JOHANNESBURG – With more bowling options available to him this season, including Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso believes he’ll better placed tactically to ensure the Highveld Lions can at least go one step further than a playoff spot which they achieved last season’s T20 tournament.
Phangiso is looking forward to his second stint as Lions captain in the RamSlam, which starts with a thunderous examination for his side on Sunday against the defending champions the Titans, who will be brimful of Proteas.
“That’s why guys play this game, you want to be playing against the best,” Phangiso said of the prospect of lining up against a side that can pick from AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien, Dean Elgar and Albie Morkel, among many others.
“I think Cricket SA made a great decision, by ensuring all the internationals were available for the competition. Playing against the best in the world – your ABs, Quintons... you measure yourself. We are happy to challenge those kinds of guys.”
The Lions aren’t without firepower themselves, particularly in the choices Phangiso has in his attack.
There are the two seam bowling all-rounders, Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius, the pace of Hardus Viljoen, Rabada and Beuran Hendricks, and of course his own left-arm spin along with Bjorn Fortuin.
“In T20, someone could have a bad day and you get hit, but with a bit of back-up, that leaves you something to lean back on.
“Last year we picked five bowlers, and they all had to bowl four overs and if you were having a bad day, you just had to suck it up and carry on and bowl.
“This year I’ve got the luxury, that if someone’s having a bad day, I can jump on to someone else. I’ll be utilising that.”
Last season Phangiso lent heavily on his own bowling, along with Fortuin and leg-spinner Eddie Leie – who is now with the Knights – as the Lions, in order to shore up their shortcomings, went away from their traditional quick-bowling strengths.
The three spinners bowled more than half the overs throughout the competition last summer, and while it earned them a spot in the playoff, it’s not a method the Lions like using.
This season, coach Geoffrey Toyana admits he’ll have some tough choices to make as far as the bowling is concerned.
“But it’s a headache you like having. We’ll have to see what combinations we come up with for the Titans on Sunday,” he remarked.
Phangiso admits he learned a lot from captaining the team last year, and with the extra options at his disposal this time, there maybe more scope for him to get creative. “Personally I learned a lot, there are one or two things I’d like to implement this time… we’ll see how it goes.”
The Lions selectors will provide youngsters like Marques Ackerman, wicket-keeper batsman Ryan Rickleton and big-hitting North West opener Janneman Malan with opportunities too this season.
“Ackerman’s got every shot in the book, and Rikleton reminds me of Quinton de Kock,” said Toyana.
The Gauteng derby, which starts at 4pm, is the main feature of Sunday’s double-header at SuperSport Park, which will also see the Cape Cobras face the Dolphins at noon.