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Ken Borland


T20 Challenge starts proceedings in a season that’s all about avoiding relegation in new dispensation

Posted on January 03, 2023 by Ken

All eight Division One teams have arrived in Potchefstroom for the start of their season, with the CSA T20 Challenge kicking off proceedings in a season that will be all about avoiding relegation for those sides that struggled in the first campaign under the new dispensation of province-based teams in two divisions.

The Central Gauteng Lions fared poorly in the T20 tournament last season, finishing second-last. But their triumph in the One-Day Cup and their third-place finish in a Four-Day Series they led for most of the time, means they should not be in danger of relegation. Certainly not with the quality of players they have brought to Potchefstroom.

For coach Wandile Gwavu, it is all about playing with freedom.

“We were definitely not happy with last season’s T20, especially the way we batted. Yes, conditions were challenging, but the brand of cricket we want to play means we must play freely.

“But we never got ourselves into position to do that. We also don’t have enough depth in terms of boundary-hitters, we don’t have enough power batsmen.

“And spin bowlers, we need guys who can bowl in the middle overs and take wickets. In terms of the death, we have some of the best bowlers in the country.

“But if you look at our performances, they were definitely not where they were supposed to be. We have some really good T20 players, but not getting good starts means there is real pressure on the middle-order,” Gwavu said.

The availability of Ryan Rickelton and the acquisition of aggressive opener Cameron Delport should sort out the starts, while the Lions have an exciting middle-order combination of Mitchell van Buuren and Evan Jones, whose growing reputation as a big-hitter – and he can bowl a bit – was shown by the bidding war at the SA20 Auction which saw the Paarl Royals purchase the 26-year-old for R1.7 million.

The bowling revolves around quality seamers in Sisanda Magala, Wiaan Mulder, Malusi Siboto, Codi Yusuf and Lutho Sipamla.

Gwavu said he hopes the pitches in Potchefstroom provide the pace for both them and batsmen to thrive.

“People want to watch good cricket and I don’t think T20 should be played on spinning pitches. The past two seasons have been very challenging for that, and we’ve had a lot of growth in learning how to bat on those wickets.

“But we played some warm-up games in Potch and if the conditions are the same then I think it will be very exciting cricket. There was also no better prep than going to Windhoek and winning that competition.

“Bowlers and batsmen trying to hit you is the best preparation you can get and we took a lot out of that,” Gwavu said.

The KZN Dolphins and the Northerns Titans get the tournament underway on Monday at 2.30pm, followed by the Lions taking on the hosts, North-West, at 6pm.

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