Knights out to stop rampant LionsComment on this story
Johannesburg – The Knights have had a difficult start to their One-day Cup campaign, losing their last two games to the Titans and most recently the Dolphins, just after winning their first match against the Warriors.
Their task does not get any easier as they prepare to travel to Potchefstroom to face the undefeated Highveld Lions, who have won all four games thus far.
While the men from Bloemfontein would have obviously preferred a far different start to their campaign, coach Sarel Cilliers remained philosophical.
“We need to focus on what we believe in and stick to the basics. It's a simple recipe really,” said Cilliers.
“All defeats hurt, the close ones the most, as they leave more questions because one mistake could have made the difference.
“The big defeats show us exactly where the problems are.”
Another problem for the Knights has been the captaincy, with talisman Morne van Wyk still struggling to recover from a shoulder injury.
They would face the Lions with their third captain in four games, with Dean Elgar having flown to Australia to join the Proteas, following JP Duminy's Achilles injury.
Apart from Van Wyk's absence, rising star Reeza Hendricks will also miss the match after getting injured against the Dolphins in Bloemfontein on Wednesday night.
The Knights have called up quick bowler Duanne Olivier and Aubrey Swanepoel, while Rilee Rossouw, Nicky Boje and Dillon du Preez have also shown good form.
The Lions meanwhile are full of confidence, with captain Stephen Cook leading the run charts with two centuries already this season.
He has been well supported by batting colleagues such as Neil McKenzie and bright talent Quinton de Kock.
The Lions bowling is no less potent, with leading wicket taker Hardus Viljoen, with 14 wickets, and the competition's most economical bowler Aaron Phangiso, at just over three an over, forming part of their attack.
Cook felt taking on the captaincy in the absence of Alviro Petersen, in Australia with the Proteas, had sharpened his batting.
“In a strange way, my batting has improved even though I am focusing more on the team,” Cook said.
“I did not play much of a role in the T20 squad, but I knew I had the ability to make an impact and kept training during the Champions League.”
Cook was not surprised by Viljoen's success with the ball.
“We knew what impact he could make, especially playing with two new balls. He is tall and can exploit any movement in the pitch.”
The Knights can take hope from history: in 17 previous encounters they have beaten the Lions 12 times.
Another good cricket wicket is expected for Friday afternoon's game at Potchefstroom. – Sapa