THE Pro50 Championship is set to resume tomorrow after the first two rounds of the provincial competition were played in February.
Bulawayo Metropolitan Tuskers top the Pro50 standings with two victories and nine points after beating Midlands Rhinos and Manicaland Mountaineers in February.
Behind them are defending champions Harare Metropolitan Eagles with six points from a win over Mountaineers. Rhinos are third with two points from their no-result match, while Logan Cup champions Mountaineers have yet to earn a point.
Tuskers could well claim to be tournament favourites at this point, as they resume the Pro50 with a stronger team than they were able to field in the Logan Cup.
Their coach, the former Zimbabwe wicketkeeper-batsman Wayne James, said Craig Ervine is fit to play again after a long injury layoff, while Sean Williams is also ready for action. These two are a formidable force and should have good backing from Charles Kunje and Richmond Mutumbami. Skipper Brian Chari is also overdue for a major innings.
Brian Vitori is back in the Tuskers’ bowling line-up and the only top player they will be missing is Luke Jongwe, who is playing in England.
Victory for Tuskers over the Eagles tomorrow could virtually decide the destiny of the championship, as it would give them a six-point lead at the top of the table, making it difficult for another side to overtake them.
However, victory for the Eagles would take them to the top of the table and throw open the championship.
The Eagles have a history of success in the 50-over game and are well known for rising to the occasion when it really matters.
Taurai Muzarabani and Nathan Waller have been their most successful bowlers in the Logan Cup and will be a challenge to the batting power of Ervine and Williams.
The Eagles batting has been unimpressive this season, but their key batsman Chamu Chibhabha seems to be reaching maturity and is enjoying a fine season in all forms of the game.
Regis Chakabva is due for a big score, while Elton Chigumbura is a threat to any team in the one-day game.
Mountaineers and Rhinos will play in Kwekwe to stay in the tournament and the loser will have little chance of making up the lost ground.
All the provinces will be able to play most of their top players for this competition, which reduces the advantage Mountaineers had with their large experienced squad during the Logan Cup.
Rhinos do not enjoy the same depth, but with players like Graeme Cremer, Malcolm Waller, PJ Moor and the aggressive opener Bothwell Chapungu, Neville Madziva and Mike Chinouya, they have players capable of turning any match. Mountaineers will welcome back Hamilton Masakadza from Bangladesh and although they will be without Vusi Sibanda, they are still likely to field an experienced XI.
They have Shingi and Wellington Masakadza, Donald Tiripano, Natsai M’shangwe and the rejuvenated Tafadzwa Kamungozi to form a strong bowling attack, while Kevin Kasuza, Foster Mutizwa and Timycen Maruma add to the batting.
Pro50 Championship fixtures
May 25: Tuskers v Eagles (Queens Sports Club)
May 25: Mountaineers v Rhinos (Mutare Sports Club)
May 28: Mountaineers v Eagles (Mutare Sports Club)
May 28: Rhinos v Tuskers (Kwekwe Sports Club)
June 2: Rhinos v Eagles (Kwekwe Sports Club)
June 2: Mountaineers v Tuskers (Mutare Sports Club)
June 6: Eagles v Tuskers (Harare Sports Club)
June 6: Rhinos v Mountaineers (Kwekwe Sports Club)