CENTURION – This was a far from polished display by the defending champions, but such is the experience and class at the Titans franchise that ultimately a spot in the RamSlam T20 Challenge final was booked very comfortably in an eight-wicket win over the Warriors on Wednesday night.
It was a frantic start to the afternoon, with the Titans’ resolve being tested even before the coin had been tossed.
One of their main players, Henry Davids, was injured in a freak accident during the warm-ups, which delayed the toss and led to some frenetic action as Davids was assessed and Heinrich Klaasen was informed he’d be starting – and as it turned out donning the wicket-keeper’s gloves.
The Titans weren’t at their best with the ball initially – despite Albie Morkel’s dismissal of the on-loan Wayne Parnell with a stunning in-swinging yorker in the first over – missing their lines and lengths too often.
It meant that while the Warriors lost two wickets in the Power Play, they were still able to score at 9.5 runs an over, giving themselves a very good platform for a big score on what appeared to be a slow pitch, something to which they are accustomed.
Colin Ingram (41) and Colin Ackermann (48) shared a 63-run partnership for the third wicket off 46 balls, much to the concern of the home team.
The introduction of spin was always going to be crucial given the surface, and Aiden Markram picked up Ingram in his second over with one that bounced more than the left-hander had anticipated, giving Morkel a comfortable catch at backward point.
The match turned in the 14th over when left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi claimed the wickets of first Christiaan Jonker – a wretched hoick across the line that saw the ball come off the top-edge – and then Ackermann, trapped lbw by a quicker delivery.
From 114/3 in that over, the Warriors lost their remaining seven wickets for the addition of just 29 runs off 30 balls to be bowled out for 143 in 18.1 overs.
Shamsi was outstanding, mixing pace and flight to dial in figures of 4/32. Markram claimed 1/30.
A target of 144 was never going to be enough against as powerful a batting line-up as the Titans, and despite the loss of Quinton de Kock in the first over –thanks to a sublime one-handed catch at midwicket by JJ Smuts – they cruised to victory, reaching 145/2 off 15.2 overs.
De Kock’s form will be of concern to the Titans. He’s averaging just 11.28 in the tournament, and his top score of 39 came six weeks ago in the opening match.
Although Markram wasn’t at his best, he still helped himself to an unbeaten 56 (38 balls, 5x4, 3x6) as part of a partnership of 101 with AB de Villiers, who also notched up a half-century, finishing not out on 54 (36 balls, 2x4, 4x6)
The Titans will host the RamSlam final for the third year in a row on Saturday, and await the winner of the second semi-final between the Dolphins and Cape Cobras, which will be played in Durban on Thursday
* Meanwhile, Titans CEO Jacques Faul informed Cricket South Africa just before the start of play about the unfortunate incident that saw Davids unable to participate in the match.
Cricket SA’s rules regarding its transformation targets stipulate that domestic sides must field six black players in their starting line-ups, including three black African players.
Because of Davids’ injury, the Titans fielded just five, with Heinrich Klaasen forced into the starting XI at the last minute.
Faul had informed Max Jordaan, CSA’s transformation manager, by telephone about the incident shortly before play started.
The Titans will have to submit a medical certificate to CSA in the next few days outlining the extent of Davids’ injury and the time it happened. It is believed they won’t face any sanction.
Davids is believed to have damaged his meniscus, and was taken off the field on the back of a medical cart.