Johannesburg — The domestic season ends with the ‘Jukskei derby’ in the CSA One-Day Cup Final on Wednesday.
The Imperial Lions travel up the M1 to Centurion to try and prevent the Momentum Multiply Titans from claiming a second title this season. It was the Titans who pipped the Lions to the post to win the Four-Day Series earlier this season.
The ‘Sky Blues’ have quickly asserted themselves as the top provincial team in the newly structured domestic system. From a runners-up spot in the T20 Challenge, to champions in the Four-Day competition and now to hosting the One-Day final, Mandla Mashimbyi’s team has transferred the dominance which they exerted for most of the franchise era into the current 15-team structure.
The Titans won five out of seven league matches, losing just one, by batting their opponents into oblivion. Three of the top four totals in the competition were made by the Titans, including the new South Africa record for One-Day cricket, the 453/3 they made against the North West Dragons at SuperSport Park a week ago.
Five of their batters have aggregates of over 200 runs, with Heinrich Klaasen’s 414, only topped by the Warriors’ Wihan Lubbe, who scored 441 runs - on the back of three hundreds - scoring more.
The Titans are an intimidating unit, which have been very well led by the ebullient Sibonelo Makhanya. The 26 year old relocated from Durban a few seasons back and has gradually ensconced himself in the Titans’ culture lending some of his own chirpiness to it, while playing crucial roles with the bat and in the field.
The final is shaping up as a battle between the Titans’ batters and the Lions’ bowlers. In fact it was against the Lions, that the Titans produced their worst batting performance of the competition, when they were dismissed for 145 at the Wanderers last Friday.
That was an unusual match that was dominated by spin, with the Lions only winning by one wicket.
Sisanda Magala is the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 21, causing many to wonder about the wisdom of omitting him from the national team over concerns about fitness. He has bowled superbly, especially up front with the new ball, and has two five wicket hauls in the competition.
Bjorn Fortuin did pick up five wickets in that match at the Wanderers, while 23 year old Codi Yusuf has produced some crucial spells and important knocks too to provide depth to the Lions side.
The Titans are favourites, given home ground advantage which play to their strengths. Of the top 10 totals in the tournament, four have come in Centurion, and despite last week’s mishap at the Wanderers, the Titans have shown they revel in home conditions.
Wednesday’s final starts at 1pm.