CENTURION – The Titans picked up their second trophy of the season when they rolled to a four-wicket win against the Knights here on Sunday.
It was the fifth time the franchise has won the country’s premier first-class competition outright.
Coach Mark Boucher and Heinrich Klaasen both pointed to a stern heart-to-heart between players and coaches following a dramatic defeat to the Warriors in East London three weeks ago as a key moment in the team’s season.
“There are characters in (our) dressing-room who, even if they are not in the right space, they are nice and honest.
“We had a very, very important chat after the Warriors game in the dressing-room.
“We were man enough to admit the mistakes we were making, not just as a cricket team, but as individuals, getting in each other’s space – which can happen towards the end of a season.
“But we swore to ourselves that we would change it, which is exactly what we did,” said Boucher.
Coming into the final round of matches, the Titans were one of four teams in with a chance of winning the Sunfoil Series, with their opponents here, the defending champions, another of those candidates.
Having lost two days to rain, the two captains Klaasen and Rudi Second agreed to limit their teams’ respective first innings to 40 overs a side to create time.
The Titans forced the issue particularly with the bat, pounding 269/3 in 40 overs to add 3.38 batting points to the three points they picked up for bowling.
On Sunday, the tension ramped up as the Titans, having established a 100-run lead on the first innings, then sought to limit the Knights.
Chris Morris produced an inspired spell from the West Lane End after lunch to break an irritating seventh-wicket stand between Second (76) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (29) that not only threatened to add runs the Titans didn’t want to chase, but use up time too.
Morris picked up both their wickets in one over however, and the remainder of the Knights order folded, leaving the hosts 110 runs to win.
Morris finished with 6/55 from 17 overs, while Malusi Siboto deserves credit for another excellent performance, picking up 3/43.
Although not a big target, there were some nervy moments as the clouds rolled in and the light faded, and the last two batsmen Morris and Shaun von Berg were instructed to sprint to the centre – in the latter’s case so rushed was Von Berg that he forgot his helmet.
It proved no bother though as he clipped Marchant de Lange – who bowled rapidly against his former team – through midwicket for four to secure a four-wicket win.
In Durban, the Warriors – who topped the table coming into the final round – were victims of the weather, with insufficient time available to push for a win.
Nevertheless they earned a substantial haul of bonus points – 8.40 – to make the Titans a little nervous.
Ultimately, the two teams were separated by just 1.52 points.
In Potchefstroom, the Cape Cobras – the other team in contention in the final round of the competition – lost by nine wickets to an inspired Highveld Lions team, who chased down 258 in just 40 overs.
Both openers, Stephen Cook and Reeza Hendricks, made hundreds. The pair, who’ve struggled as a partnership this season, mainly down to Cook’s lack of form, shared a stand of 226.
Once that result came through to the Titans dressing-room, the drinks were hauled out of the fridge and the celebrations could begin properly.
This victory further underlined the Titans’ dominance of the domestic game.
Besides being Boucher’s fourth trophy in just his second season as head coach, it was also the franchise’s sixth trophy in the last three seasons.@shockerhess