CENTURION - The Dolphins must have wished for rain on Saturday night to save them from the very public humiliation they had to endure at the hands of one of the most powerful domestic teams ever assembled as the Titans won the RamSlam final by seven wickets.
Some people may have moaned about the absence of Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel from the Titans’ starting team on Saturday, those people would not have included the Dolphins players, who had enough trouble dealing with an excellent Chris Morris, a bruising Lungi Ngidi and a cunning Malusi Siboto.
For as bad as some of the Dolphins’ dismissals were, they had a lot to do with the outstanding bowling from that trio, who built and maintained pressure throughout the visiting team’s innings.
Certainly the Dolphins, who’ve had a RamSlam campaign that’s been badly affected by the weather - which saw them complete just one home game - were not prepared for the quality they faced here Saturday.
It now seems ironic that their one crucial win this season came against the Titans, a weakened outfit on that final Sunday of round-robin play that was missing the seam bowling trio who destroyed the Dolphins hopes on Saturday.
There was probably even more gnashing of teeth in the Cape as they watched this match unfold, but the Cobras had their chance last week and they stuffed it up.
The Dolphins don’t make the rules, but having benefited from them to reach this finale, they were then undone by the tournament’s best team.
Openers Morné Van Wyk and Vaughn van Jaarsveld had actually showed intent in the opening over, bowled by Albie Morkel, who’d inserted them upon winning the toss.
They each smashed a boundary down the ground in that over, but the tone for the innings was set in Ngidi’s first over in which he conceded just two runs, by hitting the pitch hard and bowling at the batsmen’s bodies.
Morris replaced Morkel and with his second ball was gifted the wicket of Van Wyk who miscued a lofted drive skying the ball to cover. Morris for the first time since returning from his back injury had his radar in tune, and with his pace up, proved too much for the Dolphins to handle.
In attempting to transfer the pressure, Van Jaarsveld slogged Morris to De Villiers. Thereafter, it was a procession.
The Titans were sharp in the field, certainly producing ground fielding of a standard that has been lacking for much of the competition.
There were two errors; Tabraiz Shamsi not picking up the flight of the ball off a top edged pull by Dane Vilas and Morkel missing Andile Phehlukwayo at slip - a devilishly difficult opportunity - off Shamsi’s bowling.
Morris finished with figures of 4/13, the best for a final in this competition, while Ngidi, although not claiming as many wickets was still just as good finishing with 2/15.
Siboto the hero of last year’s final clung onto a couple of catches and picked up 2/10 in three overs, backing up the sterling work of his teammates.
The Titans predictably barely broke sweat in pursuit of a tiny target; Quinton de Kock (39) and AB de Villiers (27) treated the partisan crowd to some stunning strokeplay before Farhaan Behardien, one of the heroes in the Titans’ early dominance this season tapped Phehlukwayo to midwicket for the winning run.
It was the third season in a row that the Titans claimed this trophy, and underlined once again that they are South Africa’s leading franchise by some distance.