Lara's still got it

The Twenty20 buzz is with us at the Harare Sports club. We (the Mashonaland Eagles) got off to a great start winning the opening game against a strong Southern Rocks side who boast none other than my boyhood hero Brian Lara as well as Chris Harris (he’s still going!), Steve Tikolo and Tatenda Taibu. It was down to earth the next day when Warwickshire allrounder Neil Carter’s 49 off 24 balls delivered Mashonaland Tuskers a narrow victory in our second match. After the other recent heavy defeats inflicted on us by the Tuskers, this was a marked improvement and shows we’re going in the right direction.

Playing against the great Lara on Saturday was enormous fun. To me, he is the best player I have ever seen and played against and even at 41 he is a force to be reckoned with. Images of him smashing the Aussies to all parts and winning games single-handedly are all potent memories from my youth – the arrogance, swagger and the way he looks (yes – still looks) at the crease with that notably high back lift are all still trademarks of this legend. On Saturday he played some stunning shots particularly through the off side. Any width and he was on to it like a flash. Luckily he got out after reaching 50 otherwise the end result may have been very different.

Twenty20 is a pressure game – particularly at the top of the order – and it’s natural to target the fielders who are a little ponderous. I had to have a cheeky look around when I was batting to find Brian, and saw him set for me at short third-man to the spinner. I then brought out a fine reverse sweep to test him. I had a little chuckle to myself as waddled to field the ball while I sneaked an easy two. I was pleased with my innings , hitting 70 off 49, and the 30 I scored on Sunday against the Tuskers was enough to propel me to the heady heights of leading run-scorer in the competition so far. I received a nice award, 'the black cap', which I am expected to wear as the tournament’s leading scorer. It’s a bit like the person who leads the Tour de France wears the yellow jersey.

After a quiet start, I feel like I’m adjusting to the conditions. I’m pleased with the way the ball is coming off the bat and I seem to have a lot of time to play – always a good sign at the crease. Wickets are good and hard, conditions hot – great for batting. I managed to get off to a decent start in both games and have been more patient than at times in the past. I think I’m understanding a lot more about this form of the game - particularly when it comes to choosing the right time to go hard and when simply to knock the ball around as well as what shots to target against certain bowlers. Eoin Morgan is someone who not only has a great range of shots – orthodox and unorthodox – which can do a lot of damage. He is also a great decision-maker and can sum up and assess any situation at a glance. Mike Hussey is another. They never seem to get ruffled, even if tied down for a dozen balls. It’s like they know it only takes one boundary to set them on their way.

On the domestic front, after the fun of the weekend, I’ve been driving around Harare today desperately trying to find some petrol. No luck so far. I‘m also having to adapt to one or two ‘laws of the land’. Here, if something costs seven bucks, its a tenner. Don’t expect any change. Secondly, and despite my protestations early on (see my first blog) that I would be staying away from water, I made the mistake of drinking out of a tap after a practice in 40 degrees of heat the other day. Let’s just put it this way; it was an uncomfortable experience. But I’ve learned my lesson!

Published 16 November 2010