Cook’s back, Bavuma set to regain mojo
THE Dolphins host the Lions in Pietermaritzburg this morning, in the eighth round of a heated Sunfoil Series campaign. The men from Durban top the standings, with just three rounds to go, while the Lions are languishing at the wrong end of the table, by their usual standards. This week’s contest, then, is an opportunity to get back in the mix.
The Lions are coming off a hard-fought derby draw against the Titans last week, and coach Geoffrey Toyana is keen to see his troops kick on from that.
“There were a lot of positives in Benoni,” Toyana said. “We need to carry on that momentum in Maritzburg in what is a big game. With the competition so tight, it’s important for us to do well.”
The Lions have lost some men to national duty, but they also get back a few big players from the Proteas.
Aaron Phangiso, who captained them during the T20 Challenge, is on national T20 duty, as well as wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle.
Hardus Viljoen, the bustling opening bowler who started the season with relish, is out with a groin strain, and the Lions do have a handy contingency plan.
Cape Cobras’ left-armer Beuran Hendricks is a loan signing, and is expected to feature in Maritzburg. Significantly, the Lions also regain the services of their captain and opening bat, Stephen Cook. The veteran has been in decent touch in the Test arena, and Toyana will lean heavily on him to lead from the front against the Dolphins.
The Lions also have the struggling Temba Bavuma in their ranks, and the Dolphins will be wary of the middle-order star rediscovering his touch in Maritzburg, of all places. Bavuma has had a lean patch in national colours, and may jump at the opportunity to harvest some runs and confidence away from the relentless introspection of the national team.
For the Dolphins, things couldn’t be better placed. Grant Morgan has started getting men off the treatment table, and back on the park. But he is wary of them getting ahead of themselves.
“Everything can change very quickly,” Morgan warned. “I mean, we could drop from first to fifth, so we are not looking at it like that. We are looking at doing the small things well, and hopefully that will help us achieve the desired result.”
Andile Phehlukwayo, who was also injured, has gone to the national T20 side, but he does have a handy replacement.
Keshav Maharaj, who has had a dream summer in national colours, is back to lend his expertise with bat and ball. On a Maritzburg wicket that usually turns as the game wears on, Maharaj should be a factor in the third or fourth innings.
The Dolphins, perched atop the standings, know that a win will go a long way towards paving a path to the title.
“We don’t want to be afraid of losing, and we don’t want to think of the things that can go wrong. But we want to think of what we can do right,” Morgan added.
“We are playing well at the moment, and can build on that this weekend.”
The match in Maritzburg starts at 9am from today.