JOHANNESBURG - On paper the Titans looked the best of the six participating teams at the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 tournament and in the final a target of 149 appeared to be “doable” as Mark Boucher mentioned.
Ultimately the big names in their squad couldn’t get them across the line in the final against a young and extremely skilful Lahore Qalanders bowling unit. Not many outside of Pakistan would have heard of Haris Rauf and the 18-year-old Shaheen Afridi, but the manner in which they closed out the Titans innings, bowling yorker after yorker, with unerring accuracy, eventually delivered their team the title.
Both Boucher and Albie Morkel, who have seen just about all there is to see in the sport, were wholesome in their praise of the two young quicks. Morkel described it as “the best yorkers” he had faced in years, with Boucher saying he had to tip his hat to how the pair performed under pressure, defending a target many felt was at least 20 runs short against the powerful Titans batting line-up.
For all the experience the Titans had in their squad, with Chris Morris producing some eye-catching performances with both bat and ball over the three matches, it was the emergence of some young talent that they will be most encouraged about.
Tony de Zorzi certainly made a name for himself with a fine century against the Boost Defenders, an innings Morkel hoped would be a “line in the sand” for the left-hand opener. “He’s been with our team for a while and played a couple of games last season, but I hope this innings will help to launch his career. That hundred was one of the best T20 innings I’ve seen,” Morkel said.
Tshepo Moreki also bowled well throughout the competition, showing why the Titans invested in bringing him up from Cape Town. He picked up three wickets in the final and if his development continues, the Titans will see it as money well spent.
Taking out the accolade of #ManOfTheMatch for the #AbuDhabiT20 in an EPIC final was the 1 & only young, charismatic @iShaheenAfridi from @lahoreqalandars! The teen with a mean arm came away with 2 for 24 in this iconic match to aid his teammates to secure a smooth win. #MTvLQ pic.twitter.com/DlyYS6gj79— Abu Dhabi Cricket (@AbuDhabiCricket) October 6, 2018
“It’s a bit disappointing,” Boucher said about falling 15 runs short in the final. “I’d like to be going back with that trophy at the back of the plane, but we played some good cricket here. We dominated the first two games and it will be a good experience for the youngsters who played against some quality players here.”
While the Titans players were excited about the tournament, it’s hard to judge the impact it’s had. There were hardly any spectators over the course of the three days and a high quality final was played in a very flat atmosphere on Saturday night.
Organisers, who claim they want to run the event again next year with increased prize money, say they want the tournament to have a similar feel to Fifa’s World Club Cup, but it is a long way away from that at this stage.
We would like to thank @AbuDhabiCricket for inviting us to be part of the #AbuDhabiT20.@SportaGroup for ensuring we had memorable time and to @Marriott for hosting us this week. pic.twitter.com/4ZBVE1v90I— The Titans (@Titans_Cricket) October 6, 2018