Eddie Leie hopes to win a contract with the Lions by impressing for the Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Remember Eddie Leie?

All arms and legs, with an animated action and boisterous celebrations that rivalled anything produced by Imran Tahir.

Leie was the Man of the Match in the first of his two appearances for the Proteas three years ago. So, where’s he been all this time since?

In short, Bloemfontein. Leie signed with the Knights franchise after the 2016/17 season, but his career there has been on the decline.

And this season, he’s not featured at all for the franchise, instead toiling away in the semi-professional ranks with Free State.

This season has been far from fruitful for the 32-year-old leg-spinner. He’s picked up just three wickets in five matches – spread across three different formats.

Cricket South Africa have sought to extol the virtues of their Mzansi Super League providing opportunities for youngsters, but Leie might also show that it is a tournament that provides scope for redemption.

When the Jozi Stars picked him in the seventh round of the player draft last month, many were taken by surprise. Leie sees it as a big opportunity to prove a point and maybe get a job back with his previous employers.

“I love it here at the Wanderers. Hopefully if I do well, they offer me a contract again,” Leie chirped with Lions chief executive Greg Fredericks sitting in close proximity.

“The Joburg crowd appreciates it when you do well for the team. I love home, it just reminded me of the energies that I had before I left this place. I’m ready to kick it up for the Jozi Stars,” said Leie.

With the Knights no longer utilising him, Leie has bowled over after over in the nets, 120 overs a week by his last count. “But bowling at a cone in the net and bowling in the middle is different.”

That much became apparent to Leie on Tuesday night when the Stars played a warm-up game against provincial neighbours the Tshwane Spartans at the Wanderers, and he bore the brunt of a stunning assault from AB de Villiers.

“Look, I’ve got him out a couple of times before, but that was his night (on Tuesday).  AB hit me for 6 over 45 (backward square leg) – nobody’s hit me over there in my life, that guy’s just a different beast.”

Luckily for Leie, there is only one AB, and in terms of other big-hitters in the tournament, Leie will have Chris Gayle on his side when the Stars face the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants at the Wanderers on Saturday evening.

Leie’s happy with his own bowling too, despite De Villiers’ assault on him on Tuesday.

“I’ve got my googly back, and my leg-spinner is coming out nicely. Just generally, the ball is coming out nicely, man.

“I like our team, it’s well balanced. We can bat down to number 7 and at 8. Simon Harmer is also able to hit the ball big. I like our chances,” said Leie.

With the number of fast bowlers available to the Stars – Beuran Hendricks, Duanne Olivier and when he returns from Proteas duty, Kagiso Rabada in their ranks – Leie may find himself in competition for a single spinner’s berth with Harmer, one of two Kolpak signings in the Jozi squad.

“Whoever gets a chance, gets a chance, but T20 is my forte. If Simon plays, I’ll be supporting him, and I’m sure it will be the same if I play and he doesn’t.”

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