JOHANNESBURG – It’s only the second round of the Four-Day Series, but the Highveld Lions’ clash with the Cape Cobras that starts at the Wanderers today already feels like it could have a significant impact on the fortunes of both teams this season.
Both won their opening matches; the Cobras squeezing ahead of the Knights at Newlands, while the Lions won after dominating the second and third day’s play against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth.
For the Lions, that was very much a cleansing performance.
Putting aside the struggles of last season has been a crucial part of Enoch Nkwe’s start as the franchise’s head coach.
Nkwe described the nine-wicket win at St George’s Park as a good base off of which to build the rest of their season, but the systems and style he wants to impart will face a major examination from the Cobras.
It should surprise no one that in the early stages of this attempt at a turnaround, that the experienced players are leading the way; Stephen Cook made a big hundred, he was ably assisted by Nicky van den Bergh’s century, while with the ball, Malusi Siboto and Aaron Phangiso were hugely impactful.
They will want a repeat of that against the Cobras.
A traditional powerhouse of South African cricket, the Cobras have struggled in recent seasons to make an impact in the various domestic competitions.
But the performance against the Knights, a match they largely controlled until the Free State side bounced back late on the third day, was perhaps an indication they’re set to lead the way once more.
Crucially, however, two players who played major roles in that triumph will be absent at the Wanderers.
Dane Paterson, who picked up seven wickets and contributed a crucial 41 runs in the first innings, will be playing for the Proteas in the T20 series against Zimbabwe, while veteran all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt, who scored a half-century and picked up three wickets against the Knights, is injured.