JOHANNESBURG – The Lions were left bemoaning some desperately poor bowling, in seamer-friendly conditions, as they became the first team to suffer a defeat in this season’s Sunfoil Series here on Wednesday.
The hosts were out-bowled by a relatively inexperienced Titans attack led by a thunderous return to the big time for 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi, who finished with match figures of 9/82 in 28 overs as the visitors triumphed by nine wickets.
He led the charge on Wednesday morning as the Lions imploded from their overnight score of 104/3 to be bowled out of 165 after just 19 overs in the first session.
Ngidi claimed the wickets of Rassie van der Dussen (28) and Nicky van den Bergh (11) within the first half-an-hour of play, starting a dramatic collapse that left the visitors needing just 133 to win.
Malusi Siboto produced a classy spell from the Corlett Drive End, getting the ball to move beautifully off the pitch to register figures of 4/26.
The Titans, led by a sublime innings of 81 not out by Aiden Markram that was packed with stunning strokeplay – including 13 fours and two sixes – knocked off the required runs in just 19 overs, further darkening the mood of Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana.
“The Titans out-bowled us, out-skilled us – I don’t think we landed enough balls in the right areas,” Toyana said afterwards.
The Lions mentor pointed out the inexperience of the Titans attack, whose two new ball bowlers, Ngidi and Migael Pretorius, have just 22 first-class matches between them.
“For them to be so disciplined was impressive, they gave our batsmen nothing,” Toyana.
“When it came to our bowling, there were half-volleys, long-hops, balls bowled both sides of the wickets… in the first 20 overs of their first innings and in these 20 overs here, we went at five runs an over on a ground, on that pitch where 2.5 was more appropriate.”
Titans coach Mark Boucher was naturally delighted with his side’s performance, and the fact that as the first team to pick up a win this season, they will open up a gap on the points table over the other sides.
“We let ourselves down to only get a 30-run (first-innings) lead. But I thought after tea on day two they never really got away from us, even though we only picked up two wickets,” said Boucher.
“That last session, as it worked out, was almost like an investment session for us – and we reaped the rewards this morning.”
Following four weeks of draws – described as boring by Toyana – both teams were happy to see some grass on the surface here.
Boucher explained that the flatter pitches seen in the first few weeks, combined with the new points system, were key elements that led to all the draws in the first half of the competition.
“Wickets have been dry and batting-friendly, but then the spinners should come into it...
“This new system of 16 points (for a win) encourages confident, aggressive cricket, but because no one won in the first round, it was as if everyone felt too scared to make a big call, because other sides could really leapfrog ahead of them,” Boucher explained.
The Titans picked up a total of 22.26 points (16 for the win, four bowling bonus points and 2.26 batting points), while the Lions finished with 5.6 points (four for bowling and 1.6 for batting).
“You’ll see more exciting cricket being played in the next half of the competition once teams start to distance themselves from each other, and then you’ll see the big gambles happen. Then we’ll really know if the system works.”
The franchise teams now have a break for two weeks until the start of the T20 Challenge on November 10.
The second half of the Sunfoil Series will resume in February next year.