/ 23 February 2008

Titans unconvincing but still unbeaten

The Titans maintained their unbeaten record in the MTN domestic championship this season with a four-wicket victory over the Highveld Lions in a rain-shortened match at the Wanderers on Friday.

Chasing a modest total of 139 in 38 overs to win, the Titans looked far from convincing as they lost wickets at regular intervals. Garnett Kruger claimed the first wicket in the third over, when Gulam Bodi was caught behind by Vaughn van Jaarsveld without scoring.

Heino Kuhn and Roelof van der Merwe put on 43 runs for the second wicket, but that ended when Van der Merwe was caught by Alviro Petersen off Friedel de Wet for 21. Johnston Mafa took two wickets in three balls to get rid of Francois ”Faf” du Plessis (five) and Jaco Booysen (two), and finished with figures of two for 19 off five overs.

Cliffie Deacon grabbed the valuable wicket of Kuhn, who looked set to bat throughout the innings, when he bowled him for 46. Kuhn was at the crease for just short of two hours, and faced 83 deliveries.

Farhaan Behardien was next to go, leg before wicket to Shane Burger for 23, but with the Titans needing just 15 runs for victory off eight overs, Albie Morkel and captain Pierre Joubert were able to take their team home safely with 38 balls to spare. Morkel was not out on 19 and Joubert, who hit the winning runs, had six.

Earlier, the spin duo of Imran Tahir and Van der Merwe joined forces to bowl the Lions out for 138 with four overs and two balls to spare.

Sent in to bat, the Lions suffered an early blow off the third ball of the innings when Alviro Petersen was caught in the slips by Pierre Joubert off Ethy Mbhalati without scoring. Stephen Cook and Blake Snijman put on 36 for the second wicket before Farhaan Behardien took a very good running catch to dismiss Snijman off the bowling of Brendon Reddy for 14.

The best partnership of the innings was the 42 by Cook and Vaughn van Jaarsveld, which ended when Cook was bowled by Morkel — bowling for the first time in this competition — for 41. Van Jaarsveld and Justin Ontong shared a fourth-wicket stand of 37, but once Van Jaarsveld was caught by Morkel off Tahir for 34, the Lions innings collapsed, as Tahir and Van der Merwe got among the wickets.

Ontong made 27, but the rest of the Lions batsmen were unable to get to double figures.

Tahir ended with admirable figures of four for 16 off seven overs, and Van der Merwe, who conceded 10 off his first over, took three for 25 in six overs and three balls.

”We just didn’t play well enough,” lamented Lions captain Ontong. ”But all credit to the Titans — they have come up with a new tactic, playing three spinners, and it’s been working well for them.”

Titans captain Joubert was naturally delighted with his team’s unbeaten run. ”We just want to keep the momentum going,” he said. — Sapa