Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The Imperial Lions retained the CSA 4-Day Series trophy as they were crowned the 2019/2020 CSA 4-Day series champions.

As the 2019/2020 season came to an abrupt halt, the Imperial Lions can look back at the season that was with gratification. The Imperial Lions went into the business end of the season with the 4-Day series title in their sights and the Momentum One Day Cup home semi-final secured.

The highveld franchise were relentless in their pursuit of 4-Day franchise series title defense, winning four matches and drawing one match to sit on top of the table and well on course to win the First-Class tournament heading into the final two rounds of the campaign.

The Imperial Lions proved to be just as consistent in the limited overs set-up as the side claimed a home semi-final berth having finished second in the group stage phase of the Momentum One Day Cup.

The Imperial Lions were aiming to follow-up their unforgettable 2018/2019 4-Day franchise series and CSA T20 Challenge winning season with a 4-Day series and Momentum One Day Cup double this season.

They would aim to achieve the feat under the guidance of Wandile Gwavu who took over the reigns as interim Head Coach having previously occupied the role of assistant coach to former coach Enoch Nkwe in the glorious 2018/2019 season. Gwavu maintained a similar ethos as his predecessor of having a large squad to call upon to produce excellence and match winning performances should key players not be available for selection.

It was a season which the Imperial Lions had to play most of their matches without the experienced regular starters. The Imperial Lions had seven players representing the Standard Bank Proteas Test, ODI and T20 International teams over the 2019/2020 summer inbound tours, including the likes of Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Reeza Hendricks, Bjorn Fortuin and Beuran Hendricks.

The Imperial Lions dug deep into their squad and developmental structures to ensure they were still competitive without their experienced players.

After strong performances for the Central Gauteng Lions provincial side Joshua Richards earned an Imperial Lions call-up and immediately impressed with two half centuries in the 4-Day series. Young talent Ryan Rickelton continued to stake a claim for a Proteas call-up with excellent knocks in the limited overs format including a career best 157 in franchise List-A cricket.

Ever reliable stalwarts of Nicky van den Bergh, Dominic Hendricks, Nono Pongolo and Malusi Siboto and prior year signings Delano Potgieter proved their value to the squad with consistent performances in the absence of Proteas players in both the red-ball and white- ball formats. Aaron Phangiso (Momentum One Day Cup Captain) and Nicky van den Bergh (4-Day series Captain) lead the Lions charge as the interim captains in the absence of Temba Bavuma and his deputy Rassie van der Dussen.

The season also saw the call up of young talented players like Aya Myoli who performed well above expectations and was named man of match against Dolphins; the debut of Eldred Hawken who began his Imperial Lions career with a five-for in the 4-Day series format and continued to take wickets in the Momentum One Day Cup to take his season tally to 30-wickets in all franchise competitions. The talented Northwest duo of Johannes Diseko and Lesego Senkwane featured for the Lions side in the limited overs formats with the latter making his debut.

“It has been a very eventful and great season for the Imperial Lions. The season may have not gone all the way to the end but there were great successes and lessons for the team. Having retained majority of our players and attracted young exciting talent like Lutho Sipamla, Sisanda Magala, Sisanda Magala, Wesley Marshall and Tladi Bokako who will join the Imperial Lions set up ahead of the 2020/21 domestic season, we are looking ahead to a great new season. I wish everyone keeps safe through these trying times and stays home to reduce the impact of the corona virus pandemic. I hope to see everyone in the Lion’s Den” concluded interim Head Coach Wandile Gwavu.