JOHANNESBURG – The Highveld Lions suffered a third consecutive defeat at the Wanderers on Sunday, turning in another lacklustre display in a seven-wicket loss to the Cape Cobras, which puts their hopes in this season’s Momentum One-Day Cup in grave jeopardy.
Their sole victory in the competition came off the last ball against the Dolphins in Potchefstroom just before Christmas, and the only other points they’ve collected came after they tied with the Knights in Kimberley last Friday.
It’s been a haphazard season for the franchise, who have won just two matches in the RamSlam T20 Challenge, while they are also rooted to the bottom of the Sunfoil Series log.
They have a few days off in which to contemplate their troubles before heading to East London to face the Warriors on Thursday.
While Sunday’s defeat wasn’t as error-strewn as last Wednesday’s against the Titans, the Lions overall seemed to lack energy again in compiling 237 all out (49.4 overs).
In mitigation it was very hot at the ‘Bullring’, but even that can’t be used as an excuse for some of the lethargy with the bat, a feature of which was the poor running between the wickets.
The Lions must have left at least 15 runs in the locker as a result of some lackadaisical running, and again there was a failure on their batsmen’s part to turn to starts into something substantial.
They had worked themselves into a reasonably good position after 30 overs, with the total on 155/4 and the in-form Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius well set.
There were a couple of testing spells early from Dane Paterson – who is starting to look close to his best again – and Rory Kleinveldt, which accounted for the Lions openers.
But then Dominic Hendricks (40), Mangaliso Mosehle (27), Van der Dussen and Pretorius put the Lions back in a position from which they should have kicked on to make a more challenging total.
That they didn’t was down to their sluggishness and a smart tactical move by the Cobras that saw left-arm spinner George Linde only brought into bowl in the 29th over.
The Lions battled to turn the strike over against him, and as the pressure built, so mistakes and wickets came at the other end.
Paterson finished with 3/41, while there were two wickets apiece for Kleinveldt and Mthiwekhaya Nabe.
Linde’s 1/36 in nine overs was a sterling effort, and reward for some clever thinking from the Cobras’ strategists.
Van der Dussen notched up a second consecutive half-century, but he’s been in some very good form of late and needs to start turning these innings into something more substantial if the Lions are going to launch a serious challenge for a playoff spot in the next couple of weeks.
He looked very good in compiling 65 (71 balls, 7x4), sharing partnerships of 48 with Mosehle and 75 with Pretorius, who scored 45 (58 balls, 5x4).
Beuran Hendricks produced his best performance of the season against his former side, bowling with excellent rhythm and pace in a fine opening spell in which he dismissed Richard Levi (40) and Aviwe Mgijima (1) in the ninth over.
Sadly his fellow bowlers provided little support, with Pretorius – despite bowling two maidens – and Hardus Viljoen struggling with line and length.
As a result, Cobras opener Pieter Malan and skipper JP Duminy could forge a relatively comfortable 129-run third-wicket partnership that put the game to bed for the visitors as they reached 241/3 off 47.1 overs.
Neither were overly aggressive, with Duminy producing some characteristically elegant drives, and Malan stepping occasionally out of his measured approach to produce some aggressive shots through the on-side.
Malan was – frustratingly for him – out within sight of a hundred in trying to smash Reeza Hendricks over the leg-side, which only saw him top-edging the ball and offering the wicket-keeper a simple catch after scoring 89 (111 balls, 12x4).
Duminy finished the match with a four over square leg, ending unbeaten on 80 (111 balls, 6x4) as the Cobras recorded back-to-back wins over the two Gauteng franchises to keep themselves near the top of the log.
Their next match is against the Dolphins in Paarl on Wednesday.