JOHANNESBURG – A battle between second and fifth after just four rounds of the Four-Day Franchise series with the Highveld Lions occupying the higher position over their neighbours the Titans is most likely not a scenario many would’ve envisaged at the start of the season.
The Titans have been the dominant franchise in domestic cricket for the last few seasons, they are the defending champions in the four-day competition and have provided two thirds of the players currently on tour with the Proteas Down Under.
And despite still carrying Test incumbents Dean Elgar and Theunis de Bruyn in their line-up, their depth has been compromised by the call-ups to the national team and it’s been reflected in their performances through the first three rounds of the four-day competition.
De Bruyn has single-handedly carried the batting load thus far and, with an aggregate of 405 runs, is the competition’s top run scorer. But no other Titans batsmen features in the top 20 scorers, with the next best contribution coming from Tony de Zorzi who has scored 110 in the opening three rounds. Therein is the root of their problems, which has meant they’ve picked up just 7.5 points for batting, the lowest among the six teams after three rounds.
Mark Boucher has made five changes to the squad from the group that was hammered at home by the Cape Cobras last week, one to shrink the size from 14 to 13, but four others see Andrea Agathagelou, Junior Dala, Rivaldo Moonsamy and Neil Brand all dropped.
Meanwhile, the Lions are feeling much better about themselves despite, like their neighbours, having been thumped at home by the table-topping Cobras. But last week they bounced back with a convincing win against the Knights, which featured sterling performances from their senior players; skipper Temba Bavuma top scoring in the Lions’ only innings with 94, while Beuran Hendricks picked up match figures of 9/69.
“I think as a coach a good start is something you always hope for, but you can’t plan for it,” said Lions coach Enoch Nkwe. “Now that it’s happened, we are fortunate to have won two out of three.
We’ll be trying to build on that when we start out again in the derby from Monday.”