If the old sporting adage about learning more from your defeats than your victories holds true, then the bizhub Highveld Lions should thump the Sunfoil Dolphins in the Momentum 1-Day Cup in Durban this evening.
But sport is rarely that simple. Cricket never is and some of the underlying flaws which the Chevrolet Knights exposed in Potchefstroom last Friday will have been firmly on the Dolphins planning agenda this week.
The Lions were poor in Potchefstroom. Once Stephen Cook – the competition’s leading run-scorer – was dismissed they lacked the intensity required to keep the run-rate close to 5.5 an over and ended up with insufficient runs against the Knights, who won relatively comfortably by six wickets.
The Lions played badly in all departments, but what the Dolphins would have noted is the complacency that set in as a result of Cook’s excellent form. Because the stand-in skipper was making runs the rest merely had to play a support role, but on Friday when he was out early and Neil McKenzie needed to take charge he failed and as a result so did the Lions’ batting.
The Dolphins, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Kyle Abbott and Craig Alexander, have sufficient skill and pace with the new ball to put Cook under pressure. Get him early and that apparently soft underbelly will be exposed. Cook was quite right to say this week that one defeat shouldn’t worry the Lions precisely because they will learn from it. Quinton de Kock, McKenzie and Zander de Bruyn will now know that a lot of responsibility rests on their shoulders too.
And then there’s the bowling; fast and menacing throughout the tournament the Lions quicks were maybe beginning to believe their own hype. Hardus Viljoen, Chris Morris and Aaron Phangiso would have been brought down a notch by the Knights and that could prove beneficial. Morris and Viljoen, successful as they’ve been – with 19 wickets between them – have also been very ill-disciplined. In their last three matches, the Lions have given up 39 wides, 27 of those by their two frontline bowlers.
Despite their potency with the new ball those are appalling figures. Tonight’s match against the team in third place on the log will be followed on Friday by a match against the Titans, currently second – and those errors will be magnified further.
Victory tonight will show the Lions have learned from their errors. Defeat to a side who’ve won their last two matches will really be cause for some concern.
Today’s match starts at 3pm.