The Lions hammered the defending champions, the Nashua Cape Cobras, by an innings last weekend in Potchefstroom and they can now take control of the four-day competition if they beat the second-placed side, their neighbours the Unlimited Titans, at Willowmoore Park in Benoni from today. The Lions are currently 16.22 points ahead of the Titans with the competition heading into a midway break after this weekend’s full round of matches.
“We’ve played some good cricket but we’re not looking at the league positions, the competition only really starts taking shape after seven or eight games. We just want to keep doing our skills right and do what we need to do to get results, that’s how we like to play. We want to make sure we break the opposition game down slowly, not try to win on the second or third day, but take it to the last day after tea,” Lions coach Geoff Toyana told The Citizen.
The other matches this weekend see the Sunfoil Dolphins, smarting from their defeat in East London against the Warriors, travel to Kimberley to take on the Chevrolet Knights, while the Chevrolet Warriors host the Cobras in Port Elizabeth.
The Lions married patient batting up front, led by Stephen Cook’s marvellous century, with disciplined seam bowling and penetrative fourth-day spin from Dale Deeb to beat the Cobras. Paceman Sean Jamison announced his arrival in franchise cricket with eight wickets in the match, while Dwaine Pretorius claimed four first-innings wickets.
With Pumelela Matshikwe also bowling steadily, the Lions have successfully adapted to the loss of almost their entire attack – Eddie Leie, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Hardus Viljoen all being unavailable.
“The most pleasing thing was the way the guys who came in performed. I’m very happy with the depth here, because last season I wasn’t happy when they didn’t come to the party,” Toyana said.
Titans coach Rob Walter knows the importance of the clash.
“If we can get a win then we’ll be in a great position for the second half of the competition, but if the Lions win then they’ll open up a big space on the log at the halfway mark,” he said.
The Titans’ first priority is to absorb the loss of batsmen Dean Elgar (wrist injury), Theunis de Bruyn and Farhaan Behardien, as well as all-rounder David Wiese. Graeme van Buuren should play his first four-day game of the season, having regained form with a century this week against Holland, while Heino Kuhn and Henry Davids will also have key top-order roles.
The Knights are having an even tougher time in terms of losing batsmen, with Gihahn Cloete, Reeza Hendricks, Rudi Second and Rilee Rossouw all unavailable. Gerhardt Abrahams, Michael Erlank, Patrick Botha and Diego Rosier are their replacements against the Dolphins. But in Quinton Friend, Dillon du Preez, Malusi Siboto, Corne Dry and Werner Coetzee, coach Sarel Cilliers is able to field one of the better attacks around.
The Dolphins have lost Craig Alexander to a hamstring injury, with coach Lance Klusener calling up promising pacemen Mathew Pillans and Graham Hume.
The Warriors are the most settled of the franchises at the moment and they welcome back Simon Harmer for their match against the Cobras, who will be hoping the experience of the returning Justin Kemp can change their fortunes.