JOHANNESBURG – Another tournament, another format, but the same old problems resurfaced for the Lions in their opening Momentum One-Day Cup defeat here on Wednesday as their batting once more left a lot to be desired.
It was a catastrophic performance that ended with more than 10 overs left in the innings - a cricketing crime in the limited overs format.
On the one hand the Warriors deserve credit; Sisanda Magala, bowled a neat, disciplined spell, finishing with figures of 3/28 in eight overs while Aya Gqamane produced enough good deliveries to pick up a couple of wickets. But the Lions’ batsmen will ask themselves some tough questions, as again they failed to contribute sufficiently on what was a very good limited overs pitch.
They are a top heavy outfit; skipper Stephen Cook, Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks and Omphile Ramela are all batsmen most comfortable at or near the top of the order.
To accommodate everyone, Ramela dropped to no.5 on Wednesday evening, a position he filled reasonably well, in making 31 off 37 balls, but like the rest of the batting unit, bar, Dwaine Pretorius, it was a case of getting a start, but not carrying through to make a score of substance.
Cook made 41, before being run out, his bat getting stuck in one of the adjacent pitches while Van der Dussen, never really settled, and then got a good nut from Gqamane that seamed off the surface and found his outside edge after he’d scored 22.
Amidst the mediocrity around him, Pretorius played an outstanding innings, eventually left high and dry on 77 not out (62b, 7x4, 3x6) when the Lions innings ended in the 40th over.
Pretorius’s form took a turn for the worse during the RamSlam, where he struggled with both bat and more alarmingly ball. It was felt that he was putting too much pressure on himself, trying to stay in touch in the race amongst the country’s seam bowling all-rounders, all keen to catch the selectors’ attention as thoughts start turning to next year’s World Cup.
Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana has spoken to Pretorius telling him to relax and not look beyond the Lions, and on Wednesday’s evidence that advice has been heeded.
Pretorius struck the ball cleanly throughout his innings, driving elegantly and when the Warriors bowlers missed their lengths he deposited the ball amongst the vacant seats around the stadium.
Sadly for Pretorius and the Lions, there was no help from anyone and even at a stage where if one of the Bjorn Fortuin or Hardus Viljoen had stayed with him, they could have gotten close to 300, they gave their wickets away with some poor shotmaking.
The Warriors’ pursuit of that less than modest target started badly when teenager Matthew Breetzke, making his franchise debut, was out to Pretorius’ first ball attempting an ambitious lofted cut, but only depositing the ball into Viljoen’s hands on the third man boundary.
Viljoen raised the home team’s hopes when he picked up three wickets in four overs - one thanks to another spectacular one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle - reducing the visitors to 79/4 in the 16th over.
But skipper Jon-Jon Smuts and Christiaan Jonker, shared an unbeaten 131-run partnership for the fifth wicket to ensure the Warriors, semi-finalists in the RamSlam, got their 50-over campaign going on the right note.
Smuts’s unbeaten 70 included a number of typically muscular blows coming off 70 balls with seven fours and two sixes, while Jonker finished not out 55 off 60 balls with three fours and two sixes.
Results from the Wanderers:
Bizhub Highveld Lions 209
Warriors won by six wickets