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Adjustment to play spin key: McKenzie

Lions batter also highlights importance of getting used to local conditions

The Highveld Lions will take on the Perth Scorchers in the second match of Group A in the Karbonn Smart Champions League Twenty20 2013. The runners-up in the 2012 edition of CLT20, and the winners of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge 2012-13, are prepared to make a third attempt at the coveted trophy when they take the field at the Sardar Patel Stadium on Monday afternoon.

Speaking about the Lions campaign, senior batsman Neil McKenzie said, “We would take it one game at a time. I think all the sides can win. Just look at the Qualifiers that have come through and how well they have been played. (...) it’s going to be a really hard fought competition. And I think whichever side gets used to the conditions as quick as possible (can win).”

The Lions were deemed underdogs by captain Alviro Petersen on their arrival in India. Elaborating on his skipper’s thoughts, McKenzie said, “A lot of the guys haven’t left the country in terms of playing in the subcontinent. So back home we probably wouldn’t be underdogs, but here the conditions are different than what we are used to. We have to adjust to different lengths so that takes a bit of time. But having said that, we have got some serious players in our squad like Imarn Tahir, Sohail Tanveer that can do the job. But the conditions are foreign to quite a few of the squad, so obviously the guys who have played here are doing a lot of talking to get the preparations right. We have got no doubt that those guys will perform.”

However, the Lions batsman, who has been to India earlier, said that one cannot be sure of what awaits them. He observed, “I have been to India a few times and it is hard to say (what to expect). You think you are going to come and play on dust bowls, but look at last night’s wicket (in Jaipur during the Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians match) and the wickets that matches have been played on (during the Qualifiers) and it looks like there has been some bounce and seam movement and swing. So I think that will help some of our fast bowlers. But it will be hard work for some of our batters, so depends on what sort of pitches we are going to come up against.

While discussing their upcoming opponents, the Perth Scorchers, the senior batter said, “The positive thing about playing against the Perth Scorchers first is that they are not a subcontinent side as well so they will also have to adjust to the conditions. So it lets us get used to the conditions. They have got a young side with a few old heads. They are still a quality side but their bowling is a bit unknown so we have got some homework to do on them.”

Speaking about their strategy and the team he added, “If you have an experienced set of guys, especially the bowling side of things just tend to happen. You get your blueprint in most teams. If you look at teams that have done well over the last couple of years, they have got a blueprint that they sort of stick to. There could be one or two variations but it is the blueprint that they know and everyone knows their role. So that comes with experience and playing together for a while.”

Asked if they have planned to counter spinner Brad Hogg, who is one of the key players for the Scorchers, he said, “Coming out here and getting a few more games and practicing on these wickets, you get your strategy there. He is a world-class player; he has come from retirement and found that the Twenty20 game suits him and he has done well and played for the national side. Look at any side and you won’t find any that doesn’t have a quality spinner. There are subcontinental sides that can host two or three quality spinners. We sort of know what we are in for.”

While McKenzie agreed that the toss is crucial, he also pointed out that, “they only start the game.” He added, “You have to have your basics together and a have a great game plan. (...) We have got a good balance. We have got a quality bowling side. So if we under-score, we have a chance to bowl us to a victory; and if we don’t bowl well up front or if someone gets in and goes big, we have got a batting side that can chase. We will back ourselves to chase most totals. “

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