SUNFOIL SERIES: P10 W5 L2 D3 (second)
Captains: AN Petersen (1), SC Cook (9)
MOMENTUM ONE-DAY CUP: P10 W5 L2 NR3 (joint champions)
RAMSLAM T20 CHALLENGE: P10 W7 L3 (champions)
Contracted players: Temba Bavuma, Gulam Bodi, Stephen Cook, Cliffe Deacon, Quinton de Kock, Dominic Hendricks, Eddie Leie, Pumelela Matshikwe, Neil McKenzie, Chris Morris, Ethan O’Reilly, Brett Pelser, Aaron Phangiso, Jean Symes, Rassie van der Dussen, Hardus Viljoen. Rookie contracts: Grant Mokoena, Shaylen Pillay, Dwaine Pretorius. CSA contracts: Alviro Petersen, Imran Tahir, Thami Tsolekile, Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Head coach: Geoff Toyana.
A memorable 2012/13 season saw the Highveld Lions claim their first franchise trophies since 2006/07.
The Standard Bank Pro20 crown they won that season was their only triumph in franchise cricket, but that all changed as Geoff Toyana was an instant success as the new head coach and the honours list was doubled in length by the addition of the Momentum One-Day Cup (shared with the Cobras) and the RamSlam T20 Challenge.
They were also strong contenders in the Sunfoil Series, finishing one win behind the Cobras, and they reached the final of the Champions League T20.
According to Toyana, the secret of the Lions’ success was consistency and their ability to bounce back from occasional setbacks.
“We sat down at the start of September and made our plans and the biggest focus was consistency in all formats. We have shown that and it was a wonderful season.
“Another part of our planning was that if we played badly on a certain day, then we would take it on the chin and move on. We were able to lose and bounce back,” Toyana said.
To be fair though, the Lions had few bad days.
To start the season with a 10-wicket defeat at the hands of the Cobras was obviously not ideal, but they were able to take some solace from Quinton de Kock’s phenomenal 194 in defeat and they were able to enter the Champions League T20 in confident mood after Chris Morris’s magnificent eight for 44 had bowled them to victory over the Dolphins.
The Lions made it all the way to the final of the CLT20, losing just twice in six matches and on both occasions that was to the powerful Sydney Sixers side.
The momentum was carried into the One-Day Cup in which the Lions played some magnificent cricket, winning their first four games and losing just twice overall. They began the campaign by registering the biggest ever margin of victory between two premier domestic sides as Stephen Cook’s century and Hardus Viljoen’s superb six for 19 demolished the Titans by 269 runs.
Cook scored another century and two half-centuries on his way to finishing as the second-highest run-scorer in the competition, while Neil McKenzie also played some vital innings.
The bowling of Viljoen was the stand-out feature of the campaign, however, as the new signing from the Titans roared to 20 wickets at an average of just 13.40 and an economy rate of 4.63.
Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso was even more economical and with the firepower of Chris Morris backing up Viljoen and the leg-spin wizardry of Imran Tahir also available, it was obvious the Lions had the best balanced, most potent attack in the country.
The washing out of the final and the replay was a major disappointment and the Lions were then subjected to the horrors of being bowled out for 59 by the Ayabulela Gqamane-inspired Warriors at the Wanderers as they returned to four-day action.
The Lions did not suffer another defeat, however, in the Sunfoil Series and the weather once again cruelly denied them when they had the Titans seven down in their follow-on innings when the match was washed out.
The Lions were once again fast out of the blocks in the RamSlam T20 Challenge, winning the first four games and the final was the ultimate recognition for the excellence of their bowlers as Phangiso, Sohail Tanvir, Viljoen, Morris and Tahir took two cheap wickets apiece to bowl the Titans out. De Kock scored 44 to take his tally for the competition to an extraordinary 524 runs.
Toyana created a relaxed environment in which the Lions were able to produce the goods and the players responded superbly to his backing.
McKenzie, the leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series, said the people skills of the first black African to coach a franchise were Toyana’s greatest strength.
“He’s a people-person, he’s well-liked and he got the guys to play for him. His man-management was excellent, he was honest and he gives responsibility to the players. It’s his personality rather than his technical knowledge, although he was a gutsy player at the highest level, that’s his biggest strength,” McKenzie said.
LIONS v COBRAS
Played at Senwes Park, Potchefstroom on 20, 21, 22, 23 September 2012
Toss: Cape Cobras
Result: Cape Cobras won by 10 wickets
Man of the Match: Andrew Puttick
Points: Highveld Lions 2.20 Cape Cobras 18.54
The unheralded spin duo of Piedt and Gray out-bowled an erratic and no-ball plagued Imran Tahir on a flat pitch as the Cobras began the four-day campaign in compelling fashion. Puttick thrived on three chances and dominated the final session of the first day as the Cobras racked up 322 for two. The Lions’ first innings, with Petersen unable to bat because he broke his left hand in dropping a chance from Puttick, folded meekly after a solid start had taken them to 125 for one. De Kock provided plenty of cheer in the second innings, making his maiden four-day half-century and going on to a dazzling record score for the Lions against the Cobras, stroking 24 fours and three sixes. But he was largely alone in his resistance as off-spinner Piedt kept chipping away with plenty of runs to play with.
LIONS v DOLPHINS
Played at BidVest Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on 27, 28, 29, 30 September 2012
Result: Highveld Lions won by 53 runs
Man of the Match: Chris Morris
Points: Highveld Lions 17.30 Dolphins 7.26
Morris made certain of victory on the final day with a record-breaking performance that gave him the best innings and match figures in Lions history. The Dolphins had begun the last day well in contention needing 92 to win with six wickets in hand, but Morris brought the same fiery aggression he had displayed on the third afternoon, when he took three wickets in 10 balls.
An assertive Tsolekile had ushered the tail well in rescuing the Lions first innings, but Khan and Vandiar batted confidently in a 121-run second-wicket stand before the Dolphins fell away.
Cook’s second-innings defiance gave the Lions a defendable target, made safe by Morris’s superb bowling.
LIONS v WARRIORS
Played at BidVest Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on 20, 21, 22 December 2012
Toss: Highveld Lions
Result: Warriors won by 10 wickets
Man of the Match: Ayabulela Gqamane
Points: Highveld Lions 8.30 Warriors 16.70
With the elements in his favour, Warriors four-day debutant Aya Gqamane ripped through the Lions second innings as he condemned them to their lowest ever total. Warriors openers Jacobs and Price then chased down the target with some bravado to seal victory with a day-and-a-half remaining.
The defiance of Cook, McKenzie and Tsolekile had ensured a valuable first-innings lead of 80 for the Lions in testing batting conditions, before their farcical second-innings collapse.
LIONS v KNIGHTS
Played at Senwes Park, Potchefstroom on 27, 28, 29, 30 December 2012
Man of the Match: Temba Bavuma
Points: Highveld Lions 8.96 Knights 7.86
De Kock’s aggressive innings on the first morning and Kruger’s fine bowling on the second day put the Lions in control. Bavuma’s marvellous century and some inspired late hitting by Tahir then left the Knights with a daunting target of 369 in 102 overs. The visitors were in some trouble after medium-pacer Pelser’s double strike left them on 65 for three. But Erlank and Pienaar could not be separated in the second session of the final day and the two captains shook hands for the draw in the changerooms in the tea break.
LIONS v TITANS
Played at BidVest Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on 17, 18, 19, 20 January 2013
Man of the Match: Zander de Bruyn
Points: Highveld Lions 8.06 Titans 4.00
Newcomer Hendricks and Bavuma received enough bad balls on the first morning, after the Lions were sent in under cloudy skies, to race the hosts to 124 for one at lunch. De Bruyn then batted well with the lower-order to get the Lions to a solid first-innings score.
Rain and bad light meant only two deliveries could be bowled on the second day, but the Titans lost wickets in groups on the third day and were forced to bat again on the final day.
Morris and Viljoen then kept consistent pressure on the Titans and shared six wickets, before heavy rain, followed by bad light, kept the players off the field from before tea.