PIETERMARITZBURG – The Titans held their nerve and made the cavernous gap that exists between them and the rest even greater as they defeated the Dolphins by 29 runs at a partisan Oval in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
Farhaan Behardien, who else, calmly steered his side out of a tricky corner and then blazed his way to 88 at the end to lift the Titans to 242/8.
It was a fine knock, measured amidst the madness, and just another example of how the middle-order man stands balding head and shoulders above most of his peers in domestic cricket.
What the Dolphins would have loved is someone to play a Behardien-like knock at the back-end of their chase.
Skipper Khaya Zondo was ill for the batting effort, and came as far down as seven, trying to do what he could to rescue the situation.
But as he ran out of partners – and energy – the Dolphins leader ran out of ideas, and eventually watched on as Mthokozisi Shezi was run out at the end of the 48th over when trying to go for a second.
The Dolphins were left scratching their heads, once more reminded that the road to the top is still a very long one, with a monumental speed-hump called the Titans still to negotiate.
The nature of the Momentum One-Day Cup means that everyone else is chasing the men from Pretoria, and the Dolphins knew a win at their second ground would have gone a long way to securing themselves a semi-final slot.
They bowled first and actually had the visitors on the rack, once the promising 79 start between Tony de Zorzi (38) and Heino Kuhn (33) was snuffed out.
De Zorzi never looked comfortable once pace was taken off the ball, while Rivaldo Moonsamy couldn’t get going, Shezi eventually ending his misery with a smart off-cutter.
The dangerous Heinrich Klaasen strolled to 22, and then spanked Prenelan Subrayen’s first ball straight to short-cover.
At 127/5, with the dangerous Albie Morkel trapped in front by Imran Tahir, the door was ajar for the Dolphins to try and bowl out the Titans.
The @DolphinsCricket have missed a big chance to make gains on the @Titans_Cricket at the summit. Morkel (2/30), Bosch (2/34) and Shamsi (2/53) playing key roles with the ball #MODC pic.twitter.com/QkPgTZVcbk
Instead they allowed the men in blue to rebuild, and then reignite with David Wiese (26) and Tabraiz Shamsi (15) chipping in alongside the bludgeoning Behardien.
It was a scene familiar to the Dolphins this week; seizing the initiative, and then giving it straight back.
Their bowling at the death was most peculiar, with Sibonelo Makhanya’s medium-pace favoured instead of more urgent offerings within the attack.
Another telling factor was the Dolphins’ fielding. Often a barometer for their general mood, it was again flat, with chances missed and runs leaked.
The Titans’ strong finish with the bat didn’t deter the Dolphins openers, as Morné van Wyk blazed four boundaries in Albie Morkel’s second over with the new ball.
It promised much, but he then sliced Corbin Bosch to third man for a hasty 17.
Makhanya was promoted to first-drop and scratched to 10 before he was stuck on the crease to Morkel and bowled by a ball he should have been forward to.
RESULT | TITANS WIN BY 29 RUNS
A run out wraps up the innings in 47.3 overs, Shezi going without scoring, and the Titans secure their fourth consecutive win! Zondo remains unbeaten on 36 #DOLvTTN #MODC pic.twitter.com/OHQR1fKVkJ
Muthusamy and Calvin Savage both came before Zondo, but neither of them made an impression.
All the while, local lad Sarel Erwee was flying at the other end as he reached 50 off 61 balls, the highlight of his knock a straight six off Alfred Mothoa, which cleared the scorer’s box and struck a seemingly safe journalist’s car on the bonnet.
Erwee fell awkwardly attempting a quick run and was never quite as fluent after that as he departed for 76. That was all the chance the Titans needed, and they closed in on their wobbling hosts.
Given the start that Erwee and Van Wyk had given them, the Dolphins didn’t have a ridiculous run-rate, but they were throttled by straight bowling and mounting pressure, eventually faltering by 29 runs.
It was a sad end for a jovial crowd of over 3 000 that had turned up at the picturesque Oval, revelling in the rare treat of live cricket.
The Dolphins could do far worse than to hand them a few more fixtures, but the team must remember to turn up on the field, too.