“Every single one of them has a hundred this season, they’re not in bad form. But the top order collapses have happened quite a few times too. We’ve found ourselves three, four, five wickets down very quickly. It’s baffled me, given me grey hairs ... but we are in the final,” he said.
Boucher had to endure another of those collapses in Wednesday’s semifinal, when in pursuit of just 188 for victory against the Cape Cobras they slumped to 65/5 in the 15th over, needing a resolute partnership between Farhaan Behardien and Corbin Bosch to see them to victory.
“I’ve said to them to forget about it, I see it as a positive, we’ve had our bad game (with regards the top order batting) they are doing the right things, they’re hitting it well in the nets. I think watch out for our top order in the final, I think they are going to fire.”
That may just be a coach wishing to reinforce the positives among his players ahead of a big game against a resourceful Dolphins team. Because Wednesday night wasn’t the first time the top order has failed; against the Lions they slumped to 38/4 in Potchefstroom and then recovered to score 309/7 which proved insufficient and in Cape Town at the start of March they were 31/5 and required a world record partnership between Behardien and Aiden Markram to eventually post 320/6, which was a winning score.
On the flip side, they’ve had first wicket partnerships of 234 and 155 this season too.
Boucher certainly has options with his batting line-up and as he stated, they’ve all made hundreds. In fact, no other team in this season’s Momentum Cup can claim that seven of their batsmen have made hundreds as the Titans’ group can.
Boucher has mixed around his openers, using Markram, Tony de Zorizi and Theunis de Bruyn at the top of the order - and all of them have scored hundreds from that spot.
He did speak strongly of De Bruyn’s strengths as a limited overs opener, which were plain for all to see in his innings of 183 against the Knights, which came shortly after he’d had laser surgery on his eyes.
“I want Theunis to bat with a bit more freedom. There are certain guys where all you want to do is tell them, ‘just go play,’ and he is one of those guys who if he plays with a bit more freedom can be very dangerous,” said Boucher.
That would mean Markram batting in the middle order, which as he showed against the Cobras at the beginning of the month he is more than capable of doing. Although, interestingly, Markram did say afterwards that given how early he was required at the crease, he treated the start of that innings as if he was batting at No3 instead of No5.
For all of their preparation the last couple of days, it’s the confidence of the players Boucher will hope comes to the fore at SuperSport Park tomorrow.
It’s not been an easy season for him as coach nor the franchise, which is so used to success. Boucher was coach of the Tshwane Spartans, who barely put up a challenge in the in the Mzansi Super League, while the Titans’ defence of their four-day title never got going.
“We judge ourselves on trophies. We didn’t have a good four-day campaign. I’ve gone back and looked for reasons; at times we lost a lot of players to the national set-up and a lot of juniors came in. It’s difficult to build momentum in a four-day game when you are swapping or changing teams the whole time. It’s not that I wanted to do that but my hand was forced,” Boucher explained.
The Titans were well out of contention in that tournament, finishing last and winning just one match.
“In this competition we have a lot of seniority in our squad, a lot of guys who take responsibility in their different roles. It’s probably a better team on paper than what we had in the four-dayers.
“We understand we didn’t have a good four-day campaign especially defending a title, but that is something we have talked about. We want to correct that and the only way to do it is to win trophies and we find ourselves in a position where we are hopefully one game away from winning a trophy again, which is a good position. If we win a trophy, what’s the phrase?, ‘All’s forgiven'."
Tomorrow's final starts at 10am.