Domestic cricket’s sexiest competition – the Ram Slam T20 – comes to the Wanderers for the first time tonight with a battle between the two sides that fought it out in last season’s domestic T20 final.
While it was the Nashua Titans who claimed the title last summer, this season has seen vastly differing degrees of success for the bizhub Highveld Lions and their provincial neighbours. The Titans have had a mostly painful season. They suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the semifinals of the Champions League T20 at their home ground in October, were beaten in the play-off match in the Momentum 1-Day Cup in December and then finished winless in defence of their four-day crown in the Sunfoil Series.
By comparison the Lions have had an outstanding season, even though their only reward is a shared trophy from the Momentum Cup. They were surprise runners-up in the Champions League and also finished second in the Sunfoil Series. The confidence in the Lions camp is thus understandable and was even further enhanced by their amazing nine-wicket victory in Potchefstroom against the Cape Cobras last Sunday.
They successfully chased 184 thanks to a century by Quinton de Kock. However, as scintillating as that chase was, it didn’t mask their problems with the ball with the concession of five wides a concern, while the death bowling – they went for 49 runs in the final four overs – was poor.
The bowling unit met yesterday to discuss improvements and an attack containing Chris Morris, Hardus Viljoen and Sohail Tanvir will bank on being better with the ball. The Lions’ two best bowlers in Potchefstroom were spinners Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir, though whether they operate as a pair tonight will be interesting especially if the Wanderers pitch is as quick and bouncy as for the recent Test match.
Cliffe Deacon got through a lengthy spell yesterday at practice, and with his power-hitting is a useful lower order addition with the bat.
The Titans have a more familiar look to their squad than the inexperienced bunch which floated around making that pathetic attempt at a title defence in the Sunfoil Series.
Old stagers like Albie Morkel, Jacques Rudolph and Martin van Jaarsveld all provide much-needed experience and probably even up the odds for what should be an intriguing match.
“We’d obviously like to strike up front, make an impression and then keep them under pressure from there,” said the Lions’ captain, Jean Symes. He was at the helm for the first time in Potchefstroom, describing it as an honour to lead out a team featuring one of his heroes, Neil McKenzie.
“Being a Joburg boy it’s some thing I’ve always wanted,” Symes remarked. While he now carries the leadership reigns, Symes doesn’t want the captaincy to change who he is as a player or person. “I’ll still be the same, it’s what got me here in the first place, so I still have to be myself. Maybe not joke around as much, but there must still be a good sense of humour in the team.”
The match starts at 6pm.
Bizhub Highveld Lions (from): Gulam Bodi, Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Jean Symes (capt), Dwaine Pretorious, Chris Morris, Hardus Viljoen, Sohail Tanvir, Aaron Phangiso, Cliffe Deacon, Aaron Phangiso.
Nashua Titans (from): Henry Davids (Capt), Jacques Rudolph, Martin van Jaarsveld, Heino Kuhn, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe, David Wiese, CJ de Villiers, Marchant de Lange, Eden Links, Ethy Mbhalati, Mangaliso Mosehle. - The Star