JOHANNESBURG – Just how much momentum did the Highveld Lions gain from Wednesday night’s methodically crafted win over the Titans in Potchefstroom?
The answer to that question is probably “some”. They’d have gained a lot more had they been able to call on the services of their two best batsmen so far in the Momentum One-Day Cup - Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen - for the remainder of the tournament.
However that duo, along with Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder, will be joining the Proteas today to start preparations for the five-match one-day series against Sri Lanka that begins at the Wanderers on Sunday. The rest of the Lions head to East London to face the table-topping Warriors.
It means a test of the Lions’ depth as they seek to build on that wonderful eight-wicket win in Potch, achieved by chasing down 310 with three overs to spare.
It also places the spotlight firmly on captain Temba Bavuma, whose brilliantly constructed, unbeaten 117, along with Hendricks’ well-made 95, were the primary acts in the Lions’ chase. Van der Dussen weighed in with an unbeaten 46 to help his skipper finish off the Titans.
But it is Bavuma who will now have to bear a slightly heavier load as the Lions head for the second half of the league phase of the tournament and make a push for a semi-final spot. He stands a class apart from the other batsmen in that team and will be sufficiently motivated to not just win another trophy for the Lions this season, but to continue to show those who doubt his white ball ability that he indeed can adapt and thrive in the limited overs formats.
Lions coach Enoch Nkwe said that as far as batting support goes, he’d rely on a mix of experienced players, who were central to the Lions’ success in the Four-Day Challenge, and some exciting youth to fill the holes left by the Proteas departees.
The inclusion of Nicky van den Bergh in the last two matches offers a pointer in that regard, while younger players like Ryan Rickleton, who missed the Potch game, Wihan Lubbe and Delano Potgieter could come into the mix as well.
Nono Pongolo is the all-rounder candidate, while the Lions will also be hoping that Beuran Hendricks has recovered from his groin strain that has kept him sidelined since the last T20 International against Pakistan.
Today’s match in East London will be the Warriors' first home game in this season’s Momentum Cup, making their results so far - three wins out of four matches - all the more commendable. Gihahn Cloete is their leading run-scorer with an aggregate of 209, but the Warriors have shared the load with the bat, with Matthew Breetzke, Sinethemba Queshile and even Andrew Birch make contributions at crucial times.
It’s with the ball where the Warriors have stood above the rest, however; whether defending 195 in Kimberley against the Knights or restricting the Dolphins to less than 250 at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
Their depth in that department will be tested when Anrich Nortje joins the Proteas.@shockerhess