The Lions were outstanding in romping to the four-day title last season, but since then they have lost Neil McKenzie to retirement and Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris to the Titans, while Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie are all current members of the South African squad and will probably miss much of the domestic campaign due to international call-ups.
“I think we’re going to have at least three players with the Proteas in India and we’ll have a youngish attack because I’m not expecting to see much of Kagiso Rabada. Chris Morris is a big loss in terms of balancing the side and maybe five or six mainstays from last season are not going to be there.
“So our depth is going to be key, players like Yassar Cook, Nono Pongolo and Dwaine Pretorius will get more opportunity, and things like death bowling and the new ball need attention. The batting I’m happy with because we have Stephen Cook’s experience, hopefully Temba Bavuma will play a bit and we’ll still have Neil McKenzie in the limited-overs formats,” Toyana said on Monday at the Wanderers, where Matrix, a brand of MiX Telematics – a leading global provider of fleet and mobile asset management solutions – were announced as new associate sponsors of the Highveld Lions.
Cook was confirmed on Monday as Toyana’s captain once again in the Sunfoil Series and Momentum One-Day Cup competitions, while wicketkeeper/batsman Thami Tsolekile, in his seventh season at the Lions, will lead in the side in the RamSlam T20 campaign as he looks to put his injury problems of the last two seasons behind him.
“Thami’s experience is invaluable, especially with Quinton de Kock gone because he’ll play just about all the games as wicketkeeper. Thami is vital in our leadership structure and he’s been training well, he’s strong and is not having any injury worries. Since Quinton was dropped by the Proteas Thami actually seems to have more energy, maybe he thinks he still has a chance to play international cricket again. He’s the best wicketkeeper in the country and he’s done really well for us the last few years,” Toyana said.
At the moment the Lions are training with only half-a-dozen contracted players, but Toyana expects to have his entire squad back at the Wanderers by the third week of August.
And Cook hinted that the aggressive cricket they played last season, based on unrelenting pressure from a hostile fast bowling attack, may have to change to reflect the skills of the new-look squad. With Potchefstroom being one of their home venues, and the Lions having two quality spinners in Leie and Phangiso, as well as decent back-up in the form of Dale Deeb, Jean Symes and Bjorn Fortuin, the Lions may opt for turning pitches and using spin more.
In limited-overs cricket, Toyana admits that the Lions should have done better in 2014/15 and death bowling is something that is getting plenty of attention in the nets at the moment under the watchful eye of bowling coach Gordon Parsons.
“In the limited-overs competitions we started well and should’ve done better, but we lost a lot of guys to the SA A team. But our death bowling needs attention, so there’s pressure on Gordon. A guy like Dwaine Pretorius has performed well for us and can perform a role like Chris Morris did.
“But death bowling is a problem in the whole country, the only bowler who consistently does a decent job with it is Kyle Abbott. Young bowlers are maybe thinking too much and they must just go back to trying to hit the toes, we’re working on that this year. I want to get two bowlers who can bowl in the blockhole and with five guys allowed back now in the field in the last 10 overs it will take plenty of pressure off the bowlers, it will make a big difference,” the forthright Toyana said.