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Cricket | Sunfoil Series

Stephen Cook © Gallo Images

Lions seek redemption against Knights



The bizhub Highveld Lions go into Thursday’s Sunfoil Series match against the Chevrolet Knights at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom on the back of an extraordinary 10-wicket loss to the Chevrolet Warriors at the weekend. This reverse has seen the co-champions of the Momentum One-Day Cup slump to a lowly fifth place on the log with just one victory to their credit.

Batting first at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in their previous encounter, the bizhub Highveld Lions compiled a first-innings total of 315, thanks mainly to captain Stephen Cook who scored 95. They then bowled the visiting Chevrolet Warriors out for 235 by tea on the second day, and looked on course to put their opponents to the sword.

However, a remarkable spell of bowling from Chevrolet Warriors’ paceman Ayabulela Gqamane, who finished with figures of 7 for 24, saw the home side dismissed for just 59 in their second innings, and the Chevrolet Warriors knocked off the target of 145 with ease. But despite the dismal second innings showing, Cook is choosing to stay positive and believes the collapse was simply one of those things.

“We played such good cricket in the first innings. To get an 80-run lead on that wicket was a great effort from the boys, but then we had a bad half-hour when we lost a few wickets on that second evening. And then the slide continued, and it was pretty freaky to be bowled out for 59 – I can’t remember playing in any side that got bowled out for that,” Cook mused.

“I think the guys have taken the defeat on the chin. They also realise that it’s maybe an anomaly or a once off, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that because you get bowled out once cheaply that you’re not a good side. So I think the confidence is still there, and the nice thing is that we’ve got a game in a few days and it will be good to get back on the horse.”

The Chevrolet Knights, who lie third on the log, come into Thursday’s game undefeated in the Sunfoil Series, although the tag may be a rather flattering one. Their first three games of the competition were abandoned, and they were only able to draw their fourth. However, the spell of stalemates was broken on Sunday as they registered a convincing eight-wicket win against the Sunfoil Dolphins, and coach Sarel Cilliers was pleased to get their campaign up and running.

“We’ve had a lot of games rained out, so it was great to have a full game for a change. The other thing was that it was a really hard-working game so I was quite satisfied with the effort that the guys put in. It was nice to come out on the right side of things, and I was very pleased with the way they bowled and then knocked off the runs at the end,” a buoyant Cilliers said.

Like Cook, Cilliers also believes that the bizhub Highveld Lions’ collapse against the Chevrolet Warriors was something of a rarity, and is placing little significance on their performance as he sizes up their opponents for Thursday’s clash.

“Those things happen to any team. I recall a game against the Chevrolet Warriors a few years ago when we got bowled out for 28 from nowhere, so those kinds of things happen and we’re not reading too much into that. It’s a bad day at the office and that’s that. The bizhub Highveld Lions have got a good batting line-up with Neil McKenzie, Cook and a few talented youngsters, so they’ll come out firing this week and we’re expecting a tough game in Potch on a good batting wicket,” Cilliers said.

Cook showed the Chevrolet Knights equal respect when asked about their credentials, although the bizhub Highveld Lions skipper is keen to get things back on track, and is also looking to avenge two losses that they suffered at the hands of Thursday’s opponents in the Momentum Cup.

“The Knights are a well-balanced side. They bat all the way down as we saw with their tenth-wicket partnership of 100 in their last game. They’ve got some useful bowlers too, so they’ll be a tough challenge in Potch. But hopefully we can put on a good showing and get that win under the belt. They beat us in the one-dayers, too, so we probably owe them one,” Cook noted.

With hot conditions forecast for the weekend, there seems little danger of rain intervening and both sides will be determined to record a victory when play gets underway at 10:00 on Thursday.

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