JOHANNESBURG – Highveld Lions coach Enoch Nkwe may not be a supporter of the phrase “peaking at the right time”, but he won’t be complaining if his side’s recent run of good form leads to them annexing their second trophy this season.
The Lions have won all of their last three games in the CSA T20 Challenge – away against the Cape Cobras and defending champions the Titans, to ensure they topped the table, and then emerged comfortable victors in the home semi-final against the Dolphins.
That ensured they secured the home final, in which they will face the Warriors at the Wanderers on Sunday (2.30pm start).
“I’m not a believer in peaking at the right time; I believe a great team, they need to start well and finish well,” said Nkwe.
“But that is a work in progress (for the Lions). If we look at the last three games, I’m very happy with how well we’ve performed in all three departments (batting, bowling and fielding).
“Hopefully we can build on that momentum in the final.”
Indeed, it has been a bugbear for Nkwe that his side have been so inconsistent, particularly at the start of the competition. When one area of the game has gone well, another has let them down.
He thought his team had shaken off that inconsistency midway through the round-robin phase of the competition when they beat the Titans at home by 19 runs. But rain meant their next two matches were abandoned, and that seemed to upset their rhythm.
After not playing for a week, it was their opponents in today’s final who took advantage, thumping the Lions by nine wickets at the Wanderers.
It’s been just 10 days since that match was played, so it remains fresh in the memory.
But Nkwe explained it had also been used as fuel by the players to drive them to their best performances in the competition in its final week.
“We had to be honest with ourselves after that loss against the Warriors. They played well, their two openers (Gihahn Cloete and Matthew Breetzke) really took it to us, but we didn’t execute our skills the way we wanted to.
“On the batting front, we were very poor in terms of assessing conditions. But look, the batsmen took responsibility, learned from it, and we’ve played really nicely in the last three games.”
Still, that result means there’ll be no sense of complacency in the Lions camp today.
“The Warriors have played a lot of finals and semi-finals in the last few years, so they have that thing about them that is able to get them into this position.”
Of course, they haven’t always been successful. On a handful of occasions in recent seasons, it’s been the Titans who’ve put an end to the men from the Eastern Cape’s challenge.
“We know how dangerous they are when they play on the highveld, and they have the belief that they can win here,” added Nkwe.
MATCH DAY MOOD 🤩— Lions Cricket (@LionsCricketSA) May 5, 2019
The bizhub Highveld Lions are in action for the last time this season as we host @WarriorsCrickEC in the #CSAT20Challenge FINAL
🏟️@BullringZA this afternoon
🕝5 May, 14:30 CAT
Support the #LionsCharge 🦁,tickets are available at @TicketProSA & @BullringZA pic.twitter.com/42ArHD0cME
After concerns about his fitness, it appears that young fast bowler Lutho Sipamla will start for the visitors today.
He injured his thigh taking a catch in their semi-final win against the Cobras, but it is understood it was only a slight strain.
The Lions have picked the same squad as the one they had for the semi-final, and will name the starting XI once they’ve done a final inspection of the pitch.
In the five T20 matches between these two franchises @LionsCricketSA have not recorded a single win! There's been one "no result" and four wins for the @WarriorsCrickEC #omens #CSAT20ChallengeFinal #LIONvWAR— The Warriors (@WarriorsCrickEC) May 5, 2019