ZIMBABWE cricket captain Hamilton Masakadza says he feels at home in Bloemfontein and is looking to use the familiar conditions at the Mangaung Oval to help the Chevrons salvage the One Day International series against South Africa today.
The Zimbabweans trail the three-match series after losing the opening game in Kimberly by five wickets at the weekend.
Masakadza thinks of Bloemfontein as kind of a second home, having lived in the city as a university student some years back. Sixteen years ago, Masakadza enrolled at the University of the Free State to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at their Bloemfontein campus, and must have cut a somewhat unlikely figure at his Afrikaans hostel, Vishuis.
But by all accounts he enjoyed his time here, studying with the help of a cricket bursary organised by Ewie Cronje, father of Hansie, and when he returned to the city for the first time since finishing university with the national side in October 2010, he cracked 72 in a T20I against a bowling attack that included his old university team-mate, Ryan McLaren.
Zimbabwe desperately need Masakadza to rekindle some of that varsity sparkle at the top of the order. South Africa, too, need more out of their batting unit.
“I’’m looking forward to going back home. It’’s been a long time coming, I haven’’t played there for a while,” said Masakadza.
The Mangaung Oval is one of the few grounds in South Africa where Zimbabwe have a history in all three international formats. Almost twenty years ago, this was the ground where Zimbabwe played their first Test match on South Africa soil, and more recently Zimbabwe’’s batsmen had left with happy memories of T20 and ODI cricket here.
Eight years ago, Brendan Taylor cracked a career-best 145* here under lights. Masakadza, Sean Williams and Elton Chigumbura were all also part of the XI in that game, and Masakadza has a particular connection to the city.
Batsmen usually enjoy Bloemfontein. England smashed 399 for 9 at an ODI here in February 2016, and five of the six 300-plus scores at the ground have come since 2003. The last time South Africa played Zimbabwe here, Amla and Colin Ingram cracked hundreds as the hosts reached 351 for 6. Zimbabwe responded through Taylor’’s ton, but fell well short as he was given little support.
South Africa: Jean-Paul Duminy (c), Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, Willem Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Khaya Zondo, Dean Elgar
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza (c), Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Murray, Tendai Chatara.