JOHANNESBURG – The Imperial Lions are targeting a third title in the truncated 2020/21 domestic season, hoping to once again use their Proteas players for at least a portion of the remainder of the four-day competition.
The Lions added the T20 Challenge trophy to the share of the Momentum Cup, they earned a few weeks earlier, and on the back of success in the last few seasons, have made themselves the contemporary powerhouse in South African cricket.
“The excitement is high, because it’s not every day you get an opportunity to win all three in a season,” said the Lions’ head coach, Wandile Gwavu, who has been part of the coaching staff for all of the franchise’s recent successes, that has also included two Four-Day Series titles.
“We still believe that we can win the (four-day) competition, but it will be hard.”
The Lions are currently third in their pool, 23 points behind the Knights and in addition to winning their two remaining matches, will probably require help from others, if they are to top the group and qualify for the final. “As we saw in 2018, you can lose the competition after thinking you were in a good position,” he said in reference to how the Lions overtook the Cape Cobras in the final hour of the last match to win the competition that year. “It is the toughest competition to win in the country.”
Gwavu hopes to have the Proteas available for at least one of the two remaining pool matches – one against the Dolphins and the other against the Titans. Cricket SA have yet to reveal when players picked for the Pakistan limited overs series will be required to enter the bio-secure environment.
Gwavu and the players have understandably taken a few days off, after what was a mentally and physically draining couple of weeks in the bio-bubble in Durban for the T20 tournament.
For Gwavu the success wasn’t just about the presence of star players like Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Kagiso Rabada, but about the players, who weren’t in the squad even in Durban, who’ve built a culture that makes it easier to accommodate the returning internationals.
“It was not necessarily (the Proteas players’) responsibility. Our Lions team is a home…when you come back from the Proteas, you want to come to a place, where you will get challenged, but feel welcomed,and express yourself. That is a culture driven by the Lions players who are there on a daily basis when the Proteas are not around,” Gwavu explained.
He and his predecessor in that position, Enoch Nkwe, aimed to play a more aggressive style – regardless of format – with both bat and ball.
“We have a way we want to play that we want to master. We are not close to mastering that way of playing yet, but we believe we can do it,” said Gwavu. “From a Lions point of view, we are growing in the way we want to play. The brand we want to play is coming to the fore and we are starting to see success.”