Lions only have one bowler in the top ten wicket-takers this season in South Africa’s domestic fifty-over competition. That bowler, Eddie Leie, was only able to bowl 5.3 overs in the final before leaving the field with a hamstring injury. Despite that, they bowled Cape Cobras out for 169 at Newlands to claim their first title in this format in the franchise era after previously sharing the cup with Cobras in 2012-13 season.
For Cobras, it was scant consolation for reaching a fifth successive one-day cup final and third at home. They last lifted this trophy in the 2011-12 season and at the halfway stage would have known they probably did not have enough to repeat that feat. Lions duly eased to an eight-wicket victory with barely a worry.
Cobras’ scoring was slow from the start, after being put into bat. With Hardus Viljoen and Dwaine Pretorius proving difficult to get away Cobras’ openers were frustrated and in their search for runs chanced Temba Bavuma’s arm perhaps hoping he would be less agile than normal as he has just recovered from a back injury. They were wrong because Bavuma was as nimble and alert as always and ran out Richard Levi as the eighth over ended.
The bowlers’ reward followed soon after. Pretorius drew an edge from Andrew Puttick and Omphile Ramele played on against Pumelela Matshikwe. When Cobras’ early collapse saw them slump 43 for 3, it was up to captain Justin Ontong and his experienced wicketkeeper Dane Vilas to try and rebuild. For a short while, it looked like they would.
Vilas was aggressive and took on the short ball but could not do the same against spin. Aaron Phangiso, fresh from a test on his bowling action, shrugged off the cloud surrounding him, held back his length and had Vilas caught behind.
Lions introduced Leie immediately after the wicket to squeeze Cobras with slower bowling from both ends and it brought more success. Aviwe Mgijima played on against Leie which brought in Wayne Parnell, Cobras’ best chance of acceleration to the crease.
Parnell had not yet got going when Viljoen served up a short ball that he tried to hammer over backward point but a leaping Dominic Hendricks pulled off a spectacular catch to stop him in his tracks. Cobras went quiet again and Leie continued asking questions but midway through his sixth over he went down clutching his hamstring and had to be helped off the field.
Lions only had five specialist bowlers and had to turn to Alviro Petersen to make up the overs. He did a fine job and conceded just 18 runs in his 27 balls to ensure Cobras could not get away. Between the 25th and 40th over Cobras scored only 50 runs and had come under attack from the Lions pack again.
Once Petersen’s overs were done, Matshikwe was brought back on. Dane Piedt, who partnered Ontong, whose 50 came off 65 balls, diligently for almost an hour was beaten for pace and caught behind. Ontong’s patience had also ran out. He handed midwicket the simplest of catches in Matshikwe’s next over and Cobras folded. Their final collapse was 4 for 2 in and they were dismissed in 42 overs.
Lions were untroubled in a simple chase. Their fifty was up in the 11th over with Stephen Cook controlling proceedings. His opening partner, Rassie van der Dussen, was caught behind off Parnell but Cook kept going. He reached fifty off 62 balls and starred in a 96-run stand with the competition’s top-scorer, Petersen, who added a fifty to his five hundreds before holing out with seven runs needed. Victory soon came, inside 34 overs, to give coach Geoffrey Toyana, who turned 42 on Saturday, a perfect belated birthday gift.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent