19 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Mash Eagles, Mat Tuskers Clash

MASHONALAND Eagles are aiming to retain their Pro50 Championship when they face Matabeleland Tuskers but coach Steve Mangongo believes the holders will need to tread carefully at Queens Sports Club today.

Eagles finished second in the round robin phase and landed a finals berth at the expense of Mid West Rhinos who lost five points after being convicted of using an improperly registered player in one of their matches.

Mangongo yesterday said the Harare side, which also qualified for the final of the T20 competition, was looking forward to the contest, despite playing away from home.

"If you cannot get motivation by the prospect of playing in the final then you can't be motivated at all," said Mangongo yesterday.

"Obviously, Tuskers are at their turf and we respect them for that. We are mindful that they are a very dangerous team with big hitters in the form of Sean Ervine, Charles Coventry, Craig Ervine and Gavin Ewing.

"But I believe if we play to the best of our ability we can come out with something very positive because from a performance point of view, we feel that we deserve to be in the final."

Eagles played five games during the campaign and won three while the other three were washed out by the rains. They lost two matches to Tuskers and Rhinos to finish their campaign with 19 points, five behind log leaders Tuskers.

Mangongo said they had been perfecting their batting technique and had two practice matches against their development side at Takashinga during the week.

"We were the team worst affected by the wet weather conditions this season and we still managed to make it to the final despite having three matches abandoned.

"So in a final like this you wouldn't want to put the players under a lot of pressure.

"It's a day to let them play their own game and let them exhibit their skills. That is exactly the mentality with our players going into this match," said Mangongo.

Eagles will be without one of their top players Elton Chigumbura who left for Bangladesh during the week to play in the country's T20 competition.

But it is Tuskers who are looking forward to the match with monumental interest.

They are hosting the final of the one-day tournament for the first time since the inception of the franchise system and winning it today would be an historic achievement for Heath Streak's men.

Tuskers, who have often done well in the four-day Logan Cup competition, winning it twice in succession in the last two years, had never made the final in the limited overs competitions and are excited to host Eagles this morning. By finishing at the apex with 24 points, Tuskers won the right to host the final contest in Bulawayo and they will be looking to make full use of home advantage.

They have an array of stars in their line-up which include the Ervine siblings, Sean and Craig, Charles Coventry, Keegan Meth, Chris Mpofu and the highly-rated Brian Chari.

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