The bizhub Highveld Lions will be aiming to avoid a third straight RAM SLAM T20 Challenge loss on Thursday, but coach Geoffrey Toyana is still pleased that destiny remains in their own hands as the long-time competition leaders bid to sew up first-place and an automatic place in the April 7 final.
The Johannesburg-based franchise, runaway leaders a little over a week ago, finally surrendered top spot for the first time on Wednesday night when they were overhauled by the Nashua Titans.
That scenario, after successive defeats last week, left them facing the real possibility of throwing away all the hard work done earlier in the tournament.
Now they face already eliminated Sunfoil Dolphins at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium knowing all too well that only victory will help them retake the number one position.
“It’s just another game for us even though we’re under a bit of pressure now,” Toyana said. “We know what we have to do and things are still in our own hands.”
The rookie coach, who is enjoying an exceptional debut season, found it hard to explain how they had let slip a lead that stood at close to 10 points at one stage of the competition.
“I think it’s the nature of T20 cricket where momentum plays such a big role,” he explained. “We started out really well and then had two bad games last week where we lost by a few runs, although in saying that both were tight games.
“So there’s no panic in the camp. We know that, if we have a good game, we’re in the final and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
The bizhub Highveld Lions have 25 points to the 26 of the Nashua Titans, who have already concluded their games, meaning a win is essential if they want to end top.
However, there is even the possibility of slipping further down to third if they lose and the Chevrolet Warriors (22 points) beat the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras in the only other outstanding game.
Toyana admitted he was not expecting any favours from the Sunfoil Dolphins, saying: “There’s no way they will roll over easily. I know (coach) Lance Klusener is a fighter and I expect them to give 100 per cent.”
Klusener himself conceded the KZN side was let down by a poor start to the campaign – they failed to win any of their first five games – but warned they will be no easy opponents for the hosts.
“We’re in this position because we’ve let ourselves down this season,” he added. “But we still have one more game to play and I guess it is a chance to possibly influence where the final is played at one of the best places to play cricket in the world.
“That’s pretty important for the teams involved and we’ll give it our best shot.”