Lions in trouble despite Moreki’s wicket-taking heroics

29 February 2024 - 18:28
By Stuart Hess
Tshepo Moreki celebrates after dismissing Kyle Verreynne on day 2 of the Four-Day Series final between the Lions and Western Province at the Wanderers.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images Tshepo Moreki celebrates after dismissing Kyle Verreynne on day 2 of the Four-Day Series final between the Lions and Western Province at the Wanderers.

Two dropped catches, one by wicketkeeper Ryan Rickelton, will haunt the Lions who were left reeling on 10/2 at stumps on day 2 of the Four-Day Series final at the Wanderers on Thursday. 

The home team still trails Western Province by 77 runs, who’d earlier been bowled out for 312. 

They should never have reached that total and it will eat away at Rickelton and Josh Richards, who were the guilty parties. Richards will feel ill, having added to his mistake in the field with a poor shot to lead to his dismissal just 15 minutes before the end of play.

His fellow opener, Lions captain Dominic Hendricks, also fell to a dreadful shot, swinging wildly at Mthiwekhaya Nabe, offering a chance to Daniel Smith who took a good catch at first slip. 

The opportunities for the Lions came in quick succession, 20 minutes after lunch, with Richards the first to err when he dropped Gavin Kaplan at gully.

In the next over left-hander Daniel Smith edged Tshepo Moreki but Rickelton, diving in front of first slip, spilt the chance. Kaplan had 10 at the time of his let-off and Smith was on three.

Had those chances been taken, WP would have been 166/5, still trailing the Lions’ first innings total by 55 runs. Instead, the two young WP middle-order batters turned their good fortune into an 87-run partnership, which coincidentally was the size of the WP lead. 

The visitors had control for most of the morning, despite the loss of three wickets. One of those was Tony de Zorzi, who scored 51, another workmanlike effort from the tall left-hander. 

The Lions bowling lacked consistency and venom in that session, offering the batters too many freebies, and failing to build pressure for any significant period. Obviously there was a strong chat at the lunch break, and there was certainly more energy after the interval, but that quickly dissipated when the catches were dropped. 

Kaplan and Smith each scored 60, visibly frustrating the Lions and energising their own changeroom in the process.

Delano Potgieter, who’d top-scored with 81 for the Lions, was the only bowler able to make a breakthrough when he bowled Kaplan. It took spin — from Bjorn Fortuin and the part-time off-breaks of Dominic Hendricks — to work through WP’s lower order until Moreki’s burst with the second new ball ended the innings. 

He finished with 5/65, his maiden first-class five-wicket haul, but the joy so apparent in the celebrations for that landmark quickly evaporated when the Lions went out to bat a second time. 

They are in a deep hole and all the class and experience of Zubayr Hamza, who will resume on Friday morning on one, Temba Bavuma, Rickelton and Wiaan Mulder will be needed if the Lions are to set WP something competitive in the final innings.