Snippet of the day Tatenda Mupunga

It is rare in any country, let alone Zimbabwe, for a player to wait until the age of 26 before making his first-class debut. 

But this is what happened to Tatenda Mupunga, who suddenly appeared for the first time in the Logan Cup for Mountaineers last season, bowling at about medium pace and doing so well that he took 24 wickets for only 21 runs each.

Mupunga learned his cricket at Chiremba Primary School in Ruwa, under a Zimbabwe Cricket coaching scheme there.  He was always primarily a seam bowler, but a comparatively slow developer.  He attended trials for age-group teams in his teens, made the squad but was not selected.  Then he started playing club cricket, in turn for Ruwa Cricket Club, Alex, Millenium, Uprising and Rainbow.

Mupunga says his delayed entrance into first-class cricket was caused mainly by his return to school to further his education.  He first played for Mashonaland against Matabeleland in a one-day game in 2006, before returning to school.  He did have part of a season with Southern Rocks, but then moved to Mountaineers, where he was spotted by the coach, Gary Brent, who was impressed enough to give him a trial four-day game last season.

Mupunga did well enough to gain a permanent place.  The best performance of his career so far, he thinks, was last season when he took nine wickets for 81 in the match against Mashonaland Eagles in Harare.

He has rarely failed to play an important role in the Mountaineers attack, despite the presence of such fine players as Tendai Chatara, Shingirai Masakadza and Donald Tiripano. 

On Tuesday – the first day of their Logan Cup match against hosts Mid-West Rhinos, Mupunga took the new ball at Kwekwe Sports Club and turned in a typical performance for him, bowling 19 economical overs for three wickets and 39 runs. 

He struck early with the important wicket of Ryan Bezuidenhout, with a superb delivery that pitched on leg stump and moved away to take the edge.  Bradley Wadlan and Kyle Jarvis were his other victims.

“The pitch was fair,” Mupunga said.  “There was good movement early up and I had to utilise the resources I had to achieve what I did today.  The score was low for that kind of wicket.” 

What was his game plan?  “To create more pressure by bowling dot balls.  The more we bowl dot balls, the more we create pressure.  My game plan was just to hit the top of the off stump, swinging the ball away, and with left-handers bringing it back.”

He feels Malcolm Waller played him most capably today.  “He wasn’t committing much to a shot.  The ball was moving away from him and he was playing it late, and I felt he did very well.”

Tatenda has perhaps what could be called a three-point plan to improve his game still further in the future:  “Game intelligence, accuracy in terms of my bowling – I am not as accurate as I was last season, I am still a bit shaky – and my balance at the crease, which is a key to me.”

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