The bizhub Highveld Lions may be the underdogs for the Momentum One-Day Cup Final against the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras on Friday, but coach Geoffrey Toyana is hoping that tag will provide the incentive they need to clinch the title.
The Gauteng team have been the most consistent through the league phase of the competition, with their stability helping them secure top spot on the log and with it the right to host the decider at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.
They lost just twice, one of which was against the Cape side, and effectively put one foot in the final by winning their opening four matches.
Their opponents, on the other hand, have not had everything entirely their own way with three defeats on the trot early in the competition severely threatening their chances. But six wins from their next seven games, including the three-wicket play-off victory over the Nashua Titans, saw the defending champions storm their way into the final.
The Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras have also been boosted by a host of returning Proteas, the most notable being the in-form Dale Steyn, named man-of-the-match in the elimination game.
But Toyana remains unfazed about the opposition. “We don’t want to look at them too much, we’d much rather focus on the things we do,” he said this week. “They do have some world-class players. But I’m just hoping that alone will inspire my own players to do well against a side like that.”
His counterpart, Paul Adams, was not reading anything into being called the ‘favourites’ and retorted by saying it was shaping up to be “a fantastic final”.
“They started the campaign very well,” he said. “They topped the table and are the side to beat.”
The bizhub Highveld Lions will have three Proteas available in Alviro Petersen, Thami Tsolekile and Imran Tahir, although only the former is expected to play. They also have several new caps for the Proteas T20 squad in Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock and Aaron Phangiso.
Apart from Steyn, the visitors will also feature Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt, with Vernon Philander and Graeme Smith, who is still injured, set to miss out, according to Adams. “We’ll probably go with the same XI,” he said. “Graeme still has a problem with his arm. Justin Kemp (hamstring) is being monitored.”
While the visitors have the momentum, the hosts may possibly be struggling for some reason after they won just one of their last six games, although three of those have been affected by the weather.
“We are a bit undercooked because we haven’t played in two weeks,” Toyana admitted. “So we’ve had one or two practice games in the build-up. “But we should be ready for the final, my boys are in good spirits and looking ahead to giving it a good go on Friday.”
And Adams was counting on his team’s superb recent run to take them to glory. He added: “We’ve gotten some good momentum coming into the final.
“We had some good wins under our belt and what’s important is that every one of our players has contributed to those wins.
“We’ll be really confident.”