at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Johannesburg – The Highveld Lions go into Thursday's match against the Knights at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on the back of an extraordinary 10-wicket loss to the Warriors at the weekend.
This reverse has seen the co-champions of the One-Day Cup slump to fifth place on the log with just one victory to their credit.
Batting first at the Wanderers Stadium in their previous encounter, the Lions compiled a first-innings total of 315, thanks mainly to captain Stephen Cook who scored 95.
They then bowled the visiting Warriors out for 235 by tea on the second-day, and looked on course to put their opponents to the sword.
However, a remarkable spell of bowling from the Warriors' paceman Ayabulela Gqamane, who finished with figures of seven for 24, saw the home side dismissed for a paltry 59 in their second- innings, and the Warriors knocked off the target of 145 with ease.
But despite the dismal second innings showing, Cook is choosing to stay positive and believes the collapse was simply one of those things.
“We played such good cricket in the first innings. To get an 80-run lead on that wicket was a great effort from the boys, but then we had a bad half-hour when we lost a few wickets on that second evening. And then the slide continued, and it was pretty freaky to be bowled out for 59 – I can't remember playing in any side that got bowled out for that,” Cook said.
“I think the guys have taken the defeat on the chin. They also realise that it's maybe an anomaly or a once off, and it doesn't necessarily mean that because you get bowled out once cheaply that you're not a good side. So I think the confidence is still there, and the nice thing is that we've got a game in a few days and it will be good to get back on the horse.”
The Knights, who lie third on the log, come into Thursday's game undefeated in the Series, although the tag may be a rather flattering one. Their first three games of the competition were abandoned, and they were only able to draw their fourth. However, the spell of stalemates was broken on Sunday as they registered a convincing eight-wicket win against the Dolphins, and coach Sarel Cilliers was pleased to get their campaign up and running.
“We've had a lot of games rained out, so it was great to have a full game for a change. The other thing was that it was a really hard-working game so I was quite satisfied with the effort that the guys put in. It was nice to come out on the right side of things, and I was very pleased with the way they bowled and then knocked off the runs at the end,” Cilliers said.
Like Cook, Cilliers also believes that the Lions' collapse against the Warriors was something of a rarity, and is placing little significance on their performance as he sizes up their opponents for Thursday's clash.
“Those things happen to any team. I recall a game against the Warriors a few years ago when we got bowled out for 28 from nowhere, so those kinds of things happen and we're not reading too much into that.”
Cook showed the Knights equal respect when asked about their credentials, although the Lions skipper is keen to get things back on track, and is also looking to avenge two losses, which they suffered at the hands of Thursday's opponents in the One-day Cup.
“The Knights are a well-balanced side. They bat all the way down as we saw with their tenth-wicket partnership of 100 in their last game. They've got some useful bowlers too, so they'll be a tough challenge in Potch. – Sapa