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Lutho Sipamla's six-for sets up innings win for Lions

He provided a timely reminder of his red-ball credentials with a Test summer looming

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Lutho Sipamla bowls on Test debut, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, December 26, 2020

Lutho Sipamla bowls  •  AFP via Getty Images

Lutho Sipamla was one of three bowlers to pick up a six-for in the match as Lions beat Warriors by an innings and 20 runs to move to the top of the first-class points table.
Sipamla took 6 for 34 as Warriors were bowled out for 96 in their first innings, before Marco Jansen took 6 for 38, as Lions were dismissed for 170. Then Sisanda Magala's 6 for 30 knocked the Warriors over for just 54 on an unusually bowler-friendly St George's Park strip. There were no individual scores of 40 or more in the match.
"We don't usually get such seamer-friendly conditions at this venue," Sipamla, who moved from Warriors to Lions two seasons ago, told ESPNcricinfo. "The pitch gave us a lot. It wasn't drastic movement and we just had to be very consistent with where we put the ball."
The result is that Sipamla is now the top wicket-taker in Division One of the competition with 12 wickets from the two matches he has played so far, at an average of 13.50, and has provided a timely reminder of his red-ball credentials with a Test summer looming. South Africa host India for three Tests, starting in mid-December at Sipamla's new home ground, the Wanderers, where he last played for the senior side earlier this year. He made his debut last summer, in the series against Sri Lanka, where he took 10 wickets across two Tests but then found himself on the sidelines.
"It's tough with the national set up with KG (Kagiso Rabada), Anna (Anrich Nortje) and Lungi (Ngidi) all fit," " Sipamla said. "Last year, I got the opportunity because there was an injury (Rabada was recovering from a groin strain) and I took it with both hands, played well. Then, the senior players came back and just made things tough. I was part of the Test series with Pakistan as well but couldn't get game time because its' tough competition. But I am still in the system and am focusing on the Lions."
After traveling with the national side to Pakistan in January-February but was then not included on their winter tour to West Indies. Instead, he went with the South African A team to Zimbabwe where he got game time and finished as their third-highest wicket-taker in the one-day series and second highest in the curtailed unofficial Test series. Now, he is one of the leaders of Lions' attack, albeit the most inexperienced in age terms, and is relishing the time with former Test player Duanne Olivier, and experienced domestic campaigners, Sisanda Magala and Malusi Siboto.
"I am the youngest among the four so I am learning a lot," Sipamla said. "My move to the Lions was to try and get as much exposure to senior players as I can. I am trying to be a sponge and it's helping me a lot."
His new-ball partner, Olivier, has instilled in Sipamla an appreciation for the present moment. "He has taught me about mental toughness and also aggression. He focuses on the now and the task at hand. Opening the bowling with him has allowed me to be calmer, and just see what's necessary at that moment in time," he said, while Magala helps Sipamla find his fight. "He is also another aggressive type of bowler. He is fit, he is strong and he adds a lot of value in terms of seniority."
Although Sipamla does not have specific boxes to tick to catch the national selectors' eyes again, he is working on, "trying to keep things a lot tighter and to have more control on where I place the ball," he said. "And working on the mental side of the game." He recognises that the "Proteas are on the up,"and is happy to bide his time until he is reconsidered. That may be sooner than he expects, though. South Africa have a heavy Test load over the coming months with the India series, a tour to New Zealand and matches against Bangladesh in the home summer before a tour to England in August.

In other results:

Division One:
  • Pite van Biljon scored a second successive century, sits atop the overall run charts and set Knights up for a big win over North West. Knights scored 418 in their first innings, thanks for van Biljon and Patrick Kruger's 192* and then bowled North West out for 237 and asking them to follow-on. North West were then bowled out for 197, leaving the Knights with a target of 17 runs. Mbulelo Budaza took 6 for 116 in the match.
  • Titans and Dolphins played out a high-scoring draw at SuperSport Park. Jordan Hermann scored a century for the Titans, Sarel Erwee matched that with 163 to give the Dolphins a slender lead and the Titans were into their second innings, 117 runs ahead, when a final day washout meant no further play was possible.
  • In Paarl, Boland drew with neighbours Western Province with former Test opener Pieter Malan the star of the show. Malan followed up a first innings 96 with 117* in the second innings. In between that, Western Province's Tony de Zorzi also scored a century.
  • Division Two:
    • Offspinner Aubrey Swanepoel's 6 for 42 bowled Northern Cape to a 130-run win over KwaZulu-Natal Inland in Kimberley. Northern Cape scored big in both their innings, making 333 in the first dig and declared on 301 for 9 in the second, where Ernest Kemm scored 121. Four of Kwa-Zulu Natal Inland's top five reached first innings half-centuries but they were bowled out for 182 in their second innings in chase of 313.
    • Musawenkosi Twala and Thomas Hobson traded hundreds in Benoni, where Easterns and Limpopo drew their match. Easterns racked up 441 in their first innings and bowled Limpopo out for 261 and enforced the follow-on. Easterns only took three second innings wickets and Limpopo finished on 207 for 3.
    • No play on the first day and bad light on the last ended what was shaping up to be a thriller between South Western Districts (SWD) and Mpumalanga, which finished with SWD 41 runs away from victory. They were chasing 206 after falling 102 runs behind in their first innings and then bowling Mpumalanga out for 104. SWD were on track for victory on 166 for 2 when no further play was possible.
    • Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent