Harris has Eagles in a spin

A five-wicket haul by Paul Harris helped the Titans cruise to a crushing eight-wicket victory over the Diamond Eagles in the final of the MTN domestic championship at Outsurance Park on Friday, to retain the trophy they won last year.

The Titans were in control from start to finish, making the hapless Eagles look nothing like the team that dominated the league stages of the tournament. The home side, who were sent in to bat, were bowled out for a paltry 138 in 44 overs, and the champions responded by knocking off the runs with 19 overs and three balls to spare.

The visitors had the Eagles on the back foot from the start, when they raised eyebrows by introducing spin bowler Roelof van der Merwe into the attack in the second over. Captain Pierre Joubert’s tactics paid off when opener Loots Bosman was run out for five in the third over as a result of total miscommunication with his fellow opener, Morne van Wyk, and then in the next over, Van Wyk fell to a brilliant slip catch by Martin van Jaarsveld off Van der Merwe for one.

Rilee Rossouw and captain Boeta Dippenaar tried to get things back on track again, but the Titans kept a stranglehold on the run rate, with the batsmen unable to get the ball away.
They shared a stand of 43 for the third wicket—the only meaningful partnership of the innings, but things really fell apart for the Eagles when Dippenaar was caught by Francois “Faf” du Plessis off Joubert for 16.

Joubert introduced part-time spin bowler Martin van Jaarsveld for one over, and the ploy worked when he bowled the potentially high-scoring Rossouw for 39—the top score for the home side.

Dean Elgar was next to go, caught by Farhaan Behardien off Joubert for 22, and then Paul Harris, fresh from South Africa’s series win over Australia, made his presence known with his first five-wicket haul in limited overs cricket, as he claimed the wickets of Ryan Bailey, Ryan McLaren, Con de Lange, Dillon du Preez and Victor Mpitsang. One of Joubert’s most effective tactics was to change bowlers frequently, never allowing the Eagles to get into any sort of rhythm.

The Eagles’ apparent inability to cope with the spin bowlers—who bowled more than half of the overs—was unexpected, given that the Titans have built their recent limited overs success around their spin attack. But the Eagles appeared all at sea, as the Titans just tightened the screws with every over and the Eagles succumbed.

With just 139 runs needed for victory, the Titans were never under any pressure. Gulam Bodi and Blake Snijman put on 125 for the first wicket before Bodi was caught by Dippenaar off Thandi Tshabalala for 69, with just 14 more runs needed for victory. Van der Merwe was stumped by Van Wyk off De Lange for four, as he swung wildly at the ball in an attempt to finish the match off quickly. It was De Lange’s 100th limited overs wicket—a small consolation on the day his team was trounced so badly.

Snijman and Van Jaarsveld safely steered their team home to a resounding eight-wicket victory.

Joubert described his team’s win as “awesome”.

“Every department came to the party,” he said. “We bowled well, we fielded well, and we are just so pleased to have had such a decisive win.”—Sapa

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