It’s a good thing Friday’s Momentum 1-Day Cup final is not being decided according to names on a piece on paper.
What chance would the bizhub Highveld Lions have against Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson and Justin Ontong?
The short answer is: none. But the final is being played on the hallowed turf that is the Wanderers Stadium, a venue at which the Lions players, obviously, are very accustomed.
That isn’t the overwhelming reason they are capable of causing an upset though.
The Lions have in Stephen Cook, Neil McKenzie, Thami Tsolekile, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso and skipper Alviro Petersen, players of outstanding quality who if they bring their best to the table can swing a match the Lions’ way.
A former coach at what was then the Gauteng Strikers, Shukri Conrad, is certainly not dismissive of the Lions’ chances despite the experience and talent available to the Cape Cobras.
“It would be easy to say, especially with three international bowlers and Justin Kemp, that the Cobras should get through comfortably, but the Lions know the Wanderers, and I think their best chance is if they chase, because they do that very well and if they are able to stop Steyn and Kleinveldt striking up front.”
Conrad was coach of Gauteng when they won the Standard Bank Cup in 2003/04, the last trophy before the advent of the franchise system.
Since then the Cobras have outstripped the Lions in terms of trophy success, claiming six titles to the Lions’ one.
Conrad believes the greater resources available to the Cape franchise have provided the foundation for the greater success they’ve had over a side that was once the dominant force in domestic cricket.
“With due respect to the Lions, the Cobras have had better players, more game breakers – a lot of which is down to the fact that they can draw their players from a wider ‘catchment’ area.
“If you look at the Lions, it’s still a case of the schools in the region, look at how many guys in that side are from KES (King Edward VII),” Conrad explains.
Friday’s match is the second final the Lions have played this season, something that surprises Conrad who felt the greater experience and playing resources available at the Cobras and Titans made them favourites for the competition before it started.
“But the Lions’ success both in reaching the final of the Champions League and the Momentum Cup says a lot for the value of team spirit.
“They know each other’s games very well, they know their limitations,” said Conrad who coached the Cobras to three trophies between 2005 and 2010.
“In addition, in a 50-over competition, the Lions have shown the value of having two good strike bowlers and a quality spinner who at the start of the competition served them extremely well.”
Then there are the two coaches – Paul Adams and Geoffrey Toyana – both ‘rookies’ who in their first season as fulltime coaches have led their side to a prestigious final, who Conrad feels share a lot in common.
“Geoff’s created a relaxed environment at the Lions.
“Under him the players are able to express themselves more. He’s a relaxed guy who makes the players feel a lot more important than the coach.
‘The same goes for Paul, who is also a very relaxed guy, but they both have a strong work ethic, and at the same time they give their players greater freedom to express themselves.”
Tickets for Friday’s final can be bought at the Wanderers ticket office or through website: ticketpros.co.za. Tickets cost R30 for Adults and R15 for under-18s.