Champions League T20
Toyana: Home advantage key
Highveld Lions (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Highveld Lions must capitalise on home ground advantage, according to coach Geoffrey Toyana, when they start their Twenty20 Champions League campaign this weekend.
"I think the biggest thing for us is we are playing at home, so home advantage will be key for us and we know the conditions," Toyana said on Friday.
"Our side is a young side. They will bring energy... we will play without any fear... I want them to play without any fear and I want them to enjoy their cricket."
The Lions face Indian Premier League (IPL) side the Mumbai Indians in their tournament opener on Sunday, while fellow South African representatives the Titans begin their campaign against Australian outfit Perth Scorchers in Centurion on Saturday.
Both teams will then travel to Newlands and Kingsmead before returning to the highveld for their closing group fixtures.
Lions skipper Alviro Petersen said the T20 format had come a long way since its inception, with the best players showing their quality over time.
"I think all the good batters... all the guys with good techniques, generally come out on top in Twenty20 cricket over a long period of time." Titans coach Matthew Maynard believed the key to T20 cricket was having a captain with different plans in his arsenal if the first did not work --a strength he attributed to veteran skipper Martin van Jaarsveld.
"I think the key in Twenty20 cricket is having that B and C plan, because your A plan may not work.
"It's Martin's instinct out there on the pitch as a skipper, which is absolutely crucial, and that's something... he did brilliantly last year and that's one of his very strong traits.
"He knows the game so well, understands Twenty20 very well, and that's a massive advantage for us I believe."
The Lions beat the Mumbai Indians in their opening game of the 2010 Champions League, but Petersen believed the IPL side would pose a different threat this year.
"I think they will come at us this time round," Petersen said.
"I thought the first time, in 2010, they didn't know what to expect.
"They were obviously the favourite to win and we just did things well.
"This time round I think they will be aware of how we play in our own conditions. They would want to prove a point.
"They don't want to lose twice to the same opposition."
Van Jaarsveld felt the short 20-over format was the most difficult for a captain.
"Everything is happening so quickly... as long as the plans are really clear and the players know exactly what to do in certain situations, you go to that plan," said the Titans skipper.
"If it works, then it's great, but if it doesn't work, then it's almost like you end up being the villain.
"On the day, in the minute, it just depends on your gut feel.
"Whether to rather go to a spinner or seam bowler, the margins are so small."
The Lions will play in Group B in the first round, against IPL sides Mumbai and the Chennai Super Kings, Australian team the Sydney Sixers and England's Yorkshire.
Aside from the Scorchers, the Titans, in Group A, will face IPL outfits Kolkata Knights Riders and the Dehli Daredevils, as well as New Zealand's Auckland Aces.
Sri Lankan side Uva Next, Pakistani team the Sialkot Stallions, Hampshire from England, and West Indian team Trinidad and Tobago were eliminated in the qualifiers.