Zubayr Hamza looked in good nick for the Cobras. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Having seemingly taken two steps forward last week in Port Elizabeth, the Lions’ batting unit promptly went in reverse on Monday with a dismal performance that evoked nightmares of the 2017/18 season.

Their own shortcomings were then magnified 100-fold when a player who left the region in the off-season, hammered home the visiting team’s advantage with an innings of fine composure featuring calculated shotmaking. 

Janneman Malan left North West in the winter, to join his elder brother Pieter in Cape Town, having scored over 1000 runs in the three-day semi-professional competition last year. Despite their own batting woes last summer, and the younger Malan’s output at North West, the franchise’s selectors never gave him one opportunity in the four-day competition in 2017/18 and in that regard his move south is perfectly understandable.

Below: Dane Piedt is playing in his 100th First-Class match.‬

Malan's success here on the opening day was a dagger to the Lions, coming immediately after their own very poor performance in the first session. 

They batted upon winning the toss, the correct decision by stand-in skipper Omphile Ramela, but then failed to produce the requisite application against a bowling line-up missing two of its most senior pros in Dane Paterson - seconded to the Proteas for the T20s against Zimbabwe - and Rory Kleinveldt who was injured. 

Stephen Cook and Ramela were removed early, but then Dominic Hendricks and Reeza Hendricks took advantage of some very loose offerings from the Cobras’s young attack. They rattled along at scoring rate well above four an over in their partnership of 67, before the younger Malan brother, who’s earlier caught Cook, made the second valuable contribution of the day with a stunning one-handed catch at third slip, in which he had to shift slightly forward and to his right, to dismiss the left-handed Hendricks. 

That was the start of a Lions collapse that saw them lose six wickets for 12 runs in nine overs, including a run out and two balls being left by batsmen which they should have played at. Reeza Hendricks was the only batsman who could say the bowler, in his case Lizaad Williams, had got the better of him with an excellent bouncer.

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The Cobras’ bowling wasn’t particularly good, Williams and Tladi Bokako lacked consistency, but Jason Smith deserves credit for bowling a controlled spell from the Golf Course End, which allowed the quicker Cobras bowlers to attack more. That trio finished with three wickets apiece.

The Cobras batsmen then showed there were no demons in the pitch; Zubayr Hamza will be kicking himself that he didn’t turn his start into something more substantial for he certainly looked in good nick, but Janneman Malan (90*) and David Bedingham (65*) then played superbly to put their side on top. 

Neither looked rushed, defending solidly and showing patience and good judgement in leaving the ball. When they attacked, they did so with precision, getting after left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso and taking advantage of any short balls from the Lions’s seamers that were off target. 

By the time bad light ended play, the Cobras’s lead was 100, and given the ease with which they played on the first day, Malan and Bedingham will grow that substantially on Tuesday. 

Lions captain Temba Bavuma is missing the match after picking up a hamstring injury in Port Elizabeth last week. He will be out of action for a week.


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