CENTURION – On paper, with two team-sheets filled with international talent, this had the makings of a classic.
However, on the pitch, the big crowd here witnessed a boring one-sided affair on Sunday as the Titans romped to a seven-wicket RamSlam T20 Challenge win over the Cape Cobras.
The Cobras’ players and coaching staff will have some serious questions to ask themselves following a dreadful trio of performances in Gauteng in the first week of the RamSlam.
Despite having one of the best attacks in the competition, they conceded a record 231 runs in the opener against the Dolphins, then put in a ragged display against the Lions last Friday, and on Sunday, they collapsed completely against the competition’s favourites.
Whereas their shortcomings with the ball and in the field were exposed in those first two matches, here everything fell apart.
It started with their batsmen, who – skipper JP Duminy besides – failed to come to terms with a difficult two-paced surface.
That they didn’t read the pitch early enough is worrying, given the experience in their line-up. They lost openers Hashim Amla and Wayne Parnell early, with both trying to go too hard at the ball.
The best period of the Cobras’ innings came when Duminy and Temba Bavuma added 31 runs off 29 balls for the third wicket, but their inability to rotate the strike more efficiently saw the pressure build.
By the halfway stage of the innings, they were scoring at barely a run-a-ball, and the Titans called on their spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram to turn the screws further.
That pair combined for eight overs and conceded just 36 runs while picking up a wicket apiece, with Shamsi’s dismissal of Jason Smith with one that ripped into the right-hander a highlight.
Shamsi produced a spectacular moment in the field as well, taking a one-handed catch diving forward after sprinting in off the third-man boundary to dismiss Qaasim Adams.
Dale Steyn delivered a performance that was reminiscent of his best work. His pace, while not yet at its peak, is beginning to improve, while he also showed great control through his four-over burst.
He was rightly pleased with that performance, saying afterwards that his body – including his shoulder – was fine, but that some muscles were feeling sore due to the general high energy required in the field in a T20 match.
“The more competitive cricket I play, the better I’m starting to feel. Playing cricket is quite tough, and maybe four-day cricket and bowling 16 overs a day is a bit hard for me right now.
“But I feel I’m getting stronger,” Steyn said, who finished with 2/16 from four overs.
Duminy top-scored for the Cobras with 40 (43 balls, 3x4, 1x6), but their final target was hopelessly inadequate against such a powerful batting line-up.
Vernon Philander provided some early reasons for optimism by picking up opening pair Quinton de Kock and Henry Davids (both ducks) inside the first three overs.
But a rush of boundaries from AB de Villiers (37 off 22 balls, 7x4) quickly regained the initiative for the hosts.
Markram, after surviving another scary moment when he misjudged a single, notched up a fine half-century (45 balls, 5x4, 2x6) as the Titans coasted to their third bonus point victory of the competition.
They have four days off until their next match against the Dolphins in Benoni.
The Cobras will have a lot of hard talking to do ahead of their first home match against the Lions in Paarl, also on Friday.