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Lions ready to pounce in Pro20 Series

No longer is the Standard Bank Pro20 Series the candy-floss, powder-puff, let's-have-a-hit-and-see-how-it-goes competition of 2003/04 when it made its debut on the South African sporting scene.

No longer is the Standard Bank Pro20 Series the candy-floss, powder-puff, let's-have-a-hit-and-see-how-it-goes competition of 2003/04 when it made its debut on the South African sporting scene.

All the quirky histrionics are still there (the dunk tanks, hard hats and so on), but for the players, the Pro20 now represents another trophy and thus an opportunity to put a successful marker on a season.

So while they'll certainly be enjoying themselves, the Highveld Lions, who start their campaign against the Warriors at Wanderers on Friday evening, also know the importance of performing well and have targeted the competition's trophy this season.

An air of disappointment still lingers around Corlett Drive after their defeat in the semifinals of the Standard Bank Cup two weeks ago, although Lions coach Gordon Parsons said on Tuesday that the players had done their best to try to put that 34-run defeat against the Eagles behind them.

"They have hidden the disappointment from that defeat very well, and hopefully they will have learnt something from it," he said.

The Pro20 series provides an opportunity to gain a modicum of redemption, although Parsons admits that luck will play a large part in the outcome of the month-long event.

"There's not been enough matches for anyone to say they know what the right formula is for this format.

"But teams are getting better at it, people are starting to work out how to play it and I think you'll find that 180 runs will be a par score this season," Parsons explained.

The absence of a big hitter does leave the Lions slightly short in one important aspect of this extremely abbreviated format of the game - and it has proved costly since the competition's inception two seasons ago. Other sides, like the Eagles (with Loots Bosman and Johan van der Wath), the Titans (Justin Kemp and Albie Morkel) and the Warriors (Tyron Henderson) have managed to clear the fences with brutal hitting.

Parsons is unperturbed though. "I've tried to emphasise to the guys that pure cricket shots still win games. We mustn't panic or try to overhit the ball."

A great deal of emphasis will be placed on sharpening the players' skills and the Pro20 offers the perfect arena for the players to show off that part of their talents. "They're good, but one is never really happy, our skills can always be better."

Friday's match is the Lions' only Pro20 game at the Wanderers this season, something Parsons is not too pleased about. Their only other home fixture, against the Dolphins next month, will be played at Sedgars Park in Potchefstroom.

On Sunday they travel to Bloemfontein to play the Standard Bank Cup champions the Eagles.

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source - int.iol.co.za

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