chapungu (MidWest Rhinos).

Mashonaland Eagles
Eagles captured the one-day competition after a late rally towards the end of last season and coach Kevin Curran will be confident of doing well this summer after retaining most of his players.

They have lost Garwe and Greg Lamb to Rocks and Mountaineers respectively while welcoming back Chibhabha.

The Stuart Matsikenyeri-captained side boasts national team players such as Elton Chigumbura, Raymond Price, Forster Mutizwa, Regis Chakabva and Kyle Jarvis.

MidWest Rhinos
Although MidWest Rhinos have a bye this weekend, it should be business as usual in their camp as they aim to end their “chokers” tag. The Kwekwe-based club recently appointed Grant Flower as their coach and have earned a reputation of struggling when it matters most.

On paper, Rhinos have one of the best sides in the league with top players such as Brendan Taylor, Vusi Sibanda, Malcolm Waller and Graeme Cremer.

Former national team player Mark Vermeulen has also joined the side together with Paul Trentchard from Tuskers.

Mountaineers
The two-time Stanbic Twenty20 champions have gone about their business quietly during the offseason and bringing in two overseas players in Mark Pettini and Dan Hodgson and Greg Lamb from Eagles.

The trio is expected to add more firepower to an already solid squad which has quality players such as siblings Shingi and Hamilton Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo and Prosper Utseya.

The Mutare-based side has traditionally done well in the shorter formats of the game and will no doubt be one of the top teams in the early stages of the league, but coach Gary Brent will be eager for his team to also challenge for honours in the Logan Cup.

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