JOHANNESBURG – While the Highveld Lions will regain the leadership and experience of Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen this week, the loss due to national team call-ups for Reeza Hendricks and Dwaine Pretorius will still make selection difficult.
Hendricks and Pretorius head to Australia tomorrow along with the Proteas for a One-Day series, which will overlap with a busy period in the schedule of the local Four-Day Series.
There will be three back-to-back rounds of matches coming up ahead of the competition taking a break for the much-hyped Mzansi Super League, making for an important few weeks for all involved.
The Lions were counting on losing Hendricks given the success he’s had with the Proteas since making his One-Day debut in Sri Lanka but the loss of Pretorius is a shock - for the player too - albeit a pleasant one.
“It’s not easy to find all-rounders, we may have to come up with a slightly different strategy,” said Lions head coach Enoch Nkwe ahead of today’s match against the Knights at the Wanderers.
It’s been two weeks since they last played, suffering a thumping defeat at the “Bullring’ against a vibrant Cape Cobras side, and quite which way the Lions will lean in terms of replacing Pretorius may well be determined by the look of the Wanderers pitch.
Van der Dussen, who was away with the Proteas for the T20 matches against Zimbabwe, and performed extremely well, and Bavuma who missed the Cobras defeat with a hamstring injury will strengthen the batting which failed so dismally on that first morning against the Cape side.
The bowling however lacked consistency and will be an area under the microscope this week. Beuran Hendricks picked up a five-fer against his former team, but the support from Migael Pretorius and Malusi Siboto wasn’t up to standard.
The Knights, as Nkwe pointed out, may well play the next few weeks with a chip on their shoulder because of the absence from their region of a side in the Mzansi Super League. The controversy surrounding that decision may spur on Nicky Boje and his team to prove a point.
They escaped with a narrow five-wicket win against the Dolphins in Kimberley two weeks ago thanks to some good bowling by Duanne Olivier, who finished with match figures of 8/85, and a solid all-round performance from the veteran Ryan McLaren who picked up four wickets and scored 92 runs in the match.
Meanwhile up the M1, the Titans take on the Cape Cobras in what is arguably the match of the season thus far. There was some bitter acrimony between the two teams last summer, and certainly in the case of the Cobras they feel there is a point to be proved against the Titans.
Having wiped the floor with the Lions two weeks ago, confidence is sky-high in the Cobras camp, with a handful of fine young batsmen firing them to the top of the log after the first two rounds.
As a player and as a coach Mark Boucher would not be expecting a sympathetic ear, but he’ll want some understanding of the difficult situation his side finds itself in owing to the plethora of national call-ups that will test the Titans’ depth. A total of nine Titans players find themselves in the 15-man Proteas squad.
Shaun von Berg will captain the Titans this week.