Points of interest in the Momentum One-Day Cup eliminator between the Highveld Lions and the Warriors in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The power and the glory
Warriors spinner Simon Harmer this week pointed out that ‘The Lions rely heavily on their top five’. Which is as it should be. And it is a powerful top five led by the irrepressible Alviro Petersen. He leads the run stats with 669 runs at an average of 95, with five centuries. Right behind him, averaging 51.25 is Stephen Cook with a high of 127*. They may also have Temba Bavuma, the third Test centurion in their ranks, Dwaine Pretorius back from injury, Dominic Hendricks and Devon Conway. The Warriors will have to knock a big hole in that line-up, but they do have the firepower in prolific wicket-takers Andrew Birch (15 wickets) and Sisanda Magala (14).
Who is available?
Bavuma is just one struggling with injury. Among the Lions, Eddie Leie and Hardus Viljoen face late fitness tests, while Carmi le Roux, whose injury caused all sorts of selection problems when he broke down against the Knights last time out is definitely not fit. The Warriors also have concerns: their captain Colin Ingram is nursing back and knee problems.
Advantage of youth
Harmer also reckons that the youth among the Lions bowlers is an area of exploitation, and it is an area of concern. Matthew McGillivray, Sean Jamison and spinner Bjorn Fortuin, though, have certainly stepped up to the plate. Much depends on their frame of mind in a knock-out match. The Warriors, too, need Ingram (470 runs, average 78.33) and Colin Ackermann (269, average 67.25) to punish the wayward.
East, West, Home’s best
On paper, there’s not much between the Lions and the Warriors with five wins apiece, but the Lions have the edge at the Wanderers, if only for the fact they beat the Warriors there in the league phase – but only by four runs. The return match was a washout. The Lions have a good home record; but then does Potch really count? It’s 2-1 at the Wanderers. The Warriors travel well: they won away three times, including the log leaders Cobras. The Lions ended two points up on the log, due to two washouts against the one for the Warriors
Who wants it more?
The Warriors were woeful in the Ram Slam T20, winning just four matches, and are even more so in the Sunfoil Series, without a win in five. So this is their last chance to salvage something from the season. Harmer, in his interview this week insisted they would treat it as ‘just another game’, but it really is more than that. The Lions are in with a chance of retaining their four-day crown and a one-day trophy would be a fitting tribute to their free-flowing style.
What they say
Geoffrey Toyana, coach of the Lions says: ‘It will all boil down to whoever starts the game better. That will go a long way towards deciding the outcome.’ Warriors coach Malibongwe Maketa insists they are no underdogs. ‘To be honest, counting ourselves as underdogs will be trying to hide,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a 50-50 game. It’s all about going out there and executing your skills.’
The Lions have shown depth and a strength of character throughout the season, never surrendering. I think that will carry them through.