The Titans were dismissed for just 169 in their second innings, having staggered to 197 in their first knock, and their top-order batsmen will be under the spotlight as they showed no improvement from last season when none of them managed to score a four-day century.
“We have to get up now for our game against the Warriors in Benoni on Thursday and the batsmen have to fight tooth and nail. When you lose your first game, the only way is up,” disappointed Titans captain Farhaan Behardien said after the defeat.
Behardien could be counted as the only real batting success for the Titans as he scored 58 and 71 not out, but he lacked support, with wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle the next heaviest scorer for the visitors with innings of 35 and 42.
Having surrendered a first-innings lead of 204, the Titans were set 360 for victory but batting out three-and-a-half sessions was a far more accurate description of the challenge before them.
And when Chris Morris reduced them to 50 for four overnight, the only sensible prediction for the fourth day was a comfortable Lions victory.
And Viljoen ensured that was the case soon after lunch as his exceptional performance garnered him his best ever Sunfoil Series figures, beating the six for 24 he claimed in the match between the same sides in Benoni two seasons ago.
“In the past I’ve been a bit expensive with my bowling but now I want to concede less than three runs an over. All the top international bowlers do that and build pressure. I want to keep my economy rate down and hit good areas.
“Last year I was trying to swing the ball, so I wasn’t hitting the deck. I’m not a swing bowler, that took away my aggression,” Viljoen said after his fiery performance.
There was a brief intermission to the Viljoen-inspired carnage when Behardien and Mosehle added 81 for the seventh wicket in 20 overs, but Viljoen ended that in the final over before lunch when he drew Mosehle into playing at a super delivery that kicked away to find the edge, wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock moving smartly to claim a low catch, one of eight he took in the match.
Viljoen certainly found the right lengths on a typical Wanderers pitch that becomes more up-and-down as the match progresses, and he was superbly supported by his three fellow pace bowlers – Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
“I’m very happy, I’ll take that start to the season any day. After all the plotting and planning, the training and all the hard work, it’s great when it goes better than expected,” Lions captain Stephen Cook said.
“To have those four fast bowlers is fantastic, it was maybe a risk not to play a specialist spinner and when a few turned past me on day one, I was wondering if it was the right decision. But this Wanderers pitch seems to stop turning and goes more up and down on days three and four, and those are four quality pacemen who all bring something different,” the Lions opener said.
The most immediate problem for the Titans to sort out is the fact that they were off to awful starts in both innings – 47 for four in the first and 28 for four in the second.
“Our start is key and unfortunately we gave the fast bowlers an early sniff in both innings. We have to have a better foundation up front, we need someone to make a hundred. When you’re up against a pace attack like that, you’ve got to get them into their third or fourth spells, you’ve got to build partnerships,” Behardien said.