Johannesburg – REM’s Bad Day fought to make itself heard against the roar of the storm that assaulted the second hosting of the Momentum One-Day Cup final on Saturday. This was a final of two bad days, of rain and wind, of scoreboards and floodlights that tripped and plunged the stadium into darkness.
It was a final that ended in abandonment and a shared trophy, with the Lions walking to the middle of the field to congratulate the ground staff, and bid farewell to groundsman Philemon Ndlovu, who was retiring. They also posed for a photograph to celebrate their first trophy in six seasons, albeit one they will have to share with the Cobras for the season. A trophy and R517 500 in prize money is nothing to be laughed at after two frustrating days. The Lions will celebrate it nevertheless. It is the first trophy won under new coach Geoffrey Toyana, the first top-level domestic trophy won (or shared) by a black African coach. That is something to celebrate as Cricket South Africa strives to show that it is serious about transformation.
There is much to admire about how the Gauteng Cricket Board have entrusted Toyana with guiding and shaping the Lions back into a side that is once again pushing for top honours. There is much to be pleased about how Aaron Phangiso has developed into a player good enough to be called up to the national team, where he will be joined by Chris Morris and Quinton de Kock. And this despite the silliness from their administrators who cannot agree on how to run the union.
It was the ground staff who worked the hardest here on Friday and on Saturday. On Friday night the match lasted all of 16.2 overs before it was ended just as Imran Tahir had begun to bowl. The covers were on, then they were off. Then the ground needed mopping by the super soppers, and just as Chris Scott, Ndlovu et al had managed another little bit of magic, the heavens opened again. But they did not stop trying. They wanted the Lions to play. Gerhardus Viljoen had been on fire on Friday night, mixing up some wides with some unplayable deliveries.
Pumelela Matshikwe was superb from the Golf Course end with an accurate, miserly spell that built the pressure for Viljoen to strike. Viljoen was another who was considered a possibility for Faf du Plessis’s T20 squad. Saturday was as equally frustrating for the spectators and the players. Scott had put “bully” into the many cracks in the pitch, watered them slightly and then rolled it to make the pitch fit for play. He does good work, does Scott, but the Cobras were on their game on Saturday, with Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt finding their groove, and, in the case of Steyn, the neck and arm of Zander de Bruyn. Philander was not best pleased with how the match ended up, tweeting afterwards: “Can’t exactly say its been the greatest final hosted by the #Lions. Anyway rain is the winner. #welldone #sharethethrophy”.
Around mid-afternoon on Saturday, messages began to filter through that rain was on the way from the south west of Johannesburg. The umpires took the teams off for light, but Scott and Ndlovu rushed the covers on, just in time as the storm hit the stadium. When it ended, the ground staff were repeating their routine from the night before, drying and uncovering. Players mingled on the pitch with umpires, Neil McKenzie telling stories to the umpires, Morris and Cook, making them laugh. Cassim Docrat, the GCB CEO, paced up and down the run-up area to test it for damp. But time caught up on them and Justin Ontong, the captain of the Cobras, shook hands with the umpires as they decided enough was enough.
Gulam Bodi walked to the middle and lifted two stumps as souvenirs. The Lions had not won, but they did have part-share of a trophy and that was reason enough to celebrate after two bad days. – Sunday Independent