Toyana confident Lions have the weaponry
The Highveld Lions have always said all they needed to challenge for the four-day domestic title was a more penetrative bowling attack and new coach Geoffrey Toyana is confident that his team now have the weaponry to win the Sunfoil Series this season.
"In the past our strength has been our batting and our problem was the bowling. But that's now been solved because we've signed Hardus Viljoen and Imran Tahir, and there's Chris Morris coming through as well," Toyana said at the Wanderers on Monday.
"Hopefully they will all bowl well for us, plus there's Garnett Kruger back with us as well. But the biggest thing is for us to play good, consistent cricket in all formats. In the past, we've been good in one format but poor in the others."
Alviro Petersen, the Lions captain, shared his coach's enthusiasm, saying the Gauteng/North-West franchise would go into the competition with a new-look attack.
"The whole format of our attack has changed, we now have three strike bowlers and one holding bowler, plus Zander de Bruyn can do a holding job for us as well. The bowling was our problem area, you have to take wickets to win four-day matches. We've done well with our batting, but now the bowling has to improve," Petersen said.
The Lions team is likely to be a blend of experienced senior players such as De Bruyn, Neil McKenzie, Petersen and Thami Tsolekile and exciting new prospects like Chris Morris, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock and Pumelela Matshikwe. The mix excites Toyana.
"It's a good thing to have that mix and I've appointed Neil to work with Temba Bavuma this season, while Alviro will mentor Quinton de Kock. Plus there's Stephen Cook around too so there's experience and youth, and it's a good mix," Toyana said.
The Lions begin their Sunfoil Series campaign against the Cobras in Potchefstroom on Thursday, before playing the Dolphins in Johannesburg from September 27. But then, in a quirk of scheduling, they will change to T20 action with the Champions League taking precedence.
"I can live with it, there are no issues, it's easier to go from four-day cricket to T20 than the other way round," Toyana said.
Petersen reckoned that the two four-day games would be a good build-up for the Lions as they look to celebrate a lucrative payday in the Champions League.
"It will be good for us, those two four-day games will give us a good base. Hopefully we'll spend a lot of time batting and bowling and we'll be at 100% going into the Champions League," Petersen said.
"The last couple of years, we've been building a team to win the four-day competition and now we've got the squad, there's a good vibe around the team.
"Geoff's style is different, as with every coach. He's more relaxed. The Lions have matured as a side, Dave Nosworthy did a great job steadying the ship, and now Geoff allows the guys just to express themselves. He also communicates well with both the young and senior players," the national team opener said.
"The players must relax, I want them to start enjoying playing cricket again, that has been missing. But we want to hit the season running. We tend to only wake up after two or three games, so I've emphasised that we need a good start," Toyana said.