The Imperial Lions will be playing in the Momentum One-Day Cup final in Potchefstroom on Thursday against the defending champion Dolphins without the two left-arm spinners who have inspired their impressive title run thus far.
Regular captain Aaron Phangiso, who has been the Lions’ most economical bowler and taken five wickets, has had to leave the Potchefstroom bio-secure environment for personal reasons, while Bjorn Fortuin, their leading wicket-taker with seven scalps, is in the Proteas T20 squad in Pakistan.
Losing both of them is a massive blow for the Lions because they have played such an integral role in the middle overs.
Dominic Hendricks will captain the team in Phangiso’s absence, which was not announced in Wednesday’s pre-final virtual press conference, but he did talk about how other players will be needed to step into the void created by Fortuin’s unavailability.
“Obviously it’s tough losing someone as good as Bjorn, who adds a lot of value. He can bowl a couple of overs up front with the new ball and in the middle overs, the way he controls the game is fantastic,” Hendricks said. “And he’s good with the bat. So it’s a massive loss but an opportunity for younger guys like Johannes Diseko and even Bryce Parsons to put their hands up.
“Conditions are not the usual ones at Potch where you chase well over 300. Now you have to be more measured, bat well for the first 40 overs and then explode. The teams that set their innings up best have been the most successful.
“It’s going to be about setting up against the new ball, and then how you play spin from overs 10 to 40. It all depends on those middle overs, how you set up for the last 10 overs – you need wickets in hand.”
While the Lions had their semi-final against the Knights washed out, progressing to the final because they topped their pool with three convincing wins, the Dolphins can rest in the knowledge that they have been tested under pressure and came through their thrilling knockout match against the Cape Cobras.
But were it not for Senuran Muthusamy or Robbie Frylinck’s half-centuries they would have lost and, in the absence of David Miller, they need Marques Ackerman, Khaya Zondo or Ruan de Swardt to step up and provide more support to Grant Roelofsen up front.
Captain Prenelan Subrayen does not seem the type who is prone to rants though and he put a positive spin on their last performance.
“We took our semi-final as our bad game and yet we were still able to come out on top, we showed a lot of character and depth, and Senuran and Robbie are obviously very key players in both bowling and batting,” Subrayen said.
“We’ll be striving for that perfect game and we still have a lot of momentum. The conditions in Potchefstroom suit our game as well, they play into our hands.”