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Zimbabwe league: Club finals
by John Ward - 13-14 March 1999

Matches played Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March

MASHONALAND CLUBS KNOCKOUT FINAL

At Harare Sports Club; Saturday 13 March. HARARE SPORTS CLUB 186/8 (40 overs) (N C Johnson 46, C B Wishart 35, D J R Campbell 24, A P Hoffman 29*; A H Omarshah 3/54). UNIVERSALS 187/5 (39.2 overs) (T N Madondo 41, G K Bruk-Jackson 85*; A P Hoffman 2/38). Universals won by five wickets.

Universals had a happy ending to an otherwise disastrous season when they retained the one remaining trophy of the four they won last season. This was actually the fourth successive year they have won this particular competition. They were led by national captain Alistair Campbell, while the Sports Club skipper was his younger brother Don.

They also overcame the disadvantage of losing four key players, all of them seam bowlers, three of them late withdrawals, on a pitch which tended to favour seamers. They had expected to be without David Mutendera, injured again, but they also lost for various reasons Hitesh Hira, Everton Matambanadzo and Guy Whittall. Sports Club were missing Andy Blignaut with an ankle injury sustained during training.

Universals did have two pieces of better luck. Firstly, they won the toss and were able to put the opposition in to bat. Secondly, Jupiter Pluvius got his wires crossed and dumped yet another load of rain on the Universals ground during the early afternoon, clearly forgetting that this time they were playing at Harare Sports Club a few miles away, where it remained dry!

Eddo Brandes was Universals' one front-line pace bowler to play, but he never stretched himself above medium-pace, presumably unwilling to risk any kind of strain on the eve of the national team's tour to Bangladesh. One spectator observed that he had developed a nice loop to his bowling! Neil Johnson was soon under way, taking advantage of a slowish pitch to deposit several short balls over midwicket for four, avoiding the heavy outfield as much as possible. When the bowlers got the message and pitched further up, though, he had to work much harder for his runs.

The most economical bowler was the 47-year-old Azhar Burki, who played some domestic first-class cricket in Pakistan before emigrating to Zimbabwe many years ago. He is still a regular league player, and he tied up one end with his accurate off-breaks, taking the wicket of Johnson as the latter backed away in an effort to force him through the off-side field.

Sports Club were handicapped by two run-outs, although that of Stuart Carlisle for 2 was purely fortuitous: a straight drive from Johnson rebounded off Burki's hand on to the stumps while he was backing up. Will anything ever be done to amend the laws regarding dismissals like this, due to sheer luck rather than any credit to the fielding side? Craig Wishart had more himself to blame as he was too eager for an unlikely run from a hit to mid-off. In the end, only some enterprising running by Dan Peacock (18) and a few lusty blows by Anton Hoffman gave Sports Club a reasonable total.

Universals too struggled to keep the score moving, and their first three wickets fell for 57 at just over three an over, including Alistair Campbell for 18. Trevor Madondo and Glen Bruk-Jackson decided the only way to score would be to attack and hit over the top where they could. Fortune favoured the bold: a sharp chance was dropped, and several hits were skyed out of the fielders' reach, and Universals were under way. By these bold methods they put on 105 for the fourth wicket before Madondo fell to a catch by Carlisle at second slip. His innings included 2 sixes.

At this stage 25 runs were needed off 29 balls, and Universals were playing quite a long tail. Bruk-Jackson saw them through to the end, though, and with six needed off the final over he cut a ball superbly over third man to get them all with one stroke. He had batted for 70 balls altogether, hitting 6 sixes and 7 fours.

NATIONAL LEAGUE KNOCKOUT FINAL

At Harare Sports Club; Sunday 14 March. OLD GEORGIANS 173 (49.4 overs) (G W Flower 47, C N Evans 32, K R Scott 33; B C Strang 3/24, P A Strang 3/24, D P Viljoen 3/21). OLD HARARIANS 172/5 (46.5 overs) (R W Price 44, G Lamb 30*, P A Strang 38*; A J Mackay 3/19). Old Hararians won by five wickets.

The powerful Old Hararians team won their third trophy of the season, as expected, at the expense of the depleted Old Georgians team, although it was not as easy as many anticipated. Old Georgians had lost their two English professionals, Mark Wagh and Nathan Batson, returned to their counties, and pace bowler Dan Rowett, taking part in the Argus Cycle Race in Cape Town.

They are a struggling club at the moment; their finances have been mishandled, and they have a policy of not paying any of their players anyway, and as a result most of the St George's College top players are opting for other clubs. They are not too far off folding up altogether as far as cricket is concerned, but they are receiving advice and assistance from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union and Dave Houghton, who secured their English professionals for them, and hopefully the club can be saved.

They were left with only three top players for this match (Grant Flower, Craig Evans and captain Gus Mackay), and in desperation called up three former stalwarts in Robin Brown (aged 48 but still a force in Districts cricket), Kevin Murphy and Gavin Briant. All appeared naturally rusty, although Briant did hit a six which landed first bounce in the Sports Club swimming pool (currently masquerading as a fish pond, judging by the green colour of the water), which gave a reminder of the loss he is to Zimbabwean cricket when he decided to put business first. Old Hararians were missing from their regulars only pace bowler Terence Hoal, who had the impertinence to be getting married.

Old Hararians captain Trevor Penney, mindful of the lowish scores in recent matches at Sports Club, abandoned his usual policy of batting on winning the toss, and put Old Georgians in. They soon lost Brown for 3 and were two down for 24, despite some erratic bowling, especially from Gary Brent, who managed to bowl 14 wides. Then Grant Flower and Craig Evans dug in with a partnership of 78. It was notable for good running between wickets rather than big hitting, but it became too much of a good thing as Evans, looking for an unlikely single, was sent back and unable to regain his ground.

Grant Flower was caught at the wicket in the following over, and from then on it was struggle all the way for the weak Old Georgians tail, although they never gave up. All-rounder Kevin Scott, another occasional player due to farming commitments, scored 33 valuable runs, but his team was dismissed in the final over.

Old Hararians went for a none too difficult target steadily. Gus Mackay put all his heart into his bowling, but was unable to break the opening partnership. Patrick Gada, one of the Academy students, scored 19 of an opening stand of 77, showing as usual determination and tight defence, but not as yet too many strokes. Ray Price finally got beyond the twenties to make a valuable 44 before falling to a brilliant diving catch by Evans in the covers.

Then Mackay returned for a second spell and nearly achieved a decisive breakthrough. He bowled Dirk Viljoen with a superb yorker that removed his middle stump, and then had Trevor Penney given out caught at the wicket first ball. Penney was most reluctant to leave and stayed to discuss the matter with the square-leg umpire (perhaps believing the ball had not carried to the keeper) and the fielders before finally dragging himself off the field, perhaps to seek legal advice. The score was now 106 for five and the match was in the balance. A few minutes later, when a close run-out appeal was rejected, bowler Grant Flower kicked the stumps down. It is uncertain whether the authorities will take any action concerning these incidents, but if so highly unlikely the results will be revealed.

Paul Strang edged the hat-trick ball into the slips, but well short of the fielders. Soon afterwards he was dropped at square leg off a hard chance, ironically to the unfortunate Mackay. But this was the end of Old Georgians' chances. Strang showed why he is such a superb batsman in one-day cricket when the chase is on with some fine aggressive strokes, while his partner Greg Lamb, for the second match in succession, showed admirable temperament, maturity and judgement with well-placed strokes and good running. Victory came without any extra trouble, to the delight of the Old Hararians supporters, who probably formed about 90% of the crowd.

Mention should be made of a fine spell of bowling by Old Georgians' leg-spinner Stephen Wright, aged 16; he pushes the ball through quite quickly and troubled the Old Hararians batsmen with both turn and lift. His 10 overs cost only 26 runs and he took one wicket.

1998/99 CLUB COMPETITION WINNERS

Mashonaland league (Vigne Cup) -- Old Hararians

Mashonaland club knockout competition -- Universals

National league -- Old Hararians

National club knockout competition -- Old Hararians