The bizhub Highveld Lions got their Momentum One-Day Cup up and running at the fourth time of asking, as Neil McKenzie guided them to a four-wicket victory over the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras at Sahara Park Newlands on Sunday.
The Lions had endured four straight defeats at the start of the season, but confirmed how even the strength of the six franchises are by getting the better of a previously unbeaten Cobras side in the last over of the match.
Having bowled the Cobras out for 206 in 48.4 overs thanks to Hardus Viljoen’s four-wicket haul, the Lions measured their chase to perfection with McKenzie’s cool head a crucial asset in his second game back after injury.
Equally precious was Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s bowling - the Proteas left-armer grabbed the wicket of Andrew Puttick up front, and gave nothing away as he recorded figures of 1 for 26 from his 10 overs.
With the others chipping in with handy wickets, the Lions reduced the Cobras to 70 for five before Justin Ontong (37) and Justin Kemp (67) led the recovery while Dane Piedt also contributed with 28 to keep the innings going.
Even with old hand Charl Langeveldt and Kemp in their bowling attack, the Cobras were always going to struggle to defend such a low total - particularly after they allowed Quinton de Kock to play his way back into form.
De Kock had failed to contribute for the Lions in their opening three games, but his 47 kept them steady and ensured that McKenzie was never under scoreboard pressure.
Although the veteran saw wickets fall at the other end as Cobras paceman Lizaad Williams (2 for 31) showed improved accuracy, McKenzie controlled the game with an unbeaten 73 from 106 deliveries that secured the first points of the season for the Lions.