Cape Town - The bizhub Highveld Lions will be without regular captain, Stephen Cook, as well as Thami Tsolekile when they open their Sunfoil Series defence against the Sunfoil Dolphins at Bidvest Wanderers, but will have Temba Bavuma in their ranks.
While Cook has been selected to play for South Africa A against England on Sunday and Tsolekile is recovering from a minor injury, Bavuma has been made available for the game.
Having opened the batting for the Proteas in his last outing, Bavuma will have the opportunity to return to the more familiar surrounds of the middle-order.
Nicky van den Bergh will cover the wicketkeeping duties for Tsolekile, who is expected to recover in time for the second round of games, while Pumelela Matshikwe has also been selected after confirming his return to fitness this past weekend, when he took 6 for 17 to bowl North West to victory over Northerns in the Sunfoil 3-Day Cup.
The Lions finished almost 40 points clear at the top of the table last season, winning seven of their ten games, and Cook is clear about where they need to mirror that campaign.
“It’s important to start this competition well, because it’s actually quite hard to catch up at the back end,” he said. “It’s not like one-day cricket where you have to get a result; guys can play for the draw and prepare flatter pitches, which can make it harder to play for the win.”
Khaya Zondo and Keshav Maharaj will join Cook in the South Africa A set-up, so the Dolphins will also go into the fixture without a couple of key players.
However, they can call on players such as Mathew Pillans and Daryn Dupavillon, who have hardly featured for the Dolphins with the white ball but shone with the red one last season.
While Pillans took 29 wickets in six games at an average of 23.79, Dupavillon took 26 wickets in seven matches.
“There have been quite a few guys who have done well in three-day cricket so far this season, so those guys will get an opportunity,” confirmed captain, Morne van Wyk.
The Dolphins can not only be buoyed by their run to the RAM SLAM T20 final this season, but can look back fondly on their four-day campaign last term, when they competed throughout before eventually finishing third.
“It showed the potential that we have as a group of players, and hopefully we’ll still be hungry enough to improve,” said Van Wyk. “Ideally after six or seven games you want to be in the mix and then push for a big finish.”