Cape Town - Highveld Lions captain Temba Bavuma and coach Enoch Nkwe have hailed their excellent season as one to remember after they clinched a domestic double on Sunday.
The Central Gauteng franchise won a thrilling CSA T20 Challenge when they overcame the Warriors by 11 runs at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
The trophy was their second of a dream campaign in which they also won the 4-Day Domestic Series title, less than 12 months after Nkwe took charge.
“It was a fantastic way to end the season,” the Lions boss said afterwards. “I never really expected things to happen so quickly, so I’m really proud of their effort.”
Last season ended without a trophy as the Lions endured one of their more forgettable campaigns.
“It was painful watching from the side, I wasn’t part of the team,” Bavuma explained. “But I think with Enoch Nkwe coming in, he brought a strong vision and he really cultivated a healthy structure for guys to go out there and perform.
“My job as captain was to go out there and implement what he wanted. I put a lot of pressure on the guys, I asked a lot from them and the guys reacted. There was a good direction for the team and the players bought into it.”
In an epic game, which drew the curtain on the 2018/19 franchise season, Bavuma’s maiden century in the format upstaged that of counterpart Jon-Jon Smuts as 203 for four played 192.
The home skipper smashed 104 off 63 balls (11 fours, 2 sixes) that was bettered by Warriors ace Smuts’ 121 off 60 balls (11 fours, 7 sixes) as he single-handedly dragged his side to the brink, before agony struck.
Nkwe paid tribute to Bavuma for his effort, saying the Proteas Test batsman played like a man with point to prove.
“It was a very special knock from Temba and almost as if it was bound to happen,” the coach added. “It makes things extra special to have happened in the final.
“He has been speaking about it for a long time, wanting to grab that opportunity, to basically lead the team in every way.
“There’s no better way to do it than the way he did it here, with the bat, in the final, in front of his home fans at the Wanderers.”
Bavuma himself was overjoyed with this display and hoped it will prove to the doubters that he can play white-ball cricket.
The 28-year-old, who scored 326 runs at a strike rate of 137,55 and average of 46,57, added: “I have always had the belief that I can play all formats, it is just that the success that I have had at the top has been in the one format and I understand why the public would have such a view of me.
“I had a terrible tournament during the Mzansi Super League and in this tournament, I was determined to make this right. Fortunately for me, things went well, and I didn’t change too much.”
Regarding the season as a whole, Bavuma was very satisfied with their achievements. “It’s been very satisfying,” he concluded. “Ideally, we would have liked to have won the one-day competition as well, but things didn’t go according to plan there.
“But winning the four-day competition and winning the T20 competition with a new coach and a new captain, I don’t think you can be unhappy about that.
“We spoke a lot as a team about what we wanted to do and we were able to translate that into action.”