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Ken Borland

Titans please coach Walter with strong finish to season

Posted on April 15, 2014 by Ken

When Unlimited Titans coach Rob Walter sat down on the SuperSport Park outfield with his team as the sun disappeared over Wierda Park after the third day of their final Sunfoil Series match against the Warriors, he no doubt stressed the importance of finishing the season well.

His team did that, fighting hard on the final day of the match for the second weekend in a row, beating the Warriors by 87 runs, to finish in a respectable fourth place on the Sunfoil Series log.

A fortnight ago, the Titans were firmly anchored in last place on the log, 13.60 points behind the Highveld Lions. Victories over the Knights and Warriors meant they leapfrogged both their neighbours and the Eastern Cape side, finishing just 5.88 points off the third-placed Dolphins.

Walter will be the first to admit his team erred badly in the opening stages of the four-day competition, especially in terms of their batting. Limited-overs cricket is clearly this Titans team’s strength, and it was perhaps understandable they took a while to get into occupying-the-crease mode.

But by the end of the campaign, a new four-day modus operandi was being implemented and the depth of the squad was also being established with several fringe players getting a run and many of them doing well enough to suggest they will be part of the Titans’ plans next season.

“There were a couple of things to get excited about at the end of the season, we were playing a better brand of four-day cricket and the right strategies were being implemented. We don’t want to make it too complicated, it’s a very simple game plan and it’s just a matter of executing it,” Walter told The Pretoria News yesterday.

“Young guys have also been doing well at the back end of the season, which shows we do have some depth and able replacements in most areas. The Cobras won the competition because their senior players stood up, but their depth also performed. It’s important that we improve our depth.”

Many critics questioned whether the Titans have the bowlers to succeed in four-day cricket, but they took 20 wickets in their last two matches on relatively flat pitches.

David Wiese, with 30 wickets in six matches at an average of 17.56, did a magnificent job for the Titans, while Shaun von Berg and Marchant de Lange did much for the connoisseurs of leg-spin and fast bowling respectively to look forward to next season.

“How David has grown from a skill point of view has been one of the highlights of the season for me,” Walter said. “He has outstanding skill, he’s good with the new ball or, as he showed against the Warriors, with a 65-70 over ball. So he’s able to bowl in different phases of the game and the key is his accuracy and consistency.

“Marchant showed his old self in patches, he makes it very uncomfortable for the batsman and even guys with a hundred were jumping around. That’s obviously exciting and he can be a real impact player for us moving forward, as will Shaun.

“By his own admission, Shaun struggled with his rhythm on the final day against the Warriors, but I’m very happy with the way he bowled this season. The next step in his development  is knowing what to do when batsmen come after him or when the ball’s not coming out great,” Walter said.

The alleged lack of batting depth in the Titans also seems to be overstated when one considers the runs made by Theunis de Bruyn, Graeme van Buuren, Grant Thomson, Cobus Pienaar and Qaasim Adams in recent weeks.

Young opener Ernest Kemm also had his day in the sun with 62 on the third day of the match against the Warriors.

Walter said that the competition for batting places next season would be healthy for the team.

“Theunis looked really good and it’s great that we have a couple of options in terms of opening batsmen. Dean Elgar won’t be around for every game, so we need to make sure that we have back-up. We have able replacements and they’ll also be pushing Heino Kuhn,” the coach said.

Pienaar and Thomson have also produced valuable bowling performances for the Titans and that only adds to their value, while the strong finish to the season made by Adams means the stocks are healthy in the middle-order.

“The four-day victories where you go the distance to win and put in the hard yards are definitely the most satisfying. And the fact we shared the Momentum One-Day Cup with a set of young players mixed in with the experience and had a good end to the Sunfoil Series with the same mix, is very encouraging,” Walter said.



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