The presence of all four first-choice pace bowlers in the top five of the Sunfoil Series averages was obviously a key factor in the Highveld Lions clinching the four-day title with a match to spare, but Geoff Toyana also praised the batsmen and the back-up bowlers for their vital role in the franchise’s third trophy in three seasons.
Dwaine Pretorius (19 wickets @ 18.52), Chris Morris (27 @ 20.44), Kagiso Rabada (34 @ 21.67) and Hardus Viljoen (31 @ 22.22) proved the adage that bowlers win matches as they played key roles in the Lions’ six wins, but they could not have done it without the support provided by the batsmen.
Captain Stephen Cook was obviously the outstanding contributor in this regard with 889 runs at 68.38, including five centuries, but the contributions of Temba Bavuma (545 @ 77.85), Neil McKenzie (487 @ 48.70) and Thami Tsolekile (424 @ 42.40) were also immense.
Back-up bowlers like Sean Jamison, with 12 wickets in three games, Pumelela Matshikwe (7wkts) and Eddie Leie (13wkts) were also crucial in filling in when the top four weren’t around.
“That combination of Kagiso, Chris, Hardus and Dwaine was really special, but we were fortunate because our depth was very good. We beat the Cobras by an innings with only Dwaine playing out of those, so those other bowlers don’t get the headlines but they really came through for us.
“With the bat, Stephen scoring five centuries was really special, plus there was his experience and leadership, while Neil was also in the runs and Temba came back from the Test team and did the business for us,” Toyana said.
It is the first time the Lions have won the four-day title since 1999/2000, in the pre-franchise days when they played as Gauteng, and Toyana said that made the triumph extra special.
“It’s the trophy we’ve wanted all these years and I’m very happy for the squad because it was tough last season, when we finished last in all competitions. But the belief in the squad was there because we did not make many changes, it was just a change in attitude that did the trick,” Toyana said.