Lions bats­men need to start scor­ing runs

The Star Late Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

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.

Fix­tures

VKB Knights vs Hol­ly­woodBets Dol­phins, Kim­ber­ley; Mul­ti­ply Ti­tans vs Bizhub Highveld Lions, Benoni; War­riors vs BuildNat Cape Co­bras, East Lon­don.

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