MOUNTAINEERS, the most successful cricket franchise team in Zimbabwe’s Twenty20 domestic competitions, will be looking to maintain their dominance in the shorter version of the game when this year’s 20-overs tournament gets underway at Harare Sports Club this week.
The Mutare-based cricket franchise has won three of the last four editions of the tournament since the advent of the franchise system during the 2009/2010 season.
Given an impressive array of stars such as star bowler Tendai Chatara, aggressive batsman Hamilton Masakadza and skipper Tino Mawoyo, among others, the Gray Brent-coached side will go into this year’s tournament as favourites.
Mountaineers begin their title defence with a potentially tricky tie against rivals MashEagles in a repeat of last year’s final tomorrow.
Mash Eagles, who won the then Stanbic Twenty20 tournament during the 2010–11 season, will be hoping for a better show against Mountaineers, having lost to them in the last two finals.
The Stephen Mangongo-coached Eagles side, who will enjoy home advantage for the week-long tournament, will be hoping to hit the ground running when they square off against Mid West Rhinos in the tournament opener this morning.
Mid West Rhinos’ best performance in the domestic T20 competition was finishing as runner-ups during the 2010–2011 season and they will be one of the teams to watch this week.
The Kwekwe-based franchise, which will be coached by Grant Flower, has assembled a balanced side with youth and experience.
Rhinos will need key players such as Brendan Taylor, Vusi Sibanda and Malcolm Waller to lead from the front.
Matabeleland Tuskers, who will miss Dubai-based big hitting batsman Charles Coventry and star bowler Glen Querl, are probably the dark horse of the T20 tournament. Tuskers tackle Southern Rocks in today’s second match.
Led by the consistent Sean Williams, Tuskers, who also have seasoned campaigners in Keith Dabengwa, Tawanda Mpariwa, Keegan Meth and Chris Mpofu, will be difficult to beat in this tournament.
The seam bowling trio of Mpariwa, Meth and Mpofu will also be aiming to use the competition to get themselves back in contention for national team spots after having recently fallen out of favour with the selectors.
National team coach Andy Waller earlier this week said team selectors would use the T20 tournament to assess the players’ form before selecting the final squad for next month’s ICC World Twenty20 competition in Bangladesh.
Today: Mash Eagles vs Midwest Rhinos (0930hrs), Southern Rocks vs Matabeleland Tuskers (1330hrs).
Tomorrow: February 11: Mountaineers vs Mountaineers (0930hrs), Midwest Rhinos vs Southern Rocks (1330hrs).