JOHANNESBURG - While accepting the strengths of the powerful Titans team that beat them in their opening T20 Challenge encounter in Centurion last Sunday, Highveld Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana also acknowledged that his side made a number of tactical errors and exhibited poor judgement which must be rectified as they push for a playoff spot.
The Lions face another Protea-laden team in the Cape Cobras at the Wanderers on Friday night, where they hope to apply the lessons learned in last Sunday’s thrashing by the Titans.
Once again the Lions batting let them down, with only Reeza Hendricks playing according to his game plan, said Toyana. The Lions were in early trouble at 18/3 at SuperSport Park, with Toyana bemoaning what he described as "soft" dismissals.
“When I say ‘fix the batting’ it’s about them understanding their roles and where the game is, not to be soft. I thought (Mangaliso Mosehle’s) dismissal was soft and the defence that ‘it’s the way he plays,’ is not something I am going to accept. It’s key to understand where the game is at, and play accordingly,” said Toyana.
The Cobras have a strong bowling attack led by Vernon Philander and featuring internationals; Dane Paterson, Rory Kleinveldt and possibly Wayne Parnell, who is returning from a groin injury. If there are still any lingering doubts in that Lions batting line-up, the Cobras’ attack will ruthlessly exploit them.
For now Toyana is resolutely sticking by his young players. On Thursday he continued to talk up Marques Ackerman who played in the defeat against the Titans, Ryan Rickleton and Janneman Malan, but with an experienced - and in-form - player in Omphile Ramela in the wings, even Toyana’s renowned patience will be tested.
“I put Ackerman under pressure with us 0/2 (last Sunday) and in hindsight an experienced guy should have gone in there, but I believe that giving young players responsibility is the only way they can grow,” Toyana said.
“Over the last four years, we’ve given the youngsters opportunities. We did it with Quinny (de Kock), Kagiso Rabada and Wiaan Mulder. If a guy is talented you must give him an opportunity.”
It’s still early days in the competition, but by Sunday, all the teams would have played three matches, and if the Lions’ batting still shows no sign of improvement then changes may be in the offing.
Toyana and the Lions selectors are also mulling over a change to the bowling unit, with Hardus Viljoen, who missed the match against the Titans, set for a call-up on Friday. Picking Viljoen gives the seam bowling an extra weapon, although it does veer away from a strategy that has worked well for the Lions in the shortest format in recent years.
“Opposition sides have planned very well against our spinners, “ said Toyana. “One of our successes, was using two sometimes three spinners, but with the Titans batting Albie (Morkel) at three it was clear they knew Bjorn (Fortuin) and (Aaron Phangiso) had to bowl, and that hurt Phangi and Bjorn.”
Flexibility and thinking better on their feet is something Toyana and the coaching staff emphasised this week, and it will be interesting to see how skipper Phangiso reacts. He has to avoid making major errors as was the case last Sunday, when neither Rabada nor Beuran Hendricks bowled out their allotment of overs even in the face of the onslaught from AB de Villiers and Morkel.
“If we were thinking smarter it might have been better to bowl KG when AB came in,” said Toyana. “Those are lessons we took from that game and as we move forward in the competition, we’ll get those tactical things batter.”
Tonight's match starts at 6pm.