The Warriors had begun the final day on 51 for two chasing an unlikely 414 for victory and survival was on their mind, especially after Jon-Jon Smuts was caught in the gully off JP de Villiers in the second over of the day.
Colin Ackermann batted for two hours in scoring 47 before being dismissed by medium-pacer Farhaan Behardien, leaving the Warriors on a shaky 111 for four with 83 overs still left on the final day.
But Ingram and Bailey dug in so well they might have been called mole-men. They added 113 in 56 overs for the fifth wicket; the left-handed Ingram compact and secure, but able to play some pleasing strokes when the opportunity presented itself, while burly Bailey seldom strayed from the crease as he prodded and deflected, an occasional well-timed punch down the ground being as far as he was willing to go in terms of strokeplay.
They survived together for 14 overs until lunch, taken on 151 for four, and then ploughed on until tea, which the Warriors reached on a far healthier 215 for four.
The Titans were heavily reliant on the second new ball when the final session began with Ingram on 87 and Bailey on 38, and it might not have been resignation on the home team’s faces but it was certainly concern when the experienced duo survived for another six overs after tea.
It was Ethy Mbhalati who made the crucial breakthrough, claiming a return catch from Bailey, whose stroke was a prod that would have been more effective if one was trying to scrape guano off the pitch rather than intercept a cricket ball.
It had nevertheless been an immense effort from Bailey, who faced 171 balls for his 40 runs and showed once again how valuable his experience is in this Warriors batting line-up.
Ingram would fall four overs later as he edged Richards low to Farhaan Behardien in the gully and the rest would go quickly as the left-arm paceman produced a top-class spell of swing bowling – five for two in 5.4 overs with three maidens – a phenomenal burst in which he moved the ball both ways.
Ingram was unfortunate not to achieve his second century of the match, falling for 93 off 226 balls in a little over five hours at the crease, a wonderful effort.
Simon Harmer and Athenkosi Dyili hung around for six overs before Richards produced a snorter which spat up from back of a length and Harmer (7) could only glove the ball to wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle.
There were still a dozen overs left for the Titans to claim the last three wickets when Richards began the 103rd over, bowling from the Harpur Street End. But, having clearly rediscovered his rhythm, the 30-year-old proceeded to end the match in the most spectacular way possible.
The second ball of the over saw the left-handed Dyili (10) prodding at a delivery that swung away from him, edging a catch into the midriff of double-centurion Roelof van der Merwe at third slip.
Sisanda Magala was next up and he was bowled by a beauty that nipped away from the right-hander, squaring the batsman up and knocking over the off-bail.
Basheer Walters was the hat-trick victim, able only to prod at another away-swinger, sending an edge into the safe hands of Van der Merwe at third slip.
“It’s my first hat-trick and it makes it really special that it won the game and gave me a five-for,” hero Richards said after his career-best figures of five for 31 in the Sunfoil Series.
“I knew it would be my last spell of the day, so I just pushed it and made sure I hit good areas. There had been a lot of effort before me by the other seamers, JP and Ethy, that broke the long partnership, and we just said that another wicket would bring more breakthroughs. We never gave up and I found my rhythm at the right time.”
Captain Henry Davids was delighted with the way his team had bounced back from a poor performance and a 190-run hammering at the hands of the Highveld Lions last weekend.
“During our pre-season camp in Knysna, we spoke about winning games after tea on the last day and that’s what makes this the best format, it tests everything in your game. We hung in there, we stayed patient and we knew the new ball would make it tough for the batsmen.
“Things happen quickly on this pitch, wickets fall in clusters and the guys bowled brilliantly, especially that spell from Rowan. Plus there was that unbelievable double-hundred from Roelof that really set the team up in the first innings,” Davids said.