The Sunday Mail
THE National Premier League (NPL) got off to a resounding success on Sunday, with most of the cricketers just happy to be back on the field.
In the tournament’s opening day’s play, Rainbow Cricket Club, Amakhosi, Harare Kings and Takashinga all got their campaigns off to solid starts with victories over Gladiators, Queens Sports Club, Great Zimbabwe Patriots and Midwest respectively.
Marshalled by Brian Mudzinganyama’s 32, Rainbow cruised to a four-wicket victory over Gladiators having bowled out the opposition for a paltry 131, a score they raced to with relative ease.
Amakhosi provided the opening upset of the tournament, when the minnows emerged victorious in the Bulawayo derby against Queens at Queens Sports Club.
Skipper Ainsley Ndlovu and Ernest Masuku’s four wickets each were the talk of Amakhosi’s one-wicket victory, that also saw Queens bowled out for 97, and only Sean Williams (14) managing to get double-digit runs.
Harare Kings, one of the favourites of the tournament, dispatched Great Zimbabwe Patriots, while Takashinga strolled to a four-wicket victory over MidWest.
However, much of the talk was on the lads just being happy to be back playing cricket again, albeit within the Covid 19 guidelines and prevention measures.
“Obviously, playing the game again was awesome, and everyone from my team was chuffed to be back on the pitch,” said Rainbow left-arm seamer Brighton Zhawi.
“The changing room and the vibe in the team were just different, as everyone had missed being together as a unit,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Harare Kings skipper Patrick Mambo.
“At the end of the day, not having any cricket for more than six months was very difficult, because this is what we do and we all want to be out there on the field.
“However, as a player, and a fan of the game myself, it felt good to be back out there playing cricket again,” said Mambo.
The game returned with different experiences as the new Covid-19 guidelines and prevention measures were implemented by Zimbabwe Cricket for the tournament.
Among these measures and protocols is restricting the number of spectators to a maximum of 50, and all must observe social distancing, wear face masks and submit to temperature checks upon entry to the match-day venues.
These measures also apply to players and members of the support staff during all NPL matches.
Other measures put in place by ZC included the regular disinfection and cleaning of cricket facilities – including changing rooms, toilets, spectator stands, offices, media centres, walkways and car parks.
Players were also provided with clear guidance on the safe management of the ball, and apart from the ban on the use of saliva on the ball, players were expected to regularly sanitise their hands when in contact with the ball and not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth after making contact with the ball.
“I remember when it was my turn to bowl, it must have been in the 11th over or something, I went straight to the umpire with the intention of giving him my cap.
“He immediately told me, it wasn’t allowed anymore, so it shall take some getting used too,” said Zhawi.
“I wasn’t really paying attention, otherwise I would have noticed what my fellow bowlers were doing.
“This is the new normal, and we will need to be more vigilant going forward,” he said.
Mambo believes the guidelines have greatly disadvantaged the bowler, and they will need to quickly adjust.
“It’s important for everyone, not just the bowlers, to adjust as the virus is not going away any time soon,” said Mambo.
“Obviously, it is going to be a lot harder for the bowlers as we used saliva to shine the ball, which is now no longer legal, and that has taken something, an edge, from the game.
“However, safety is the most important thing and we will adjust,” he said.
Action resumes Wednesday with Harare Kings and Amakhosi putting their perfect starts to the test, when they square off at Kwekwe Sports Club.
Takashinga host Easterns, who had a bye in the first round, at Takashinga Sports Club, while Gladiators entertain MidWest at Harare Sports Club.
Queens round-up the day’s action when they host Great Zimbabwe at Queens Sports Club.