JOHANNESBURG - While Lungi Ngidi grabbed the spotlight at the Wanderers this week, in his shadow, Malusi Siboto produced another display that highlighted how indispensable he is to the Titans.
Siboto ended up denying his young teammate a maiden first class ‘ten-for’ as he rolled through the Highveld Lions’ middle and lower order in the second innings to claim 4/26 from 12 overs of high quality seam bowling.
Now 30 and in his ninth season as a senior professional, Siboto has become an important part of the Titans side. In just his second season with the franchise, he’s already played a critical role in them winning last season’s domestic T20 Challenge, while this season he’s been a guiding hand for a young attack.
“He goes under the radar,” said Titans coach Mark Boucher after his side’s nine-wicket victory over the Lions in the Sunfoil Series this week.
At the halfway stage of the Sunfoil Series; Siboto is the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 17, at a very good average of 21.37 and an economy rate of 2.62. That last stat is an important part of Siboto’s game and the Titans’s strategy, he provides the control and builds the pressure that usually allows others to thrive.
“He does the hard work; bowls into the wind, does the job where we ask him to,” said Boucher.
Four of the five wickets he took at the Wanderers were to catches in the cordon, an illustration of accuracy and how he got the ball to move away from the right-handers.
Siboto’s batting, according to Boucher, has come along nicely too this season. There’ve been two noteworthy contributions, a 40 not out in which he spent over two hours at the crease in the opening match against the Dolphins and an unbeaten 50 against the Lions at Centurion, just the second half-century of his career.
“We are trying to get him to become a contender for a spot as an all-rounder,” Boucher remarked.
Good lower order contributions with the bat will certainly be important for Siboto as attention switches to the T20 Challenge which starts in two weeks time. With all of their national stars available the Titans will have an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, something the team they beat at the Bullring don’t.
That doesn’t mean the Lions don’t believe they can be competitive when the T20 Challenge starts for them - with a match against the Titans. There are benefits to the big break according to Lions skipper Stephen Cook.
“Sometimes if you have too quick of a turnaround the skills suffer in the first game or two, but that won’t be the case now with all the formats spread out.”
“There’ll be a chance to play a few practice games, we can do some proper planning. There are a couple of good young guys, who are more renowned for their T20 skills,” he added.
Foremost among those are the Malan brothers; Janneman and Andre, who were both picked up up in the draft for the now defunct T20GL. The Lions’ batting, a major weakness across all the formats last summer has looked a lot more solid this season, notwithstanding the battering they took on what Cook described as a “sporty” Wanderers track against the Titans.
The likes of Rassie van der Dussen, Mangaliso Mosehle and Nicky van den Bergh all provide aggression, something the Malan brothers and their skipper at North West Marques Ackerman will want to add to as they seek to catch the attention of the Lions selectors next week.