Coach Paul Adams and the rest of the selection panel made a surprise decision to leave out Proteas left-hander Stiaan van Zyl, with Richard Levi coming in to open the batting.
But the Cape side still only had four top-order batters in Levi, Andrew Puttick, Omphile Ramela and captain Justin Ontong, with wicketkeeper Dane Vilas at No 5.
They had five front-line bowlers, so one of Beuran Hendricks and Dane Paterson would’ve had to make way for an extra batsman in Van Zyl. But the Cobras brains trust decided not to go that route against a strong Lions attack boasting Proteas such as Hardus Viljoen and Aaron Phangiso, as well as seasoned bowlers such as Pumelela Matshikwe, Dwaine Pretorius and Eddie Leie.
The Cobras made a decent start with a 31-run stand between Levi and Puttick, but the right-hander was run out for 18 when Puttick sent him back for a single and Temba Bavuma threw down the stumps.
The Lions landed two critical blows with the score on 43 as first Ramela (2) chopped on from Matshikwe, and Puttick (21) edged Pretorius behind to wicket-keeper Nicky van den Burgh.
Ontong and Vilas (23) had to do a rescue job and put on 33 for the fourth wicket, but the Cobras wicket-keeper had a soft dismissal when he tried to cut Phangiso, only to get a feather on it to Van den Burgh.
Worse was to follow for the Cobras as Aviwe Mgijima (5) was undone by a wonderful googly from leg-spinner Leie, which brought Wayne Parnell to the crease.
The Cobras all-rounder was the last batsman of real substance, and needed to take his team as deep as possible with Ontong as they were reeling at 94/5 off 21 overs. But just as Parnell (7) looked to get going, he slashed Hardus Viljoen with venom to point, only for Dominic Hendricks to take a screamer of a catch as he dived high to his right.
Ontong tried to keep his team afloat and got to his 50 off just 65 balls, and he found strong support from Dane Piedt. The Cobras off-spinner worked the ball around the ground in a partnership of 48, but he succumbed for 22 when he edged Matshikwe to Van den Burgh.
Ontong followed eight balls later, chipping Matshikwe to Alviro Petersen for a well-played 60 off 77 balls (2x4), and Tshepo Moreki and Dane Paterson were both trapped lbw by Phangiso for ducks to end the Cobras’ misery.
Now Adams will hope that his sizable bowling attack will somehow conjure up a miracle to bowl out a top-class Lions batting line-up that boasts Proteas such as Stephen Cook, Alviro Petersen and Temba Bavuma, but that is unlikely to happen.
Cape Cobras: Andrew Puttick, Richard Levi, Omphile Ramela, Justin Ontong (captain), Dane Vilas (w/k), Aviwe Mgijima, Wayne Parnell, Dane Piedt, Dane Paterson, Tshepo Moreki, Beuran Hendricks.
Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook (captain), Rassie van der Dussen, Alviro Petersen, Temba Bavuma, Dominic Hendricks, Nicky van den Bergh (w/k), Dwaine Pretorius, Hardus Viljoen, Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie, Pumelela Matshikwe.
Original source: Limp Cobras shot out by Lions