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Johannesburg – Geoffrey Toyana's Highveld Lions are braced for a stern test against the Nashau Titans in Friday's One-Day Cup derby at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.
“We expect them to come hard at us, especially after we beat them in the first round,” Toyana said of his side's massive, 269-run annihilation of the Titans three weeks ago.
Top of the standings and with several players in fine fettle, the Highveld Lions will enter the Jukskei derby as favourites, a tag that sits comfortably with new coach Toyana.
“We are looking to kick on and build some momentum in this competition. I think the reason that we have done well this season is that we prepared well and were ready for all the challenges that we would meet,” Toyana said.
“We have also made a pledge as a team that we will play for each other, and we want to be competitive in every tournament going.”
Several youngsters had emerged from the pack with encouraging displays.
Hardus Viljoen has impressed with his pace upfront, while the consistent performances of spinner Aaron Phangiso has given the side good control in the middle overs.
At the top of the order, captain Stephen Cook has been in imperious form, rattling up 335 runs in just five visits to the crease.
“It's always pleasing to have several guys putting their hands up, and we have a good blend of youth and experience going,” Toyana said.
“The young guys have taken on the responsibility that they have been given nicely, which is very encouraging.”
The Titans had recovered from their terrible start to the competition, and were sitting second on the log behind the Lions, having played a game less.
“Fair play to the Lions, they got it right that night, but we have scrapped well since then and we are excited for the derby,” Titans' minder Matthew Maynard said.
“What's encouraging for me is that we have had five career-best performances this season, which means that the guys are improving and learning all the time.”
Maynard said that while those individual milestones were exciting, he was still waiting for his batsmen especially to fire as a unit.
“We've not had a complete innings yet. Either the top order has started well, or the middle-order has done well. Hopefully we get it together soon, because there have been some good performances,” Maynard said.
“We won't be going for revenge. Derbies always have an edge about them anyway, and we will just be looking to give it our best shot.
“If the bizhub Highveld Lions are better than us on the night, then congratulations to them.”
Play at the Wanderers Stadium starts at 3pm on Friday. – Sapa