Of the 20 players contracted to the Titans, five are away with the national squad and another five are injured or otherwise unavailable. It leaves Walter in the awkward position of either fielding out-of-form players or replacing them with unknown quantities who are totally untested at franchise level.
“Obviously we’d like to try and make a few changes, but how do you facilitate that when you’re missing five players with injury? It’s not ideal for young guys to get their first opportunity in this sort of situation, but it would allow us to see what we’ve got in terms of talent waiting in the wings,” Walter told The Pretoria News yesterday.
The batting remains the Titans’ biggest worry after they lost seven wickets for 23 runs to be bowled out for 198 in the first innings in Paarl, before making 232 in the second innings. But two of the changes that Walter might have wanted to make have been scuppered by injury.
Cobus Pienaar has already averaged 32.80 in three Sunfoil Series matches this season and bats in the top-order, but has now suffered a thumb injury that is almost certain to rule him out of contention for this weekend’s match against the Dolphins in Benoni.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle averaged 40.80 in the Momentum One-Day Cup, but has not come close to reproducing that form in four-day cricket, where he averages just 14.60.
There would appear to be a ready-made replacement in young Heinrich Klaasen, who has averaged 52 in three-day cricket for Northerns this season, but the Tukkies wicketkeeper/batsman now has a broken finger.
Both Pienaar and Klaasen would have been in contention for selection this week, but now Walter will probably have to stick with struggling batsmen like Henry Davids (17.40), Francois le Clus (16.27) and Mosehle.
To be fair to the Titans, their defeat in Paarl was largely down to an amazing spell of bowling by international paceman Rory Kleinveldt, whose spell of five for four in four overs on the third morning utterly destroyed them. At 186 for four, replying to 429, they would have felt the match was on an even footing, but Kleinveldt changed all that.
“Rory bowled exceptionally well with the second new ball and we had young guys coming up against the sort of quality they hadn’t seen before. He was at his best and our batsmen were caught unawares, they weren’t up to the mark,” Walter said.
The bowlers, however, have continued to impress with their determination and, given the 10 days of rain that has swamped Gauteng, they could have a greentop to enjoy at Willowmoore Park this week.
“They have kept improving and it’s such a young attack that we need to be realistic in our expectations of them. They kept plugging away, although their consistency is not always there, but you expect that with youngsters,” Walter said.
Before Kleinveldt so dramatically altered the course of the game in Paarl, Graeme van Buuren had held firm for 208 balls in scoring 85, and Walter said his confidence as well as that of the other batsmen would be boosted.
“Graeme batted exceptionally well and it was nice to see him step up again in a different format. But having a batsman get past 200 balls is a step in the right direction, our time at the crease has improved. Our batsmen need to make big hundreds or, as a collective unit, we need substantial contributions,” Walter said.