'Our worst game' - Petersen
There is a lot to be said for an honest assessment of a bad performance, and Lions' captain Alviro Petersen managed to say it all. With a straight face, he summed up their showing in the final as nothing short of what it was: abjectly poor.
"We just played some terrible cricket. We kept our worst game for last," Petersen said, without flinching as he handed down a damning judgment. "We're going to have to forget this final quickly and move on because there is nothing we can take out of it. I spoke about us running at 75% in the group stage and in the semi-final we got up to 85%. Today, we were at about 50%."
After two weeks of surprising everyone, including three of the four IPL teams and themselves, the Lions just couldn't manage it one more time. Their batting, which threatened to fall apart, did and the bowlers could do nothing but the necessary to hand Sydney a comprehensive win.
On the face of it, it would seem the big stage was a platform too big for the Lions. At 9 for 4, something more than just a better team had taken hold of them but Petersen could not pinpoint what. "I don't know if it was the occasion," he said. But Brad Haddin said the Lions were "surprised," by Sydney's tactics of using two spinners to open and had probably been focusing so much on the quicks that they forgot about the rest of the attack.
What that did was allow Sydney to keep their best bowlers for the latter parts of the innings, where the Lions have been strong in this competition. This time, too, they showed glimpses of that when Jean Symes led the fightback. "At one stage, it looked like we could get to 140 and then we could have competed," Petersen said, admitting that the eventual 121 was not enough.
Despite Sydney's success with spin, Petersen did not think the Lions could have tried the same thing, because of the change in conditions after dark. "When the sun was out, the ball just gripped a bit for the spinners but then in the evening it just skidded on," he said. "We knew that we had to do something [with the ball early on] and it would be our seamers who had to it. They bowled nicely in the first few overs but then…"
But then there were two catches dropped in the field and Sydney were given a free pass. Petersen was particularly irritated with those lapses. "Up until today, I think we had only dropped one catch in the tournament when we put Kevin Pietersen down and then we doubled our count with that today," he said.
He was annoyed that the Lions had undone the hard work of a good run to the final but not angry with his men for their failures. "I can't be [angry] because at the start of this tournament if someone said we would play in the final, I would have told them we are smelling their socks," he said. "We're obviously disappointed to go out like this."
Despite the heartache of losing, Petersen was able to identify many positives for the Lions. "We played good cricket up until today. Different guys stood up at different times," he said. "Now we've got to try and build for the future. Guys like Dwaine Pretorius and Quinton de Kock got that experience and even though we had two experienced bowlers, the rest learnt a lot from them. I'm really pleased with the way someone like Chris Morris came on."
He also thought some of the Lions' lesser-knowns took their opportunity to make names for themselves which will stand them in good stead for coming seasons. "Jean Symes and Aaron Phangiso have been good performers and in a big tournament like this, if players do well, they tend to stand out."
With those thoughts, rather than the defeat on their minds, Petersen hopes the Lions can make the turnaround quickly. They play their first match of the domestic one-day competition next Friday and Petersen and Thami Tsolekile leave the camp to join the national squad in Australia.
Petersen said he would have liked to have spent more time with them following such a shocking loss, but won't be able to. "It's difficult to leave now because there are a lot of young players who will be hurt but national duty always comes first. The guys will have to find a way of picking themselves up for the one-day cup," he said, leaving them with words of encouragement.
"The expectation on us for the other events will be higher now because we know what we are capable of. There are big things for us waiting around the corner."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent