Johannesburg - As someone who is biased towards fast bowlers, I have enjoyed the Central Gauteng Lions’ dominance in the opening four rounds of Cricket South Africa’s four-day series this season.
They’ve bowled out all four teams they’ve faced out for totals under 200, winning one match against the Warriors in Gqeberha by an innings after having scored 170.
Last week, stand-in captain Malusi Siboto declared their first innings at 193/3 against the Knights, and the Lions still ran out winners by 10 wickets, chasing 35 in the final innings.
It was a smart and aggressive piece of captaincy, although you could imagine the opponents found it a touch arrogant. But Siboto was entitled to feel that way and to show belief in his bowling unit, because the Lions’ quicks, Siboto included, have been sensational in the competition so far.
Of the 80 wickets they have picked up, 72 have been shared between Duanne Olivier, Sisanda Magala, Lutho Sipamla and Siboto. There is a strong West Indies 1970-80s vibe about it all.
Naturally it’s been fun for those four and for full-time captain Dominic Hendricks and recently Siboto, too.
Just chuck the ball to one of them and a wicket or two will follow. The quartet combine pace, from Olivier and Magala, with Sipamla’s ability to swing the ball – not to mention extract extra bounce off a length because of his height – and Siboto’s accuracy and cunning. Olivier is something of a changed bowler, too. No longer the “bash it into the pitch” bruiser who scared off Pakistan two seasons ago, the 29-year-old has needed to change how he bowls in order to make himself more threatening in England, where he has been playing for Yorkshire the last few years.
He has brought a lot of that strategy back to SA, using it to very good effect for the Lions, although he admitted, he still enjoys bowling bouncers. There is no way the Proteas selectors can ignore him, and should the India series happen, Olivier will be a major weapon, particularly with two Tests taking place on the Highveld.
What then of SA’s batters, who have had to face this lot? It is concerning those four sides couldn’t muster a total over 200. Only Wesley Marshall and Nicky van den Bergh of the North West Dragons, and Boland’s Janneman Malan, have scored 50s against the Lions. It obviously reflects well on the quality of the Lions’ quicks, but not so well on SA’s batters.
Convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang and his panel are viewing it in a positive light. The lessons SA’s batters will learn from facing an attack as relentless as the Lions’ will hopefully stand batsmen in good stead as they seek international honours.
As for the Lions, they can now expect to encounter flat surfaces when they play away from the Wanderers. Also, national call-ups which inevitably follow when there has been success as they have had, means the province’s depth will be tested.
Already, Magala and Sipamla have been seconded to the Proteas and SA ‘A’ squads, respectively, and with this week’s news that Olivier has been contacted by the national selectors, he too may not be available for the Lions for a few weeks.
For all the shock they have caused to SA’s batsmen, it’s been a thrill to see the Lions quicks operate.