Lions batsmen need to start scoring runs
TOP-ORDER collapses is an alarming habit the Highveld Lions have developed this season, leaving their coach at his wits’ end and jeopardising their chances of seriously challenging for the Sunfoil Series title.
The Lions lie fifth on a log that became even more tightly squeezed following their defeat to the Cape Cobras in Oudtshoorn last week.
With the other two matches in last week’s round affected by rain – in the case of the match in Bloemfontein between the Titans and the Knights no play was possible at all – the Cobras’ first win this season saw them put themselves back in the mix in a tournament where the Titans in first place are separated from the Lions in fifth by 10.5 points.
However, Geoffrey Toyana, the Lions’ coach, is aware his team could be much better placed had they made better starts with the bat. In seven out of 12 innings in this season’s competition, the Lions have found themselves four wickets down with less than 70 runs on the scoreboard.
“It’s a youngish top six but we’ve got to learn and we’ve got to turn it around,” said Toyana. “We’ve had some big discussions about what we need to do, and hopefully that has gotten through to the guys.”
Toyana has largely showed faith in the top order. The Lions knew that Stephen Cook would be away for large parts of the season with the national team, but the signing in the off-season of Reeza Hendricks was supposed to alleviate Cook’s absence. However, injury and when he’s been available, poor form, means the Lions haven’t seen the best of Hendricks, who is averaging 17 after 10 innings with a highest score of 49.
“It feels like Nicky van den Bergh and Dwaine Pretorius have saved us in every game,” Toyana said. Toyana must be grateful that Van den Bergh, who gave up the wicket-keeping gloves to play as a frontline batsman so that Mangaliso Mosehle could be accommodated, has taken to his new role so well. The 27-year-old Van den Bergh is the Lions’ third highest run-scorer – behind Pretorius and Lassie van der Dussen – with an aggregate of 342 runs.
This week’s “Jukskei Derby” provides an opportune time for the Lions’ top order to repay the faith Toyana has shown in them. The Titans may be top of the log and T20 champions, but they haven’t had a proper game since that T20 final on December 16 and some rustiness and a lack of rhythm would be understandable.
“That first session will be important, if we can throw the first punch that could set us up,” said Toyana.
While Willowmoore Park, which will host the match from this morning, is not at the top of anyone’s list of favourite grounds in South Africa – quite the opposite in fact – Toyana has some good memories of the place from his time as an Easterns player. “I played there for 20 years, I know it well.”
With Wiaan Mulder away with the national under-19 side, the Lions have called Nono Pongolo into the squad, while Devon Conway could start to help alleviate some of the top order’s troubles.
VKB Knights vs HollywoodBets Dolphins, Kimberley; Multiply Titans vs Bizhub Highveld Lions, Benoni; Warriors vs BuildNat Cape Cobras, East London.