The Unlimited Titans take on Gauteng neighbours the Highveld Lions in a Sunfoil Series match at the Wanderers from this morning knowing that they are only as good as their previous performance, which fortunately in their case was a highly-encouraging return to four-day form, beating the Knights in Kimberley last weekend.
“We’re not looking too far forward, four-day cricket is our weakest format at the moment and we just want to go out and try to improve on our last showing and play disciplined cricket. But our last outing was a very good team performance, we stuck to our disciplines as a unit,” Titans captain Henry Davids said yesterday.
The Lions have had as tough a second-season fade-out under coach Geoffrey Toyana as could be imagined, but they are actually ahead of the Titans on the Sunfoil Series log, although by a slender three points.
It would be foolish to dismiss them, however, because they have quality players who will be hungry to make an impact and get something out of a thoroughly miserable season.
Quinton de Kock heads the list of star players as he goes about trying to prove he can play long-form cricket as spectacularly as he performs in the limited-overs formats. The Young Turk heads a batting line-up that features other future stars in Temba Bavuma and Dominic Hendricks, while Neil McKenzie, Stephen Cook and Thami Tsolekile have scored plenty of runs in four-day cricket down the years.
The Titans can probably kiss their hopes in the competition goodbye if they lose to the Lions as they are already 15 points behind the log-leading Cape Cobras, but in order to triumph their batsmen are going to have to police a probing Lions attack very carefully.
Once Hardus Viljoen and Lonwabo Tsotsobe have been blocked out with the new ball, there is the crafty leg-spin of Imran Tahir, the seam of Pumelela Matshikwe and possibly the swing of Cliffe Deacon to deal with.
In terms of the Titans attack, the bad news for them is that fast bowler Marchant de Lange, having travelled down many roads in trying to recover from a side strain, is still not fit enough for four-day action. He will be playing for Easterns in the three-day amateur competition instead, Davids confirmed.
Ethy Mbhalati and Albie Morkel are also out with niggling injuries and so the pace bowling responsibilities will fall on David Wiese, CJ de Villiers and young Vincent Moore, who shone with both bat and ball on debut last weekend.
Shaun von Berg, fresh off a career-best seven-wicket haul, and 10 in the match, against the Knights, will be a threat if the Wanderers pitch is tailor-made for Tahir, and Roelof van der Merwe will provide support in the spin department.
Hopefully, after going winless for 15 Sunfoil Series matches, the Titans have now turned the corner and they can maintain the momentum from Kimberley against the struggling Lions at the Wanderers.
Highveld Lions: Stephen Cook, Dominic Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Neil McKenzie, Devon Conway, Quinton de Kock, Thami Tsolekile, Brett Pelser, Cliffe Deacon, Pumelela Matshikwe, Hardus Viljoen, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Imran Tahir, Rassie van der Dussen.
Titans: Heino Kuhn, Francois le Clus, Henry Davids, Farhaan Behardien, Qaasim Adams, Mangaliso Mosehle, David Wiese, Shaun von Berg, CJ de Villiers, Vincent Moore, Roelof van der Merwe, JP de Villiers, Cobus Pienaar.