Johannesburg - There are no excuses as far as the Central Gauteng Lions are concerned following the late meltdown that saw them drop from first to finish third in the Four-Day series.
They had led the competition throughout, dominating in fact through the first four rounds. However they failed to win any of their last three matches, losing two, and now will do a lot of soul-searching come the winter. “We were good in the competition, but only for 80% of it,” a disappointed Lions captain Dominic Hendricks lamented. “Unfortunately if you’re not at your best or competing for the entirety of the competition, you find yourself a little bit short.”
The Northerns Titans timed their run-in perfectly, winning all three of their last matches, including a seven wicket thumping of the Lions, to win the competition on the last day.
Hendricks knows what it's like to be on the other side of final day drama in the competition. He was on the field in Potchefstroom three years ago when the then Lions franchise team took the final wicket with four minutes left of play to claim the Four-Day title, leaving the Cape Cobras crestfallen.
Hendricks, if he wanted to, could make excuses. The fast bowling quartet, led by Duanne Olivier that dominated through the first four rounds, was broken up by national call-ups. They lost their best batter Ryan Rickelton to the Proteas as well, and then there was the confused scheduling of the competition that saw the tournament played in three phases, over five months, with the final round of Division 1 fixtures, shoehorned in between the T20 Challenge and the One-Day Cup that starts on Friday.
“We contract guys to fulfill roles. We knew we’d be without guys at various parts of the season, there were a couple of guys missing in the last competition (T20 Challenge), and the same here. We had Duanne at the start of the season, I was away and so were others, I don’t think it’s the reason for the lack of success this weekend. We plan for those scenarios and when we pick a side, we pick that side to do a job, unfortunately this weekend, I don’t think our skillset was good enough.”
Without Olivier, who picked up 29 wickets at 14.93 in five matches, Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala, who also got national call-ups, the Lions’ attack lacked punch. The draw in Durban against the Dolphins in January was, Hendricks remarked, another key turning point in the season.
“Our decision to take a positive approach, has come back to (bite us),” he said of the declaration made there that left the Dolphins to chase 258 in the final innings, which the KwaZulu Natal side did for the loss of just two wickets. “If we’d taken a slightly different approach there, it would have been a different outcome coming into the last week of the tournament. But we can’t dwell on that decision. If anything, this week we weren’t as good as we needed to be.”
Only Mitchell van Buuren, who scored hundreds in each innings at SuperSport Park and Codi Yusuf who picked up 5/91 in the Titans’ first innings played up to their potential.
Attention now turns to the One-Day Cup, the Lions’ final chance of grabbing some silverware this season.