JOHANNESBURG – It’s been a downright wretched season for the Highveld Lions, with shortcomings in all three disciplines, leaving the players and coaches searching for answers.
“We are not doing the basics right; with the bat, with the ball and in the field,” head coach Geoffrey Toyana said yesterday.
The Lions have won once in their opening five matches in the Momentum One-Day Cup and what has got Toyana, and even the players confused, is how the same problems keeping cropping up, with no resolution seemingly in sight.
“There’s been a similar trend in all our matches, after 10 overs we are three down, or two down and then we are depending on the middle order and the lower order to get us out of trouble.”
That’s the issue with the bat, with ball, it’s a case of trying to do too much.
“As a bowling group we have not done justice to our talent. I sat and watched the Test and saw Vernon Philander bowling 125 km/h , sticking to the basics, looking to hit the top of off and getting six-for. With the ball, we’ve been searching; we’ve tried bouncers, slower balls ... as opposed to keeping it simple, hitting back of a length on the line of fourth stump and being patient.”
And the fielding?
“That’s been shocking, shocking,” said the coach.
“We are not doing the small things right, a basic thing like backing up, a guy throws the ball at the stumps and the guy on the boundary is having a chat with someone in the crowd.”
That would suggest the players attitudes are a problem, but Toyana points out that in the two matches they didn’t lose - the last ball win against the Dolphins before Christmas and the tied match against the Knights last Friday - the team showed grit to get the team some much needed log points.
Trouble is, the likes of Hardus Viljoen, Bjorn Fortuin and Aaron Phangiso can’t be expected to repeatedly rescue the side with the bat.
“That’s been frustrating. (Stephen Cook) and Reeza Hendricks, two of our senior players, have really struggled.”
That pair have scored a combined 109 runs from 10 innings and the Lions’s middle order has had to exercise patience rebuilding the innings instead of trying to put the opposition bowlers under pressure.
In terms of batting the Lions are a top heavy team with a lot of batsmen better suited to playing in the top three, and it’s resulted in Rassie van der Dussen and Omphile Ramela assuming new spots in the middle order.
Van der Dussen is playing well, averaging 47.60 but needs to turn those starts into something bigger to make an impact in a match.
“He’s in a good pace, he’s played very well in an unfamiliar role for him,” Toyana explained. “But he understands, he needs to convert.
“You look back to Sunday, if he gets a hundred we get 280 and it’s a different game, we would have been in a more competitive position.”
With the ball Beuran Hendricks has been the best bowler.
“You look what he did Sunday and he just kept it simple, he didn’t tried many things,” Toyana said of the left-arm seamer, who’s picked up 11 wickets at 19.54 so far in the competition.
The Lions head to East London tomorrow to face the Warriors, who have also won just once in the competition - that win was against the Lions.