There are Proteas players on both sides, two teams who match up well and split the two round-robin matches between them this season, while for both, the chance of claiming a trophy would signal either progress – in the case of the Dolphins – or redemption in a difficult season for the Titans.
The KwaZulu Natal franchise came close last season; sharing this title with the Warriors after rain washed out both days scheduled for the final, while they also finished as runners-up in the T20 competition to the Titans.
Theirs is a team that has constantly seemed as if it is on the rise, but aside from that share of last year’s crown, they have nothing tangible to show for all the hard work the players and coach Grant Morgan has put in.
The Titans on the other hand are perennial winners; having already claimed this competition in Mark Boucher’s first season as head coach, although last summer they came a cropper in the semi-final against the Warriors. This season has been hard for the Titans; they barely put up a fight in defence of their Four-Day title, but they’ve made good use of the experience at their disposal in the Momentum Cup.
Having already finished top of the table thanks to some stunning batting from Aiden Markram and brutal fast bowling from the competition’s top wicket taker Junior Dala, the Titans added Dale Steyn to the mix and duly beat the Cape Cobras in the semi-final last week.
There is no team in local cricket which can add that kind of talent to their line-up and even in the absence of Chris Morris (IPL), Heinrich Klaasen (IPL) and Lungi Ngidi (injury), Boucher is right to feel good about his side’s chances in today’s match.
“I do believe, without trying to sound arrogant, that if you look on paper - and I know the game is not played on paper - our guys are confident that we have the firepower to beat any side if we rock up and play our ‘A’ game. To be fair, other sides know that too, and that’s what we have to try and control,” said the Titans coach, who is going in search of his fifth trophy with the franchise in just his third season.
“Sure we will respect the opposition, the pitch (conditions), but if we rock up on the day and play our ‘A’ game then I know we will be a difficult team to beat.”
As was the case with the semi-final Boucher named a 16-man squad from which he will pick a starting eleven for the final. Rather surprisingly both all-rounders, Grant Thomson and Corbin Bosch are absent – the latter’s axing meaning there’ll be no ‘Bosch derby’ against his brother Ethan, who impressed in the Dolphins’ semi-final win against the Warriors.
Instead the Titans have included both leg-spinner Shaun von Berg and left-arm spinner Gregory Mahlokwane in addition to Tabraiz Shamsi hinting perhaps that the match could be played on the same surface as the one used last for last Wednesday’s semifinal and the Titans are expecting it to be slower.
That would play into the Dolphins hands. Keshav Maharaj was superb in picking up 4/36 against the Warriors and alongside Senuran Muthusamy, forms a highly effective partnership capable of taking advantage of slower and drier pitches.
The Dolphins will bring the in-form Vaughn van Jaarsveld and another aggressive left-hander Sarel Erwee, to go at Steyn, while in the middle order Dane Vilas, skipper Khaya Zondo and Andile Phehlukwayo, who starred in the round-robin fixture between the two sides at SuperSport Park in February, provide panache and power.
The Titans’ top order is something of a mystery. Statistically they are all in-form, but as they showed three times this season – including in the semi-final –they are capable of collapsing. They can’t always rely on Farhaan Behardien to bail them out, and the Dolphins will most certainly be aware to try and expose that vulnerability once more.
Today’s match starts at 10am.