Onwards to the semis

Mangwanane shamwari ("Good morning friends") Before I get cracking with my next edition I noticed there were a few angry Zimbabweans remarking on the 'no fuel' in Harare comment I made. Firstly having been brought up in Durban, South Africa, and now having lived in the UK for the last 12 years, to come back to my African roots is special for strange reasons like not being able to get fuel. The truth is for two days I did drive around Harare trying to find fuel and could find nothing. I think I visited about eight different petrol stations. So please excuse my ignorance. That said being somewhere like Zimbabwe gives me such a sense of freedom, away from controlled authority and this sort of Big Brother type existence that is the western world. The challenges of the county are part of the appeal to me and perhaps not something that should be begrudged. I’m sitting in my favourite coffee shop in the small suburb of Avondale - about a five minute drive from the Harare Sports Club. I’m drinking my usual green concoction of spinach, watercress, spirulina, apple and lemon. What a great way to start the day - and what a great way to end the first week of the Stanbic Bank 20 series

On Saturday, the semi-finals beckon. In our quest to reach the semis there have been some outstanding contributions from various members of the team. The biggest impact has been made by local boy Ryan Butterworth, who's been an absolute revelation both in the lower middle-order and with the ball in hand – bowling dobbly seamers (much like Chris Harris) which have been almost impossible to get away. For a guy who was no better than evens to play the first game to be equal leading run scorer (along with me!) and equal top of the bowling stats is fantastic. We beat a really strong Rhino's side two days ago, which propelled us to the top of the table. Ryan’s brutal 24 off five balls was probably as power-crazed as it gets. We needed 25 off two overs to win – and Ryan made sure we did it with seven balls to spare.

The team is coming together so well. There are a lot of smiles in the camp and everyone has a clear idea of what their role is. What’s really interesting is there is the same buzz here as I felt at Somerset last summer. There truly is a lot of positive energy around. I’m loving the experience and the people. Grant Flower and former allrounder Kevin Curran have been behind the scenes helping with our fielding drills, our options as batters and getting us gelled into a tight unit. Andrew Hall has taken over as captain since the departure of Elton ‘Rocket Man’ Chigumbura to our rivals Southern Rocks. In our spinners and medium pacers we seem to have developed a pattern in games to contain some of the bigger hitters in other teams. There's nothing worse for a batter than when the ball doesn’t come on to the bat, so to be savvy with the bowling changes and field placings is vital and Hall has been right on the money with that.

In terms of my own game I'm relishing the role I’ve been assigned at the top of the innings. Crucially, I have been giving myself time at the crease before I’ve begun to chance my arm. I’ve still worked on taking the initiative away from the bowler early on, but at the same time given him nothing if I can help it. I’ve had some success with walking over to the off side and getting the bowler bowl at my legs. It’s one way of manoeuvring the ball onto to the leg side. Going deep in the crease has been productive too. The ball has then been a little shorter, which in turn has given me more time and therefore more options. I’ve been trying to tick over early on and then backed myself to play a few more shots later in my innings.

It’s almost surreal to have legends like Allan Donald, Jason ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie and Dave Houghton walking around the grounds, looking on. Being able to chat to the big hitters of the game – to pick their brains – in such a chilled environment is a great privilege. In saying that it's not all about us overseas imports. Our addition to Zimbabwe cricket is to hopefully give some of the local players a taste of how others go about their cricket and I think add some structure to the game here. As I've said before there's some fantastic talent, some real athletes and some real energy for the game. I think where I've been lucky is that I’ve played in good team structures and have always had the support that perhaps a country like Zimbabwe (without singling them out) have been without. I'm no politician, and I won't pretend to be, but I think the more awareness us as overseas players can give some of these less experienced guys will stand them in great stead.

Cricket is a thinking game and it needs good structures and good people to create the right culture for success. Australia started and dominated the world with it for so many years and England have now been quick to follow. If Zimbabwe gets thinks like fitness, diets, coaching, intelligence and other areas in place there's certainly no reason why they won’t be competing against some of the best teams out there. On the social front, a few of us were lucky enough to get to see the Parlotones last night. The Parlotones are a huge hit in SA these days and to have a close intimate concert with just a few hundred was great fun. The Mail on Sunday described them as playing 'impassioned, stadium-ready indie-rock of a superior kind'. I can go with that. Here’s hoping the Eagles make some sweet music in the next few days…..

Published 19 November 2010