JOHANNESBURG - A nine wicket win in his first match in charge - this captaincy thing is easy right? “No, no,” laughs Highveld Lions skipper, Temba Bavuma. “But I’m warming up to it. I’m used to chilling at point, worrying about myself, now there were these 10 other guys to think about too, but I enjoyed it.”
Of course he did, who wouldn’t when your team plays the way the Lions did in defeating the Warriors at St George’s Park this week? “A lot of things we spoke about we executed; land the first punch, be positive and play aggressively. Except for some of our bowling in their first innings, that’s what we achieved for the rest of that game.”
It’s just the first win but it’s a significant one for the Lions. Off the back of a dreary season, which saw the franchise’s powers that be end Geoffrey Toyana’s tenure as coach and install Enoch Nkwe in his place and Bavuma taking over the captaincy reigns from Stephen Cook, it was crucial they started the new era on a positive note.
Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso had got them into the match, picking up four wickets after the Warriors had started solidly. In reply to the home team’s 345, the Lions, hurtling along at a run rate comfortably above four an over, scored 470/6 declared with Cook’s 188 the foundation of that effort. “He’s a stalwart for us, and just keeps churning out big performances. He is still massively motivated to contribute to the team,” said Bavuma.
Cook shared a stand of 199 for the fifth wicket with Nicky van den Bergh (113), whose contribution will hopefully provide a much-needed confidence boost for the rest of the season, while Rassie van der Dussen’s quick-fire 50 – off 48 balls – helped the Lions pick up a hefty 6.54 batting bonus points.
Bavuma’s declaration late on the third day, with a lead of 125, was another show of aggression and it paid dividends immediately as his bowlers picked up three wickets before stumps. “We’d batted quickly enough and that gave us the time to have a go at them and I was thinking if we could get three wickets that evening, we’d expose their inexperienced middle order,” said the Lions captain.
Malusi Siboto delivered an immediate return on the investment the Lions made in picking him up from the Titans, by returning figures of 5/54 as the Warriors were bowled out for 182, leaving the Lions just 59 runs to win.
“Malusi’s a very experienced bowler, but we felt that he still has a lot more to offer. He is known as someone that can hold up an end, but we feel we can get more from him through him being more aggressive,” said Bavuma. “And in the first innings he went for a few more runs than he wants to, but in the second innings we saw him get that five-for…we just see the challenge we have set for him as a way for him to expand his game.”
It was a better than ideal start for the Lions, but along with the confidence gained, there will, even at this early stage of the season, be expectations from the players to show that PE wasn’t a flash in the pan.
They will face an immediate examination in their next match, against the Cape Cobras that starts at the Wanderers on Monday. The Cobras are fresh off good start to their season as well, following a four wicket win at home against the Knights.