Johannesburg - The Highveld Lions had their final practice on Thursday afternoon, ahead of what could be the biggest cricket match many of them will ever play – the opening match of the Airtel Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) at the Wanderers on Friday evening.
“We have been emphasising that there is no pressure on them and that they must just go out and play their natural game,” said coach Dave Nosworthy. “But there is no chance that they will be too laid back tomorrow and they certainly won’t need any motivation to do their best.
“A big match in front of 30 000 spectators at the Bull Ring is enough to get anyone’s adrenalin pumping, and they will all be wanting to perform well on the international stage.”
Nosworthy said any team could cause an upset in a Twenty20 (T20) match. “We don’t have the big stars like a Sachin Tendulkar or a Kieron Pollard or a Dwayne Bravo,” he said. “Alviro (Petersen) and Neil McKenzie both have Test cricket experience, and Vaughn van Jaarsveld has had a taste of international cricket, but the players all know what they are supposed to do, and in a T20 match, anyone can step forward and take the game away from the opposition.
“So we’ve worked hard and prepared well for this match, and I am happy to tell the boys to relax and enjoy themselves.”
Earlier in the week, Lions’ captain Alviro Petersen said he thought that the pressure was on the Mumbai Indians. “It’s a big game for us, and we know that they are more experienced than we are,” he said. “But I think the pressure is on them – everyone expects them to win, but we can play our natural game and hopefully go away with the points. “If we can start well against the Mumbai Indians, that could be the start of a good run.”
Tendulkar said the Lions would have a slight advantage in the opening match because of their knowledge of conditions at the Wanderers.
“After having played for such a long time, I’m playing in South Africa in September for the first time in my career, so conditions are slightly different. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t produce good cricket. We’re here to compete hard and to compete fairly. The Lions have the advantage of knowing the conditions and the ground better than us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them,” he said.
The match starts at 5.30 pm and will be preceded by a short opening ceremony. Tickets for CLT20 are available from Computicket. Tickets are priced from R30 to R200. Fans can also purchase tickets directly from the host venues.