JOHANNESBURG – Given their respective performances with the bat in the CSA T20 Challenge on the Highveld last weekend, the anticipated outcomes for the Cape Cobras and Titans were very surprising.
The Cobras fought their way to a competitive total - no more than that - against the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers on Sunday, while two days earlier, the Titans cruised towards 216 against the Warriors, as close to a perfect batting display in the T20 format as one could hope for.
However, the Cobras won and the Titans lost.
Of course, rain intervened in the latter’s match, benefiting the Warriors, who’d started rapidly and were only just ahead of the demands of the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern revised target when the heavens opened.
The Cobras needed some help from the Lions’ lethargic batting and a top drawer final over from Dane Paterson to win at the Bullring.
Those two outcomes again served to illustrate the narrow margins in this format, which included misfortune in the Titans’ case.
The two teams meet in Benoni today (6pm start). The Cobras will be hoping to build on the good elements they produced at the Wanderers, while the Titans would probably just like a full game, although given the importance it played in the outcome last Friday, there’ll have been a detailed assessment of their start with the ball.
This T20 Challenge, coming as it does at the end of the season and with some in Cricket SA’s administration having pushed for it to be cancelled, may seem somewhat unloved.
It would be hard to say crowds flooded through the gates on the opening weekend, suggesting that concerns about "cricket fatigue" were very real.
Nevertheless, it remains a competition the players would like to win, and for the four franchises without a trophy this season - the Warriors, Cobras, Dolphins and Knights - a chance to claim something tangible for all their efforts over the summer.
The Cobras were pipped at the post in the Four-Day Challenge and their push for the Momentum One-Day Cup was ended by today’s opponents. So there should be no shortage of motivation for the Cobras given that two of the three losses they suffered to the Titans in the 50-over competition were heavy ones - by 83 runs at Newlands and 10 wickets at Centurion in the round-robin phase of the competition.
The semi-final should also have been a blowout for the Titans, but some tenacious bowling from Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt made matters interesting.
That pair will be back alongside Paterson today, targeting another disciplined display like the one produced at the Wanderers.
It’s their batting the Cobras will want to improve. There's no shortage of talent and experience and it will be a matter of Hashim Amla - continuing his return after a protracted period on the sidelines - Janneman Malan, David Bedingham and Kyle Verrynne turning their good starts into something more substantial to put the three-time defending champions under pressure.@shockerhess